Plea­sure and pain: Who will gain and lose in boycott of goods and ser­vices?

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - OPINION -

Imag­ine you are walk­ing down the street and you wit­ness your op­po­nent, or ‘en­emy,’ be­ing am­bushed by a group of peo­ple you know. Do you (a) per­suade them to stop and save your op­po­nent from the vi­o­lence, or (b) walk on and let your en­emy have it? Or, imag­ine you are the bor­der of­fi­cer in­spect­ing im­ports com­ing into your coun­try. A woman in a pick-up ap­proaches you, in­tend­ing to smug­gle chicks, which are banned in the coun­try. Do you (a) burn the chicks alive to com­ply with the rule or ( b) fine the im­porter and send the chicks back?

Which de­ci­sions would pro­duce the best over­all out­come?

We face eth­i­cal sub­jec­tive dilem­mas fre­quently in our ev­ery­day lives. Some of the sce­nar­ios are so com­plex that the Good Sa­mar­i­tan story does not give an ob­vi­ous an­swer. We are also hu­man, mak­ing the ‘What would Je­sus do?’ slo­gan im­prac­ti­cal. If you were a doc­tor and could only save the baby or the mother, who would you choose? The Son of Man would not have this prob­lem since he could heal the sick and raise the dead.

Per­haps our com­pass should be the au­di­ence watch­ing how the sce­nario plays out and the im­pact our ac­tions will have on them. In the first sce­nario, you might be obliv­i­ous to the fact that other peo­ple are watch­ing who may be privy to the fact that the at­tack­ers are known to you. Pos­si­bly, your young chil­dren also hap­pen to be pass­ing by.

Is there rea­son to act and help your op­po­nent? More than any other time, this is the ideal op­por­tu­nity to set a good prac­ti­cal ex­am­ple for the chil­dren by saving your op­po­nent. It will teach them that we are not called upon to only help those we like; we can also come to the aid of those who we are in­dif­fer­ent to. Af­ter saving your op­po­nent, you could be­came good friends and they could later do­nate a kid­ney to save your life. What goes around comes around.

But, should we do good to avoid bad things hap­pen­ing to us in turn or be­cause it is the right thing to do? Ac­cord­ing to the great philoso­pher Jeremy Ben­tham, we are gov­erned by pain and plea­sure. The two point us to what we do and de­ter­mine what we shall do. They also gauge our stan­dard of right and wrong while we con­sider the chain of causes and ef­fects. Hap­pi­ness, ac­cord­ing to Ben­tham, is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing plea­sure and lack of pain.

No­tably, the sub­jec­tive na­ture of this con­cept does not give us the pre­cise an­swer on how to tackle our eth­i­cal dilem­mas. Your plea­sure may re­sult from some­one else’s pain, while your right could be some­one else’s wrong. Back to our op­po­nent sce­nario. If you walked away, you would have had the plea­sure of watch­ing your ‘en­emy’ suf­fer. How­ever, is this right be­cause you ex­pe­ri­enced plea­sure? Can we then re­ally equate the re­sult­ing plea­sure from an­other’s pain to hap­pi­ness?

Let us ap­ply this eth­i­cal the­ory to the Na­tional Re­sis­tance Move­ment. The ex­tent of the move­ment is pre­dicted to ad­versely af­fect a lot of peo­ple. The in­ten­sity with which the re­sis­tance is tak­ing ef­fect in some ar­eas will in­dis­crim­i­nately af­fect the in­come of those work­ing for Bidco, Sa­fari­com and Brook­side. The du­ra­tion of the move­ment, un­known to us, will grad­u­ally take away salaries and pos­si­bly lead to job losses for em­ploy­ees and sup­pli­ers of these com­pa­nies. Even­tu­ally, there will be lit­tle to no food on the table of those af­fected. This will not only af­fect the elec­torates but also their chil­dren who did not play any role in the elec­toral process. It ap­pears cer­tain that the con­se­quences from this move­ment will be im­me­di­ate, and they will be pain­ful. The sought benefits of restor­ing democ­racy and elec­toral jus­tice ap­pear re­mote and are not guar­an­teed.

More im­por­tantly, who is the ben­e­fi­ciary of plea­sure and hap­pi­ness from this move­ment?

The pi­o­neers of the move­ment are pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tives with a paramount duty to have the best in­ter­ests of their peo­ple at the heart of their de­ci­sion mak­ing. With this duty, they were elected and en­trusted to seek eq­ui­table benefits for their peo­ple. For now, these lead­ers have not sought to re­sign from their elec­tive po­si­tions and forego their salaries in par with the re­sis­tance. What is the di­rect loss and pain from the move­ment the pi­o­neers are un­der­go­ing in tan­dem with the boy­cotters?

And so, will this move­ment pro­duce the best over­all out­come be­ing sought?

GLA­DYS BURINI The du­ra­tion of the move­ment, un­known to us, will grad­u­ally take away salaries and pos­si­bly lead to job losses for em­ploy­ees and sup­pli­ers of these com­pa­nies”

The writer works with in­ter­na­tional businesses on com­mer­cial lit­i­ga­tion. gladys­burini1@gmail.com

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