For some in America, why doing the right thing is no longer the right thing

Merry Christmas, May we begin with a classical tale this Christmas Season,

The Story of the Robber and the King

A dreaded robber had been captured in town. He was brought to the town square for execution in the presence of the King and townsfolk next morning. This was the custom in those parts. Before execution the King asked the prisoner,

 “It has been ordained that you be executed for your crimes but we shall grant you your last wish if you have any so that our soul may rest in peace one day when it departs.”

The prisoner scanned the crowds and saw his very old mother and father cowering with shame in a corner. He requested that he be allowed to kiss them goodbye. The wish was granted and the father came forward first. The robber kissed him with tears in his eyes. Next the mother came forward but this time the robber instead of kissing her bit off her ear. She screamed with pain and ran away.

The King then asked the robber to explain why he had done that. This is what the robber said,

“Your Majesty when I was a child, we were very poor. One day there was nothing to eat at home so I went into a rich neighbor’s house and quietly stole some money and brought it to my parents. My father was upset and said that we should return the money immediately and apologize saying that it would be even better to beg for food. However my mother intervened and reprimanded my father. She told him that he was a fool to think so. If they revealed the truth there would be a backlash against them in the neighborhood. More over the act has been effective in producing what they need.”

The robber continued,

 “Encouraged by my mother, I became bolder with time until as a grown up man I became the dreaded robber that stands in front of you today. Had she listened to my father the very first time, I would not have become the robber as I am today, that is why I kissed my father and punished my mother.”

The mother in this story was a person who looked at the ends but the father the means, the right thing to do. Similar debates have taken place through the history of mankind not just in individual homes but in halls of governance. In recent centuries there were communist revolutions in some countries. Brutal means were used to suppress the voice and rights of some humans and when there was criticism; it was explained that it was all for a good cause. It was a process to create a beautiful heavenly society and the ends justify the means. However, the gains of such revolutions did not last long as has been the case through all of human history where the cries of leading human lights from ancient times have been ignored - Plato, Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi - that have urged that it is the means that are important and the ends are not in one’s hand, that it is the duty of humans to do the right thing, not worrying about consequences.

Yesterday the world honored two persons, Malala and Kailash Satyarthi, with Nobel prizes because they are examples of humans who put their lives on the line for doing the right thing and adding joy in the lives of those that matter most to humans - children. All through human history great nations have been built on the highest of human values and great nations have fallen to dust eventually when such values have been ignored, from Rome to USSR.

The greatest nation that stands on earth today does so because of such values because someone said once, to enslave a human is wrong, it is not the right thing to do, no matter if the cotton farmers of the south suffer, no matter if they have paid for these slaves it does not matter even if there is a war over it, and many of us die, but this must not go on. However times have changed. In recent times others have emerged that justify an action by its ends and not its means not by what is right or wrong. A President rises up to say,

“We must have a war in Iraq because it is in our self interest.”

A banker cries ,

" Why should I not gamble with your money, it is legal. If I win, I get a bonus, after all I am only robbing the bank with a legal bonus not a gun."

Other voices follow,

“We shall imprison you if you feed the homeless; no matter if you are 93, it dirties our cities,”

Voices of the Grand Jury cry out,

“The law be dammed, we have to protect some, no matter if some kids are shot or someone is choked to death.”

 Some more voices cry out,

“We must torture some humans, if it is effective for what we seek.”

Other voices add,

“We must listen to the mother of that ancient robber in the story and not reveal all because there shall be a backlash against us.

A voice shouts,

"OK, OK, we know about all that but what is the solution?"

"Just do as the father advised in the story. Consider the means to a goal not just the end. Do the right thing, and if a wrong has been done , do not hide it, but reveal it and apologize when necessary."

"But that might mean difficulties ?"

"Yes for sure that might happen over the short term as the father said. The path of goodness does often lead to pain over the short term but over the long term it is joy whereas the case is reverse otherwise - some joy at first followed by sorrow."

When an underdog in society displays poor values it is less sad than when the leading lights of a society do so because ordinary men tend to follow the example of leaders. When underdeveloped parts of the world display poor values it is less sad than when those from the most developed part of the world do so. Others learn by example; hence a note on America rather than the republic of Bing Bing Tongo.


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