Don’t do the wrong thing right. “The thing well done” must be a good one.
Do the undeserving things which you are forced to do, as they deserve, poorly.
The nineteenth and twentieth century created a general belief that people are on Earth to work. The punishing injunction of Genesis* “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground” got translated into a doctrine of Economy, Moral and pillar of Human Society. This forced us all to find dignity in the work we do, educated that we live to work and our life has meaning in work - instead of working to live, and to live better, as silly common sense would consider. It followed “naturally” that work must be well done, whatever it may happen to be.
Think again: Is that so? Is it so? Always?
Many a fool serves with his competence, energy and a fever of proud perfectionism some stupid industry, wrong cause or a guilty aim that should be left to fail and rot.
Many of us labour, often against our best interest and values, while covering our face with words like duty, loyalty and excellence or because everybody else around us are pressing us by competing to do it cheap, fast and best.
We know intuitively that there is something wrong in the grinding, but we are ashamed or feel guilty if we do not perform our technical task beautifully, at quality standards. As if how you work could be separated from what you do.
I indulged this error a long time ago and it caused me useless exertion and the persistent regret of being abused. I still lapse from time to time.
How do we get so totally specialised and taken with doing things properly that we grow morally blind of the final aims and consequences? Are we mere instruments?
I understand that honest persons will do their task properly, worth their pay. I respect the toil to survive and feed a family. I understand that in time you are what you do, so that we need to respect our work to respect ourselves. But I make a difference between good work and mindless execution. I hate to see good people excelling in stupid task and see great fault in undertaking that serves questionable, absurd and even wicked business.
One can even explain, with disapproval, mercenaries doing their questionable trade well, under pretext of "following orders", for fear, greed, a needed wage; but how to judge the honest, good, enthusiastic, gifted fool who sells himself away by compulsion and pride of the “thing well done”, because he cannot help it? Doing the wrong thing as well as you can – to prove like a peacock to yourself or to other people how skilled and professional you are - is getting used indeed.
We should act as persons, with our own mind ans personality. Do well the worthy thing and - without much fuss - deliver the "jobs" we must perform as well but no better that they deserve. When they are wrong do not serve them truly, let them fail. If in danger, undermine them furtively. Except to this only when, in lack of freedom to chose, from a position of weakness, you want to diminish the unacceptable by excess of zeal, growing it to such an exaggeration that it may burst.
Do then as I say not as I erred. Don’t do the wrong thing right.
*(Genesis 3:19 King James Bible)