The End Justifies the Means Essay

M.A. Jinnah was emphatic and reiterated again and again that to him the means were as important as the end. He asserted that a good or lofty end if achieved through questionable or impure means, would not meet with his approval. He declared that in such cases, the accomplishment of the end would be only illusory and transitory. The incorrect and immoral means adopted would finally nullify and neutralize the benefits which the end is intended to confer. The doctrine that the means should be as pure and noble as the end itself is advocated by all religions. In Mahabharata, the eldest of the Pandava brothers Dharma Putra refuses to utter a lie even though it was meant to serve as a means to conquer the evil forces. He was only too willing to abandon his claims for the kingdom that rightfully belonged to him and live in the forest instead of uttering a falsehood as a means to winning the famous Kurukshetra battle and his kingdom.

But today most of the religious precepts are practised by gross violations rather than by strict adherence to them. The modern approach appears to be to gain the end by hook or crook. One is permitted, either tacitly or explicitly, to adopt whatever means whether they are legal or illegal, moral or immoral, provided one can get away with it. One is thus reminded of the ancient Spartan custom of allowing its youth to deliberately break the rules and go to their women in stealth, provided they do not get caught in the process. Only those who were caught were punished and not those who were able to make the getaway successfully.

The doctrine that the end justifies the means came to be used extensively in international politics when Machiavelli incorporated it in his political writings, during the middle ages. He advocated that national interest would justify all and any means which a country or nation might adopt to gain its political end. Thus, coup de tats, political murders, double talks, deception and all other illegal and immoral acts were considered acceptable, provided they helped to gain the national ends and serve national interests. The application of force and resort to war was in due course declared as an extension of the foreign policy of a State by Bismark, the father of modern Germany. In the earlier days, national interests were identified with the interests of the monarchs and the ruling class. With the advent of modern democracies, political parties and political leaders began to make full use of this doctrine. Initially, it was applied by the party in power in the name of the nation or country. Later, the parties began applying the doctrine to get themselves installed in power. Thus, what was intended for political purposes, came to be followed in the social field and in individual relationships also. The application of this dictum that the end justifies the means has turned men into beasts. It has put an end to human values, noble ideals, chivalry, law and order and civilization.

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In the name of liberty, fraternity and equality, the leaders of the revolution in France guillotined thousands of innocent men and women. Within a decade the child of the same revolution, Nepolean Bonaparte, waged countless wars in the name of France and accounted for the death of millions of men. During the twentieth century, Germany waged two world wars to enhance the glory of the fatherland. The October revolution of 1917 saw the communists in Russia systematically exterminating all their political opponents in an organised, methodical and calculated manner and establishing an one party State. Japan invaded Manchuria, China and Korea and founded its colonies in the Asian mainland at the expense of the local population, Italy massacred the Ethiopians in violation of all international ethics and annexed their homeland.

The German Nazis led by Adolf Hitler and his lieutenants practiced every kind of debauchery and deceit to capture power. The allies who guaranteed the four freedoms through the Atlantic Charter to the peoples of the world dropped the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan and literally wiped out the cities with millions of its civilian inhabitants including women, children and old aged people. And now the civil population of Bangla Desh, particularly its womenfolk, children and youth have been liquidated by the Indian army in a brutal, planned and organized fashion. In each one of these instances, the end was considered or proclaimed to be noble and most desirable from the nation’s or country’s viewpoint. Yet, the means adopted were not merely questionable but highly detestable and most abhorrent.

It did not take long for the people at large to follow the doctrine which the statesmen have been adopting in international relations and the political parties have been practicing at the national or regional level. If the politician is keen on getting elected or selected to a political office by any means whatever, the individual citizen is determined to earn money and get rich by adopting whatever methods will serve the purpose. The children do not lag behind in following the examples set by their elders. Besides each tries to undo the other in his game. Thus we find today bribery, corruption, sexual immorality, falsehood, violence, greed, and permissiveness rampant everywhere in our society. It has extended to all fields—political, economical, social, educational, industrial, commercial and so on. We talk and preach something and practice something else. We break our promises, let down our friends, deceive those who trust us with ease and nonchalance. Students do not hesitate to copy in the examinations and in several instances they use faked degrees and diplomas to gain their ends. In trade, adulteration is practised as a precious fine art, in the industry the quality is given the go by and in business the trust and honesty are significant by their total absence.

