Taking issues personally or professionally: who decides between their real danger and our increased comfort?

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In the movie, ‘Tango One’, Drug-dealer, Donavan, was heartbroken on discovering that his daughter also sniffs the mind-disorienting drugs he supplies. He had sent his daughter to a private school where she would be educated and protected from the exploitation of reckless life. Yet, he makes so much money from distributing the same drugs widely, even to other people’s children. Finally, his daughter got involved with schoolmates who introduced her to the drug. So, Donavan fought to rehabilitate his daughter from the drug’s effect, and began evaluating his business choices. Until people are personally affected by the options they professionally present to others, they keep masking their fear, greed and indifference under the cover of working professionally.


During business, official or political discussions, some people accuse others of taking issues personally. Most people accusing others of taking issues personally brag about professionally playing by the rules, especially when they are not directly affected by it. Thus, they demand that other people should limit themselves to the professional rules when debating issues affecting others. Such issues border on war, torture, social injustice, socialism, capitalism, corporate slavery, research integrity, unemployment, media, production, distribution, side effects and industrial hazards. These set of people uphold and exploit the rules of each game as long as it is other people’s neck on the line.


Need for professional rules in a society

People form societies by agreeing to collaborate in developing and using their various potentials and resources in solving their problems through production, administration and security. For if everyone desperately pursues only his personal interests without social collaboration, there will be no peace or progress. Hence, in organizing their society, people create a system for maximizing and trading their products and services for common good. They make the laws to prioritize common interests and avoid social breakdown from clashes of individual or group interests. So, different rules are made to direct different professions and jobs from which people contribute and earn in the society.


Need for constant evaluation of professional rules

However, the rules meant to guide professions towards common good can often obstruct progress or enable or bring direct harm to people. Though they are set to monitor and harmonize social roles, some protocols and technicalities delay or obstruct justice, security and progress. So, some people can exploit the loopholes in the rules to increase their gains at other people’s expense. While others obstruct or delay progress by rigidly or robotically sticking to excessively restrictive rules. The obstructive tendencies of professional rules were shown during the Senate trial of Jack Bauer in the movie, 24:


Senator Mayer: Did you torture Mr Haddad, (a terrorist)?

Jack Bauer: Yes. Ibrahim Haddad had targeted a bus carrying 45 people, 10 of which were children. The truth is that I stopped that attack from happening. When I’m activated, there is a reason, which is to complete the objective of my mission, at all cost.

Senator Meyer: even if it means breaking the law (rule of not torturing suspected criminals)?

Jack Bauer: for a combat soldier, the difference between success and failure is your ability to adapt to your enemy. The people that I deal with, they don’t care about your laws. All they care about is result. My job is to stop them from accomplishing their objective. I simply adapted.


Factors to consider in making, applying and modifying professional rules

Once a people have agreed to work together, several compromises become necessary for peace and progress. These necessary compromises are compiled as rules of engagement for progressive social interactions. Some of the necessary factors for consideration in making professional rules include:


  • Common good: This is a situation whereby a policy or innovation benefits majority of the society. Yet, this definition does not justify the social injustice of sacrificing a minority’s safety or livelihood for a majority’s increased comfort or greed. Instead, it becomes a situation where everyone in a society has the opportunity to develop and profitably utilize their resources and potentials in the society. Once your pursuit affects people’s lives and means of livelihood, it becomes personal to the victims. Hence, the person involved has to defend him/herself if the society does not intervene justifiably.


  • Universality: Immanuel Kant’s universal maxim and Jesus’ golden rule hold that whatever you propose for other people should also be applicable to you. And whatever favour or privilege you allot to yourself should also be made available for other people to choose. Considering universality in rules, a professional rule becomes unjustifiable if it would not apply to some people in the society. For there is nothing professional about lies, hypocrisy or having double standards. If the rule cannot be applied to you, then it should not apply to others.


  • Who makes the rules? Human autonomy accords him inalienable rights, which he can only transfer by informed consent. It is through this informed consent that people deliberate and agree on terms and conditions for harmonious and productive coexistence in a society. This informed consent is the foundation for government legitimacy, which progresses from individuals to family, community, state and country.


The social contract emphasized that government should be based on the consent of the governed, not on the divine right of kings, imposed military powers,  by any tradition or by conservation of existing institutions.[1]


Without informed consent, professional rules can be imposed by unconcerned tyrants to override common good and universality. But with informed consent public officers become more responsible in administering the society for common good. And when an official derails from common good, the people can officially withdraw their consent from him/her.


  • Who or what is affected by the rules? Human needs from the society are security of life (primary), life-saving possessions (secondary), before possessions and positions of class and comfort (tertiary). When some people’s search for secondary or even tertiary desires threaten other people’s primary needs, the threatened people seek self-defense. So, it becomes unjustified for your political ambition, correctness or alignment with tradition to endanger more human lives or means of livelihood. On insisting to intervene to save about 200,000 Sangalan people from genocide at the threat to her re-election and few American lives, President Allison Taylor rebuffs her advisers in these words:

“My job is to save lives today, now. Not sacrificing the lives now for later.”


Disregarding the legality of their African arms deal in the movie, “Lord of war”, Natalie warned his brother, Yuri: “We can’t do this deal. As soon as you give them the guns, those people will die.” Yuri: “it is not our business what they do with the guns…” Officer Valentine: You get rich by giving the poorest people on the planet the means to continue killing each other.”


  • When can rules be bent? We noted that humans’ most basic need from his society is security of life, followed by positions and possessions of necessity before those of class and comfort. Professional rules must therefore bend when they directly threaten the lives of the people they were meant to protect. Second, they have to bend when the rules are known to delay or obstruct justice, productivity and security.


The first catalyst for social progress is the human need for happiness and relevance in developing his potentials for solving problems and satisfying needs. This catalyst is either enabled or frustrated by a system of professional rules that are made and enforced in a society. Without emphasizing legitimacy and common good, these rules endanger people’s lives, delay or obstruct justice, peace and progress.[2]


“Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”[3]

[1] Jean Jacque Rousseau in Oladele Fadeiye, Essays on modern world history (Lagos: Murfat publications, 2009), p.29.

[2] Chukwunwike Enekwechi, “Law as a tool of philosophy: whether good or erroneous philosophy – need for legitimacy and common good” in Restartnaija, 22nd February, 2018. https://restartnaija.com/2018/02/22/law-for-philosophy-legitimacy-and-common-good/

[3] Thomas Jefferson, https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/thomas_jefferson_136362