What most people fail to realise, what many an individual would not see fit concede as I have come to agree is that there are no certainties and no conclusive propositions in life. The truth is that, there are no perfectly functional mechanisms by which the world augurs. There are no totally encompasing truths that can logical strain to no breaks which guides and coordinates human life. One of these total truths that do not exist, are as regards what constitutes positive behavorial attributes on one hand, and negative behavioral attributes on the other. There are no clear distinctions between phenomena as it concerns their positive or negative value and as it concerns their moral or didatic purpot; just as there are no whites and no blacks, just multifarious shades of grey. The Orthodox would have it that some characteristics and some individual personality attributes are negative(vices), while some are positives(virtues). We are told to avoid the vices and adopt the virtues. Society apparently has a likening for making generalisations and over reaching axioms. I happen to disagree with the insipid proposition as regards the nature of attributes as either bad or good, vices or virtues. To me, nothing is ever as they seem. There is no true vice or virtue; just distinct attributes with different relevances in societal life. As a wiseman once told me, nothing is ever too good to be bad, or too bad to be good. There are no always rights or always wrongs. Even violence is a virtue in the right circumstance. We would be making grave mistakes in determining our actions by this apparently misfortunate societal stereotypes; thus the pertinence of this series to disabuse the orthodox mind.
This series engages a couple of these behavioural attributes that have been stereotyped and cached; to the end to exorcising the truth as to just how imperative they could be and just when they are to be employed. Today, we will address the supposed vice of ambition.
Ambition is not your usual vice; its a unique vice. Its one of the supposed pseudo-vices that society intends or prefers to frown at only upon its overly zestful application, but ends up smearing with the myrrh of negativeness from the very beginning. Let tme explain. Pragmatically, ambition is easier disapproved of when it is sensed as being too much. It’s like how it works with pride. A person – the usual self-determined repository of morals – may tell you something like “he is a proud father” and mean it as a complement, and will still say ” he is too proud a father” and mean it as dissaproval. Similarly, you can be told ‘that’s pretty ambitious’ by an officious bystander and it passes as a complement, and yet you’re told ‘hes too ambitious’ and it is in disapproval. So, ambition is not the usual vice; rather it is a vice by degree. Apparently, I disagree with this. Ambition is no vice. Not in itself. Like I would say, attributes are not bad, only their employment can be.
But then again, the English dictionary (The blue one on my phone) defines ambition as an “eager or inordinate desire for some object that confers distinction, as preferment, honor, superiority, political power, or literary fame; desire to distinguish one’s self from other people”. It defines inordinate as excessive; unreasonable in magnitude or inappropriate/extreme. So apparently, ambition is a vice from the go by definition. So while it’s negative colouration has been whittled down by society remains chiefly a vice. My proposition remains all more pertinent. In fact, often we hear preachers and philosophers condemn ambition and equate it; often vehemently, with covetiveness and avarice. Nothing best summarize this negative shroud that has come to permanently settle over this ingenious societal enzyme than the following averment “Ambition is a gilded misery, a secret poison, a hidden plague, the engineer of deceit, the mother of hypocrisy, the parent of envy, the original of vices, the moth of holiness, the blinder to hearts, turning medicines into maladies, and remedies into diseases” made by Thomas Brooks, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895). Further, Walter Savage Landor ealier realised in his Imaginary Conversations (1824-1829), that “Ambition is but Avarice on stilts and masked”. While, Karl Marx in 1967 concurrded thusly “Reason can no longer restrain one who is lured by the fury of ambition”. Even Brutus (from the play “Caesar” by Williams Shakespeare), a most honorable man, considered Ambition so great a vice that he concluded was deserving of the dire mortal penalty. In his words ” As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I slew him. There is tears for his love; joy for his fortune; honour for his valour; and death for his ambition”. To Brutus, ambition was too great a vice and too sinful a device. The above concludes the usual societal perception of Ambition.
