When the ends justify the effort

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September 21, 2012 by JL Walker

I did it when I was a freshman, and you’ll do it when you’re seniors. but you’re doing great. Now fry like bacon, you little freshman piggies. Fry!
-Simone, played by Joey Lauren Adams, in Dazed and Confused

In Dazed and Confused (1993), a coming of age movie which revolves around a high school party, freshman are hazed by the senior class as part of a long-standing tradition. Seniors want to make sure new entries go through the same terrible experience they were forced to go through when they started high school. And so the tradition continues, making inclusion in an exclusive group fair for all newbies who want to be a part of the group. And in exchange for going through the initiation rites, freshman get to hang out and party with the older kids.

Sunrise with trees in front of screen windowBut what’s really behind hazing, rites of passage, and even difficult entrance exams? Some would argue that there’s often something called “effort justification” at play. This means that if something is difficult to achieve, it will be more attractive and seem more valuable that it really is. People have a tendency to increase their liking for something they have worked hard to attain. The human mind essentially tricks itself, believing that the extreme means justify the ends. This paradigm also makes belonging to a group which uses hazing or strict entrance requirements seem even more exclusive and more gratifying.

Another example is reading a difficult book like Joyce’s Ulysses or Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (neither of which I’ve read). If you can finish a long and challenging book, then you feel more inclined to praise their worth because you’ve spent so much time on them.

Could this idea of effort justification be one reason why living in a new country and navigating new waters is so attractive to some people? Moving to a new country, learning a new language and trying to understand a new culture can be a challenging experience. For me, living in Italy required a large investment of effort after I made the decision to take the plunge. And, after putting in so much time and effort, the rewards might take on even more significance and value than they would have without all the blood sweat and tears.

Italiani have lived with crazy bureaucracy their entire lives, so it’s only fair that new arrivals are forced to go through the same thing (getting a permesso di soggiorno is pretty darn complicated, as anyone who has lived in Italy can agree). The complicated process of applying for a permesso or even citizenship is almost like a hazing ritual: everyone else who lives here has been in the same position at some point, so people who want to live in Italy have to do so as well. The beginning stage of life in a new country may not be enjoyable but the final result may be worth the hard work.

As for me, I knew what I was getting into before deciding to apply for citizenship. If you learn about both the outcome and the process you can make an informed decision about whether it’s really going to be worth it: everything I’m doing now will have paid off when I finally receive an Italian passport.

The reasons for acquiring dual citizenship are good enough that the initial difficult process is bearable. Though it may seem like pointless hazing right now, the ends will indeed justify the effort.


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Date to submit applicationSeptember 10th, 2015
Time to submit my application for dual citizenship!
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