Taking a stand

As Russia attacked Ukraine a few days ago, and generally horrified the world, I encountered some discussion about the extent and value of sanctions. The discussion was about the rights and wrongs of ceasing business with (mostly small) Russian companies, whose employees might not support—and might even oppose—their national leader’s aggression. And this discussion was not theoretical—many of those involved ran companies with Russian customers and suppliers.

I know both sides on that debate condemn the actions of Russia unequivocally. Neither option is perfect, and both lead to significant hurt somewhere. But for me it’s clear, and my reasoning (and mine alone) is this: the Russian leader’s support needs to be undermined, and a big part of that is creating a pain that all Russians cannot ignore and will attribute in one way or another to their leader and his actions. Clearly those ordinary Russians are not the aggressors. It is far from perfect, but for me it’s the least bad choice.

Big companies are acting. Smaller companies are acting. And I am impressed with all of them.

When I spoke to one of those who had been involved in making such a decision—which clearly had some financial impact on their company—they said something which I didn’t quite expect: “Sometimes it’s easier to take a stand.”

It also has benefits.

For one thing, it creates clarity. A decision has been taken, debate can stop, and now we can act on the consequences of that decision. We can move forward once again.

Also, it demonstrates leadership. Doing something makes it easier for others to follow, in two senses. It creates a clearer tie for those within the group (“This is part of who we are; by being in the group it is implicitly part of who you are, too”). It also legitimises the action for others, making it easier for them to do the same, if a little later.

And I say this while also believing that those who have taken a stand have done so entirely for moral and ethical reasons, and nothing else.

Taking a stand is often difficult at the time, but indecision can create more problems. Once the decision is made the difficulty quickly moves into the past, while more positive things follow.

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