2011 – National 7th Grade 4th Place Award Winner:

Keenan Perera, Minnesota.

Do the Ends Justify the Means ?

“I have become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” Originally said by a Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, this quote was used again by scientist Robert Oppenheimer, on July 16, 1945. He said these exact words after the successful test of his “greatest” invention: the Atomic Bomb. It was the biggest weapon known at the time, with the force of 18 kilotons of TNT, and was used in World War II. Without the Atomic Bomb, World War II would have stretched on, and more lives would have been extinguished. But with the cost being devastation of two cities, and 200,000 lives, was it worth it? If you ask me, the ends do not justify the means.

Do the ends justify the means? This question is the underlying cause of every war, every weapons program, and actually most of man’s important scientific discoveries. The machine gun, made to slaughter vast numbers of enemies with the pull of a trigger. It led to better engines, engines that couple pump fuel faster and go farther than any other engine of the age, along with better factories, with automated machinery and better assembly lines, better tools for industries everywhere. But how many soldiers, along with innocent civilians, have been viciously gunned down in a hail of automatic weapons fire? Each nation gets afraid that someone will get ahead of them, afraid that someone will become too powerful.

The cold truth is, no matter what we say we’re fighting for, we don’t stop mindless war. We thought the carnage would end after World War I and World War II, but humans always have a reason to fight. Every person who is killed is one more thing preying on a soldier’s conscience, one more funeral, a date of tragedy for family and friends. And we still kill each other over territory, over government, over political differences. The number of people that perish or vanished in every war in the 20th century is around 125 million people.

On the other side of the argument, others talk about ‘the greater good’ and the betterment of mankind. It’s nice that they think of others, but what about personal costs? It’s easy to give orders. If you torture someone for information that will save many lives, it’s easy to say, go torture him. But could you do the torturing yourself? Earlier this year we had a presentation about bullying, and the presenter talked about “plastic smiles’: looking happy on the outside, but crying inside. That torturer that was used will be wearing a plastic smile for a long time. An anonymous person once said “Never order your troops to do what you wouldn’t do yourself”. If, as a leader, you are “provoked” into war, that doesn’t make it okay to start shooting. If people worked together to find solutions to conflicts, war would be nonexistent.

We don’t completely understand the consequences of our actions, so our harmful actions continue. If we really thought about our actions, I think we can end global warming, world hunger, and wars. It’s just we keep going on about the greater good, and how our actions benefit mankind. The ends do not justify the means.


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