Although I lack the necessary relevance to appropriately contend against these geniuses in the business of wits, I would hope I can gently contradict them and by extension, the banal generalistic moralism of society in so doing. As I have said, ambition is no vice. I have severally adviced my aquintances and camaraderie to embrace ambition not fight it. The argument is not that ambition does not have a negative quality; the argument is that ambition is not a vice. So why exactly do I implore you to inculcate a primely rejected attribute? Why have I come to offer you logical propositions inviting you to engage a vice supposedly so bad as deserving of capital punishment in Brutus’s opinion, and Brutus being a honorable man? The reason is simple. It is because the current perception of the nature of ambitioiusness and as shared by both men of little substance and of great minds has been acquired wrongly. Ambition is regarded as some slovenly craving for relevance that births inappropriateness and lures the most far-reaching of indiscretions. But this is not the case. If it were, it would still not be the fault of ambition but that of the person who employs himself to such ends.
Ambition is a fuel, a propeller and a boost and without ambition, the average man would wither away into impertinence. Let’s look at it from this angle. In life, it is important to have goals and aspirations. In fact, a man with no goals, is like cactus in the wind ,having no purpose and no definition, dancing ridiculously to the tunes of the wind. Where a man has goals, ambition is the engine that drives him towards the achievement of the said goals. So, ambition is in itself a good thing since it effects the necessary kinetics to move the individual into the paths in pursuit of his desired end (Unless of course, it is wrong to pursue goals). In the absences of ambition, what acquires is mediocrity and averageness, slothfulness and failure and lack, all of which are negatives. But in a world, where mediocrity is applauded, it is no surprise that ambition is disapproved of.
From his rise from being the son of a candle maker to a legend amongst men, Benjamin Franklin is the ideal paragon of the proper dividends of ambition. Abraham Lincoln like-wise captured the public imagination when he made the improbable leap from a lowly log cabin to the white house. The American Magnate, Ross Perott, ascended from being the son of a cotton broker in Texas to being a distinguished businessman and a copious billionaire instead of opting to die in obscurity like his predecessors. John Rockefeller ascended from an assistant sales rep. to the richest man in America in his times. Recently, individuals like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Eazy E, Dr Dre, Jay Z, Christiano Ronaldo, Abrahamovic, Brack Obama, Arnold Schwarzenegger, David Sarnoff, Aliko Dangote, Mike Adenuga have seen the leap from Drop-outs, Prospective-failures, Ghetto boys, Body builder, Jewish farmer and more to becoming forces to recognize and reckon with in their various dispensations. This, being due mostly to the fact that these individuals had dared to be ambitious even when society considers ambition the devils pitchfork.
There are two sides to it. Society tells us ambition is bad, but congratulates the successful people amongst us, lauding them and overhauling them with accolades. On the other hand, Society actually recognizes the possible dividends of ambitiousness, but would choose to cast stones at ambition because of its possible negative prospects. Yet, as Jean de la Bruyere avers, A wise man is cured of ambition by ambition itself. What he means is that the way around the underlining volatile nature of ambition, is not found in snubbing or crucifying it. The only cure to the negative aspects of ambition is ambition itself. An ambitious man, who ceases to be ambitious to serve society would almost inevitably turn himself to a monster more fiery that that which society so deliberately avoids. Truly, how difficult a task it is, to quench the fire of private ambition and to sacrifice ones self and all ones hopes and expectations to satisfy the weal of society. What then is worse is that at the end of this sacrifice, and except by some metaphysical assistance , the individual who amounts to papery due to his sacrifice in adopting a measly slothfulness of mind so as not to be termed ambitious or to be seen as nuturing “the vileness of ambitiousness”, would resort almost inevitably to hatred and envy; falling into a more worrisome moral battle that he is almost always incline to lose. As Francis bacon noted, Ambitious men if they find the way open to their rising, and still get forward; they are rather busy than dangerous. However, it they be checked in their desires or are made to offer up these aspirations to feed propriety, they become secretly discontent, and look upon men and matters with an evil eye, and are best pleased when thing go backward. The problem with our society is her misplacement from the actual position of things. Ambition is not a vice, but a precursor of fortune. Ambition in the right quantity and employed through the right means is applaudable. Society never makes this distinction. Even if ambition is pursued through the wrong means is not so much a vice as it is a victim of the natural deviousness of men!
Noble Brutus saw fit to levy the capital punishment on Cesare on accounts of his ambition. But is there any man with no secret dreams of success and no tidy aspiration no matter how measly or noble, no matter how refined and private; no matter how congenial and comely? This is the reality of it. Ambition is no vice where the absence of it is calamitous. If all men where ambitious, would the world not be better for it as the tree would be better for it if all the fruit strive to be lush and ripe.