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At a Moral Crossroads: The F8 of the Furious


In 2001, a group of street racers expertly maneuvered to hijack a truck and steal its cargo load of TV’s. This high speed chase marks the very humble beginnings of The Fast and Furious franchise that has since spanned almost two decades, is contracted for two more sure-to-be box office hits, has left behind a legacy for it’s loyal worldwide following, and somehow continues to get better and better.

The Fate of the Furious is the 8th and most recent installment in this dramatic and action packed saga. We meet Cipher (Charlize Theron), a dangerous hacker who uses the life of Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) infant son as leverage to turn him against his team in order to help her steal nuclear weapons that she plans to use for world domination. If there’s one thing that we know to be true about Dom after all these years, it’s that he lives his life by the code of family. This is probably his greatest strength, but as the newest film explores, it might also be his Achilles Heel. His words, “You don’t turn your back on family, even when they do” (Fast and Furious 6) take on a whole new meaning in F8.

Dom is faced with a classic ethical dilemma, one that has been used by philosophers for decades to explore the moral concepts of right and wrong, what is commonly known as the ‘Trolley Problem’:

“Suppose you are the driver of a trolley. The trolley rounds a bend, and there come into view ahead five track workmen, who have been repairing the track. The track goes through a bit of a valley at that point, and the sides are steep, so you must stop the trolley if you are to avoid running the five men down. You step on the brakes, but alas they don’t work. Now you suddenly see a spur of track leading off to the right. You can turn the trolley onto it, and thus save the five men on the straight track ahead. Unfortunately,…there is one track workman on that spur of track. He can no more get off the track in time than the five can, so you will kill him if you turn the trolley onto him” (Thomson 1985, 1395).

This dilemma challenges you to make a choice – do you take the lives of five people, or one? Why? And, how do you know if you made the ‘right’ choice? Many people argue that this hypothetical situation is too black and white to have any value in the real world. When I was first presented with this scenario in an organizational ethics class, I refused to participate. My instructor told me that choosing not to act would still result in consequences, in the case above, my decision would result in the trolley taking the lives of five people. This frustrated me to no end, I felt trapped and like there was no ‘right’ answer. In F8, the decision that Dom has to make is between his crew (also high key the fate of the free world?) and his son. When Cipher asks Dom to remember why he chose to help her, his tormented response is, “I got no choice!” This is exactly why the Trolley Problem has utility.

In the real world, all of us will be faced with a moral or ethical dilemma at some point in our lives. While people’s lives might not be at stake, there will be other important and valuable things on the line:

When putting together a team for a high profile work project, do you choose your friend to preserve your relationship, but risk the integrity of the project? Or do you do what’s best for the organization and choose someone more qualified, even though your friend might not understand your decision?

As a coach, do you allow your team to play the championship game after a rules violation? Or do you hold them accountable and forfeit the game?

These questions are hard because there is no universal understanding of right and wrong. While we can give and take advice about situations such as these, people will ultimately make their own choices that may be different than what we would have done in a similar position. And even though it may not be right for us, it also isn’t necessarily wrong. Ethics are very intrinsic, and unless we actively spend time defining our moral code, it can be difficult to articulate or explain to others the philosophy that guides us in our decision making. Our individual ethics are influenced by so many fiercely personal factors. We have to explore our values, life experiences, worldview, body of knowledge, and even our personality in order to determine how they influence our unique moral reasoning.

The greatest leaders embody this by aligning their actions and behaviors with their moral philosophy. Dom has spent his whole life abiding by his values; he doesn’t have friends, he has family (Furious 7). Which is why even when he was faced with a seemingly impossible decision, he was able to find a way to act that solved the problem and still managed to preserve his values. It wasn’t easy (let’s be honest, that would make a terrible movie); he still had to think critically, be resourceful and creative, take risks, and make sacrifices in order to be effective. This type of integrity is an art that needs to be continually practiced, explored and self-monitored. Watching movies like F8, exploring hypothetical situations like the Trolley Problem, or studying famous real life examples like the Enron scandal (2002), help us to develop our own unique process of moral reasoning and position our own ethical compass. That way, when we are confronted with situations that challenge our principles, we can hopefully be better prepared to make decisions that align with our values.

*Leadership Lesson*

What values guide your life? Look over this Value List and mark the top 10 values that really resonate with you or that you think are the most important. This doesn’t mean that you think that the other values on the list aren’t important, it just means that these are the ones that you refer back to the most when you are making decisions. Rank your top 10 values in order of importance. It’s challenging, but see if you can lock in your top 5 values and write down what these values really mean to you. Refer back to these values the next time you have to make a decision and see how they affect you and the outcome.

*Meet the Author*

Caelan Cooney is another Millennial who wants ‘to make an impact’, a self-proclaimed movie critic, avid explorer, lifelong learner, and Chapman University graduate.