Thus, the practice of the doctrine ‘ends justify the means’ has left us clinging to the shadow while losing the substance. What is the aim of material prosperity? What is the object of political, power? What purpose can they serve? When people have become corrupt, when they have lost the human values, and when there is no love, respect or affection among the members of the community, one suddenly realizes that all his seeking of wealth and material benefits have been a total waste of time. As Tagore states, “Divorced from religious serenity and ethical sanctity, our life has been grossly materialistic. We have lost the spiritual fervor which had a divine power; mechanically conditioned we are wheeling round the one and only aim in our life to accumulate more and more wealth, even by inviting spiritual bankruptcy.” The quest for wealth and power at any cost has turned man against man, husband against wife and children against parents. Since man is basically a social animal, this new approach has gone against his basic nature.

We find a growing dissatisfaction in the midst of growing plenty. There is inexplicable fatigue and frustration of existence. The material comforts and possession of power, instead of providing security, happiness and contentment, have brought in fear, distrust, jealousy, misery and despair. People are getting disgusted with themselves. The ends so feverishly sought and so ruthlessly achieved prove to be ultimately worthless. The pursuit of pleasures proves so fleeting. The craze has become endless and the soul restless. The situation has become so desperate that the western youth have given up their homes, wealth and material comforts and have taken to the life of hermits of the ancient Hindu era. Many have also turned into aimless, wandering hippies and dope addicts. People are now hungry for love, compassion, mercy, tolerance and understanding from their fellow human beings. Many appear to have realised the truth of Thomas Grey’s immortal words that:

“The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power

And all that beauty, all that wealth ever gare

Awaits alike the inevitable hour.

The paths of glory lead but to the grave”.

The notion that end justified the means, distorts our sense of values. Wrong, incorrect, illegal, immoral and inhuman means can only lead to corrupt, unworthy and disastrous ends. In fact, the ends would prove to be mere delusions. Material things can never serve as the ultimate ends since wants are insatiable. Material things have no true value. The true values of life are not those which can be measured in rupees, pounds or dollars. Oliver Goldsmith was quite right when he declared:

“Woe to that land, to conquering ills a prey,

Where wealth accumulates and men decay.”

It is good to have money and power and the things that they can buy. But it is better, too, to check up then and there and make sure that we have not lost the things that money and power cannot provide. “For what doth it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul ?” Money and power cannot guarantee you health and happiness. If you have acquired them by immoral, illegal, and corrupt means, it will only cause you fear, unhappiness, insecurity and rivalry. Many of the wealthy people in the world, today, live in a perpetual state of mental anxiety and tension. They are afraid that their wealth might be dispossessed by the Government or by the gangsters. They are worried that their near and dear ones might be kidnapped and held to ransom. It is not wealth, power or glory, but the character that is man’s greatest safeguard.

And a man of character will always seek noble ends by noble means. It is not how much we do, but how well we do it, that is important. The value does not depend on size. The real value of any incident or anything depends on viewpoint and mental approach. It is not possession but sacrifice that ultimately leads to happiness. A mother finds happiness in sacrificing for the sake of her child. Luxuries and pleasures do not make for real happiness. The quiet mind is richer than a crown and it enjoys sound sleep and bliss. The approach that ends justify the means, ignores the truth that “pleasures are like poppies spread; you seize the power, the bloom is shed”. In choosing your means, you should ensure that you never rob another heart of any joy. The assertion that end justifies the means, is thus incorrect and misleading Wrong and incorrect means can never justify or lead to a good end. The right end can only be achieved by the right means. There is thus no short cut to attain your noble and worthy goals. Use the right means and stick to the right path. You will Win and find Happiness.

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