2011 – National High School 4th Place Award Winner:

Chang Jeong, New York.

Do the Ends Justify the Means ?

When we become consumed by the notion that “the ends justify the means,” we cannot help but use it as a way to exonerate ourselves from guilt. In a world teeming with instant gratification, lack of civic duty, and flat out selfishness, it is no surprise that this idea has flourished for centuries. Besides typical human greed, many have come to believe that the end justifies the means simply because the benefits of the result outweigh the sacrifices of the means. However, as moral creatures, we cannot hold such values true.

When we investigate this question through a logical perspective, one must ask: how can we assume that the end justifies the means? In extreme circumstances, if we were to kill a man to save ten people, does the end justify the means simply because we saved more people than we lost? Considering the complex structure of our mind, can we trust our morality to a basic mathematical equation? In that case, we would have no respect for the lives of others, our own lives would be taken for granted, and we would lose our knowledge of the difference between murder and justified killing. We would all be living as drones deluded from the idea that the purpose of our existence is to benefit the society, and we should not hesitate to throw our own or even other lives away from the greater good. Once people become adamant that they have the power to control justice, havoc and chaos break loose.

Even on a regular basis, many are still misguided by false justice. Throughout history, it has been shown that the most common reason for genocide is faith. Examples include the Crusades, the inhumane slaughter of the Native Americans by European conquistadors, the Salem witch trials, the Rwandan genocide, and in modern times, terrorism. In the past, many have sacrificed their lives for their beliefs, and many have killed others for their beliefs. Once the two unite, it becomes a sure sign of disaster. Do terrorists truly believe that destroying innocent lives are for the betterment of the world? The daily threats, the frequent attempts, and the innumerable amount of lives lost to religious bigotry have absolutely no justification, let alone an excuse. It is merely murder concealed with martyrdom. Their actions not only emphasize a moral absurdity, but also an ulterior motive of personal gain; their creed for “salvation.”

The mindset of today’s society no longer has a unified sense of justice. The diversity of our belief systems, mixed in with our instinctive human bigotry, has torn up our moral compass. Despite what our conscience may tell us, we may never know if the means we took were the best possible paths to reach our end. Simply out, we do not hold enough knowledge nor wisdom to completely justify ourselves from our actions, no matter how pure the intentions.


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