Aristotle described human beings as rational animal. We apply reason and logic to every aspect of our lives. The rationality that we have been gifted with is involuntarily guided by or virtues and morals. These guides are what that forms the basis of ethics. These ethics that drive our conscience and our actions are absolute entities. As Albert Einstein had quoted,
“Relativity applies to physics, not ethics.”
There is not more than one perspective of defining the morals and principles that humans possess by default. Scientifically, Charles Darwin in his book ‘The Descent of Man’ has explored the concept of origin of human morality.
He explained that how a refined moral sense, or conscience, could have developed through a natural evolutionary process that began with social instincts rooted in our nature as social animals. This idea was widely accepted amongst famous sociologists of that era who further implemented the ideas in a school of sociology named Social Darwinism.
As early humans, our species was prone to many dangers of the world. The sole aim that bound us together was the instinct of survival. Our ethics made us altruistic towards our fellow humans as well as living beings who were our allies in our survival. Our frail bodies housed brilliant minds and we used it to climb on top of the food chain and cement our status as the most advanced known species on the planet.
But the hunger for power did not end there. Herbert Spencer, a leading sociologist who had firm belief in Social Darwinism, gave the phrase- ‘survival of the fittest.’ This aptly describes the humans that we have evolved into in the 21st century. To become the ruler of the society that we have inherited and are a part of, the competition has increased.
More plans and conspiracies have developed over the centuries to gain power or overthrow the ones in power, making it an eternal vicious cycle that has crept into our society.
The ethics that showed us the direction remain the same, but are corrupted by the desire to be on the top and make the world dance on our tune. And what better way can we achieve this feat other than becoming a politician.
Politics has become an integral part of our lives. With the majority of the nation’s turning into a democracy, the number of politicians has increased to a large extent, along with their influence in our daily lives. Political debates and discussions are a household activity today.
The scene in the world’s largest democracy is quite the same. But if one had to delve deeper into the scenario, they will realise that these declamations are merely complaints against the way the government had befooled the citizens into gaining power.
This is a confirmation of the ethics-less politics that exists in the nations across the world. And time and again, it has proven to spell a disaster upon the economic and social welfare of a country and has hampered its development.
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Unethical Politics in the Global Scenario
Benjamin Franklin, an accomplished statesman from America had once stated that even the smallest leak can sink a ship. This statement holds the emphasis on the critical aspect of the calibre of ethics in politics. There is an abundance of examples in the history of the world that resulted in political disasters with diabolical repercussions just because ethics were neglected during the policy making.
Starting with the French Revolution of 1879, which was brought into action to restore stability to the peasants and middle-class French populace, but the results were anti-climactic with the peasants turning on the nobles and assaulted them as the reign of terror persisted in the country.
Contemporary to the French revolution was the industrial revolution. The market demands increased as the merchants became short-handed of raw materials to process. Additionally the pressure of opening new market opportunities made the European politicians make decisions that led to large scale wars across Africa, Asia and South America.
This led to the loss of countless lives as well as destruction of peaceful biospheres. Further aggravating the conditions in Africa, the unethical policies the European politicians and bureaucrats drafted to suit their own wishes, fragmented Africa into uneven states with utter disregard to the cultures and ethnicities of the inhabitants. This served as the foundation of the civil wars that mar the history of African nations.
The 20th century saw the rise in demands of fossil fuel to generate energy for the functioning of industries that had been set up over the last century. Now the world was plagued with the politics that were involved, especially the middle-east and gulf countries.
The 1970’s were infamous for the Vietnam War while the 1990’s saw the gulf war in which the United States had active participation. While on the face value, these wars were fought on the pretext of fighting communism and dictatorship and restoring democracy, the actual intentions had always been to maintain monopoly over the resources that these countries provided.
Be it the Afghan invasion, the Iraq invasion or annexation of Crimea, narrow political interests of the stronger nations have caused massive loss of life and property.
