This was originally intended to be a private journal entry. However, given that it’s just too long for me to hand-write within an acceptable amount of time, I have decided to type it and thought I might as well put it on the interwebs for the whole wide world to see for the rest of forever.
I recently had a conversation with a gentleman, Mr. Corbel (it’s also the name of the font this was originally typed in), who told me that in order for me to get “anywhere in life”, I must be both vague and manipulative, and all while having a hidden agenda.
This conversation irked me to my core, and now, some time later, it’s still bothering me.
Of course, he didn’t outright say, “Adam, you need to be vague and manipulative and have a hidden agenda to succeed in life.” Not at all, that would’ve been too easy.
Instead, it was the little things he said.
It was the “No, other people don’t need to know the whole story. Leaving out details is fine, as long as you don’t think they need them.”
The “Culturally speaking, vagueness is good. It’s also the only way to keep a woman attracted to you, and Adam, you need to use a lot of vagueness.”
The “You have to know which buttons to push on other people. Knowing how to twist their arm is usually the best thing you can do. Oh, it’s even better when you can convince them to twist their own arm. You know, make them think they’re the one in charge of the whole thing and whatnot. But if that doesn’t work, just push push push!”
The “People can’t be trusted to look out for you. You have to look out for yourself and put yourself above them. Always. Even if that means stepping on a few throats to get to the top.”
The “Everyone lies. Society says its acceptable, social norms say it’s fine; the “greater good” of the people revolves around lying. Everyone does it. You have to lie to succeed in life. And besides, it’s not really lying if you mix a little bit of truth in it. That’s why it’s called bending the truth.”
The “Majority rules. If everyone does it, we should too. This really famous/powerful person says ___ is okay and they have a lot of influence on people, so they must be correct with everything they say.”
We said a lot during our conversation, but those are the main types of phrases Mr. Corbel kept coming back to. Our conversation lasted about two hours, and after the first 30 minutes I discovered that his entire life revolves around that kind of thinking; selfishness and “end justifies the means,” mainly.
I also discovered that Mr. Corbel is a coward who is absolutely terrified of transparency.
Oh snap, I just judged him. I judged him a lot. But please, before breaking out the metaphorical “DON’T JUDGE PEOPLE” protest signs and pitchforks, finish reading.
That’s what this whole blog is about actually: Transparency. Transparency isn’t easy, mind you. Transparency is about ownership, honesty, and striving to cling to that honesty. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart or those with delicate stomachs.
Anyone can be dishonest, vague, or deceiving. That’s a cakewalk. It takes an insane amount of courage to be utterly transparent; to let those around you see who you really are and what you’re really about. No smoke, no mirrors, no hidden agendas.
[Disclaimer: I’m not advocating for “baring all” to everyone all the time. After all, some people just aren’t safe to open everything up to. They don’t deserve or need to know the intimate details of your life. But carefully deciding who to share deep secrets with is not the same as intentionally misleading others for personal gain.]
With that in mind, let’s talk ethics and stuff. This is like Christmas for me.
What is “end justifies the means” thinking? Well, it’s just what it sounds like; the end result is so important that whatever it took to attain it is morally and ethically okay as long as the end goal reached. The “how” of the goal doesn’t matter, only getting the goal.
Example: A family home schools their kids and wants them to learn about history. So, they have their kids watch Saving Private Ryan to count as their history class for that day/week. The end result was that they “learned” about history. They got the end result they wanted, even though they used a very questionable-at-best means to get it (Really, they were just lazy, but we’ll get to that shortly).
People, like Mr. Corbel, who are End Justifies the Means thinkers always worry me. Generally speaking, people who are EJMT’s don’t have a sense of morality and ethics that operates outside of themselves. They are their own “moral compass.” Really, it’s a very selfish view towards life.
Without having something bigger than themselves to look at for ethical and moral dilemmas, their sense of right-and-wrong solely comes from them. No external source, which means that something as inconsistent as their mood can change what is “right” or “wrong” to them.
For Mr. Corbel, hitting on other women, leading them on, and enticing them by implying that they could go home with him (while being in an exclusive and monogamous marriage) was acceptable. He didn’t have a concrete line of where “too far” was, but he said he would “know it when he got there.” Translation: It depended on his mood and how he felt when the time came. Fun fact: “Figuring out where it is when we get there” doesn’t generally happen until we’ve gone too far, then we have to do backtracking and damage control.
Humans, as a whole, are very good at rationalizing and justifying blatantly wrong things and turning them into “good” things. A quick look at the Holocaust or the Rwandan Genocide or even slavery back in the days of Abraham Lincoln can attest to that.
EJMT is selfish and very internally focused, with no external guidelines to live up to. Essentially, end justifies the means ethics makes us our own god; we are our own judge, jury, and executioner.
However, the problem with that goes back to the stick argument: How can we determine just how straight a crooked stick is without having a straight one to compare it to? We can’t. We can only blindly guess what we think straight looks like and how it compares to our stick.
If we have a crooked view of right and wrong, we’ll naturally gravitate towards people who have a similar viewpoint. After all, it’s much easier to say our crooked stick is straight if everyone around us also has a crooked stick. Not everyone can be wrong about something, right?
Oh, and don’t forget, oftentimes a determining factor for defining what “crooked” and “straight” are is done by whomever can yell the loudest. That’s where leaders and those with heavy influence over people come into this picture; they can be just as wrong as everyone else, but people will still look to them as the “straight stick” to compare themselves to because they’re big and important.
All of that is also true for the “straight stick” people, but the tendency to flock to others to help justify bad behavior generally applies more to the people with crooked moral sticks.
That’s only a sample of End Justifies the Means ethics.
What about the “majority rules” thinking or the “whomever can yell the loudest” thinking? They’re very similar to EJMT, but “majority rules” and “yelling” place the ownership on someone else.
Example: If everyone owns a slave, it can’t be that bad, can it? If this important guy with a creepy mustache says that Jews are an abomination, it must be true, right? He’s an important leader who can yell loudly and stuff!
When we base our right and wrong on what the masses say or what a single popular individual with a large following says, it removes the ownership from us. Which is an entirely separate issue that is also tied closely to the transparency thing.
Mr. Corbel justified his vagueness and deception as being “okay” and “right” because culturally, it’s what most people do. The masses say vagueness and deception is good; they mislead people, leave out details, twist things, and try to make everything benefit their agenda.
So, Mr. Corbel isn’t actually owning his own belief system or moral compass. He’s passing the blame onto someone else. It’s just like middle school, “I’m only doing it because the other kids are doing it!” It is always someone else’s fault that he behaved the way he did, never his own.
Click here for Part 2, where we actually get in to the transparency stuff.