Why "Least Harm"?

MOGO is short for Most Good, which is short for the principle of doing the most good and least harm to ourselves, other people, animals, and the environment. Recently, someone asked me why I used the term “MOGO,” which excludes the concept “least harm.” My flip answer was because MOGOLEHA sounds too silly and affected, but there’s another reason, too. The term MOGO is unabashedly positive, and focusing on what’s most good means putting our energy toward what is wisest, healthiest, most humane, and most sustainable.

Many movements for change are accused of being too negative. Environmentalism began to be perceived by some as a big downer, replete with deprivation and hostility toward progress. And many activists who are working to right wrongs, stop atrocities and destruction, and create peace are often angry, embittered, and even despairing, perpetuating a negative image of activism and changemaking.

I wrestled with the title of my book, Most Good, Least Harm. Did I even want “least harm” in the title? Would it perpetuate that negative stereotype? In the end I chose to keep the title and use the term MOGO to push the positive further into the light. But “least harm” is a crucial concept. Even if we are able, some day, to live lives that do virtually all good and no harm, the process toward such living will necessitate many steps along the way in which we attempt to maximize the good and minimize the harm, because we will continually be faced with existing less-than-MOGO systems. It is unrealistic to imagine we will never cause harm, but it is eminently reasonable to bring a clear and committed eye to our choices and do the most good and the least harm. In fact, it makes the MOGO principle practical and meaningful, instead of being pie in the sky.

I find the concept “least harm” soothing. It reminds me that we are imperfect and we need not berate ourselves or suffer unduly from lack of perfection in ourselves or the world. I also find it opens doors to dialogue and bridge-building. We can teach each other more easily when we recognize that everyone causes some harm and does some good. The door is open to learning from each other how we go about achieving this. And finally, it diminishes our self-righteousness when we pay attention to how to minimize the harm we recognize that we cause.

~ Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education

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