The Paradox of Ethical Advocacy

True fulfillment comes from pursuing something larger than yourself, something of eternal worth, something of greater objective importance than anything else. Oh, I feel so sick writing these words. It’s such a contradictory way to promote ethics. The way I see it, the pursuit of self-interest is the opposite of ethics. Thus, if I tell people that they will not reach true fulfillment unless they devote their lives to an ethical mission, then I’m using the opposite of ethics to promote ethics. But then how do you promote something without appealing to people’s desires? You don’t! Even the desire to be ethical is just that: a desire. People will be ethical because they want to. It’s as simple as that. And yes, I want people to want to be ethical, just like Coca-Cola wants you to want Coca-Cola. No, I will not gain financial profit from it like Coca-Cola would, but I will gain the pleasure of knowing that we’re that much closer to the world I yearn to live in. Look, here’s the bottom line: we all operate from self-interest, it’s just that some gain pleasure from being ethical and some gain pleasure from other sources. Really, all the prior type of person can tell the latter is “don’t you want to be ethical?”

I oversimplified that last sentence. One can actually do a great deal to help the other consider ethics in new ways. One can teach the other about ethics and the meaning of life. One can ask questions that will cause the other to question deep-seeded motivations. One can expose the other to historical periods of deep injustice and the individuals who devoted their lives to righting those wrongs. However, ultimately it’s up to the individual to decide whether ethics is valuable to them. One cannot convince another to be ethical. If it’s there, you can help them discover it. If it’s not, then you know who to watch out for 😉

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