One thing you learn over half a century of life is that people always have reasons for what they do. Sometimes those reasons are bad. Other times they’re incoherent. Still other times (and far too often) they’re hidden, because the flawed laws of nature make it more likely that you’ll be successful if you hide what you’re really after. At all times, however, what someone is doing makes sense to that person, even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else, and the person always knows why they are doing what they are doing, even if they prevent anyone else from knowing it.
But what does this really mean? Most human communities judge people on what we actually do, regardless of why we’re doing it. If you kill some guy because he diddled your kid, the authorities might be sympathetic, but you’ll still go to prison. If you cheat on your spouse because you were abducted by space aliens and they forced you to cheat, your spouse is still likely to divorce you even if you really were abducted by space aliens (which, let’s face it, no one ever was or ever will be). If you shoplift a candy bar because you haven’t had any food to eat for ten days, and the store detective catches you, the police might not charge you with anything, but you’ll still be forever after banned from entering that store again. In the end, reasons don’t matter. It’s what you do that matters. So why even bother finding out people’s reasons for doing things?
The real reason people pay any attention to motives is the Machiavellian basis of our society. Over the millennia, the most successful people have been those who have been ruthless, which means willing to do absolutely anything, as long as they had a reason for it. Bake their mother alive in an oven, which almost no one else would do for any reason? The most successful would do even that, given enough reason, and likely some of them actually have done it. That’s why they’re the most successful. What underpins their view of the world is the staunch conviction that the end always justifies the means. Their reason is the objective they’re trying to achieve, and, as long as they believe in their objective, the way they achieve it must be okay, no matter what that way is.
This didn’t used to matter quite so much in the days of absolute monarchy and hereditary aristocracy, because what a person could achieve in life was limited. A commoner could not become empress even if she were ruthless. But the predominance of egalitarian societies has made ruthlessness the sure path to achieving absolutely anything that the laws of nature permit–and some people have even succeeded at changing the laws of _human_ nature in order to make the previously impossible, possible. This has led to a spike in ruthlessness among the general population, not only because absolutely anyone can succeed now by being ruthless, but because the ruthlessness of the successful spawns imitators among those who wish to have that kind of success for themselves.
What, however, does this say about how we should live our lives? Does the fact that ruthlessness is the only way to succeed, mean that we should be ruthless as well. I see it as a personal choice. Some, like me, choose to forbid ourselves certain actions no matter what motivations we might have for them. For us, the end does not at all justify the means, because it is the carrying out of the means that constitutes our actual lives, as it is by doing the means that we live from day to day, not by foreseeing the achievement of objectives we have not yet achieved, and which are therefore not real. It helps me personally to be about half a century old and less than five full years from that fatal heart attack at age 54 that I’ve known about for decades. After already having lived for 49 years, I don’t have the motivation to soil myself ethically and morally for the sake of having a better time in the next five, if five years were even enough to achieve any meaningful objective.
I used to know a guy who used to, jokingly, say something was “for girrrrrrls.” If I asked him why he didn’t eat pasta, he’d say “Because pasta is for girrrrrrls.” No sexism was meant by that; he was really saying that he didn’t want to be bothered telling me his real reason for not eating pasta, and he was cracking a joke to avoid conflict. But, although I’ve already given you the real reason why I don’t want success, I also say: “Because success is for girrrrrrls.”
Until next time.