Friday, January 14, 2005

The Hard thing to do is not the Right thing to do.

Goddamn machoist masochism.

This is mainly in reaction to various mentions I’ve seen of the “the hard thing to do is the right thing to do” dictum lately (a couple livejournals, a movie trailer, etc). I think believing it absolutely is so patently absurd (it’s better to spend $100 on a McDonald’s meal than $1?) that there’s no discussion on it usually, and so we have lots of general nodding when we hear someone make that statement. Oh, isn’t Michael Caine’s character so wise (uh, this being from the movie trailer ), or “well I’m glad he’s learned an important life lesson”. Unfortunately, I think this general belief in our culture is responsible for a lot of conflict, ignorance, and rationalization.

Clearly it is a successful meme because it’s an important algorithm in many instances. Believing something has high costs shouldn’t be a reason to not do it, and if something seems to easy, we should probably examine that closely. Eat healthily, don’t use the Ring, stand up to bullies – all examples where a short term easiness belies how difficult things will be in the long run, and so people need encouragement to face the hard path. And since people who are willing to got hat extra mile chasing the gazelle, we wish to install it in others in our primitive hunting cultures, or whatnot. Melodrama and stories particularly use this meme a lot, generally showing the hero has an easy chance for a comfortable life, but clearly it was the “hard choice” that saves the world or whatnot.

But the world just doesn’t friggin work like that. Sacrifice is bad, if we do not like it. If there are situations where it is outweighed by good results, then we can judge that for ourselves (or we should strive to be able to). Simply assuming the path of sacrifice is the best one is no more reliable a decision making algorithm than always doing what is easy in the short term.

Instead, what you get is people deciding on their own what is “hard” in certain instances, and thus using even the bad consequences as justification for what you want to do anyway. Think our overly patriotic culture where the costs of a war show just how noble our soldiers are for doing it. Screw that, let’s let them live and find a peaceful solution instead. Politically, this meme is often used as reason to PRAISE the fact that a politician ignores the other side completely. And in relationships, let’s not get started on how many things “because it’s difficult” has fucked up.

I suppose I just see this belief in far too many fantasy books. Well again, our life is not an action movie, an trying to make the world a better place simply by making everyone’s life easier is a much more important meme that crashing against the waves. Of course, it’s going to be hard to convince people that in our culture, but I have to try, damnit.


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