Ethics have further been overlooked within nations themselves. Political leaders and governments have often used immoral methods as tools of power grabbing and establishing their dominance in the country. The military misadventures of Pakistan are a prime example of politicians throwing ethical standards into the drain. Entire generations have been also wiped out in the African nations.
Rwanda genocide in 1993 and the civil wars in Somalia and Sudan which were initiated to suit the interests of the respective national leaders has been a subject to condemnation by many nations. The lack of moral practices that exist in the policy-making bodies of the countries have been acknowledged.
The limited spectrum of political interests has not just given rise to wars and genocides. There are other forms of tragedies that have occurred due to politicians of the concerned government paying no heed to their moral principles. The recent refugee crises that have hit the world are spreading havoc amongst many countries.
The European nations have seen large scale influx of immigrants from Syria and other Islamic states that had been ravaged by instable governments as well as terror outfits. On the similar lines, Southeast Asia is suffering from the outbreak of the Rohingya crisis that was solely caused by the bad governance in Myanmar.
Millions of villagers were displaced, separated and even murdered, with their houses being burnt to ashes. Such inhumane practices devoid of ethics have not only brought shame upon the countries, but have also created problems for the neighbouring countries. The failure of politicians to incorporate ethical values in their decision has spelt nothing but trouble around the globe.
Ethics and Politics in India
With the multitude of corruption scandals and scams that have hit both the central as well as the state governments, the situation in our nation is no different than around the world. In fact, we have viewed upon it with much more scrutiny.
Being a country which serves as the residence of a wide range of religions, ethnicities, cultures, languages and social statuses, the perspective of politics is a tad bit different as compared to other nations. But the basic ideology of shunning ethics to gain power remains the same.
Following the lines of the British rulers, the politicians have now taken up the game of divide and rule to remain in power. The division is on the basis of caste, religion, language and culture instigating mob mentality against another community, giving rise to hatred amongst them.
The 1984 Sikh riots, the demolishing of Babri Masjid in 1992, the 2002 Godhra riots, all had led to internal instability and incurred loss of innocent lives. There has been no doubt that the political leaders, incumbent as well as the non-incumbent, had equal roles to play in all these mishaps.
While they are not conducting riots, the unethical politicians keep themselves busy with the corruption charges that are being constantly filed against them. Money is an important factor which decides the extent of power of a political faction.
Furthermore, this money is not used for the welfare of the general population. It is rather used to satisfy their vile desires. 2G, Coalgate, CWG, Vyapam, Sardha, etc. the list runs long. It is safe to say that there is no dearth of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats in our parliament as well as government administrative services.
Even though they have been openly accused of such scams, they roam free, acting as if they are above the law, which on paper might be untrue, but in reality, it is undeniable.
There has been little to no mention of ethics in political discourses. While the concept of morality is debased, the politicians sure did deploy moral police to keep in check immoral practices. For instance, Uttar Pradesh’s crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses is not because the killings there were unsanitary and inhumane, but the mere tag of ‘illegal’ which is a glorified term of ‘unlicensed’, was used to describe them.
This sort of attitude towards policy-making will not yield good policies, but only policies favouring the good of the politicians. Nehru and Ambedkar’s vision of politics of ethics has failed to be fruitful as the current generation prioritises the well-being of themselves before the people they are meant to represent.
Impact of unethical politics
In a broad sense, not maintaining ethical standards in politics affects four main facets of a society or a nation in general- Intellect, morality, sociology and economy. The intellectual damage has been evident with the fact that there are so many politicians ‘ruling’ their constituencies who are uneducated, while the educated brass caters to their services.
These MPs and MLAs use their political leverage in the fields of arts, literature, science and sports to promote individuals of their choice instead of identifying real talent and showcasing them to the nation. This has often resulted in underperformance of the state in major events which can cause massive embarrassment to the nation as a whole.
Hence, many hard-working individual seek recognition of their toil and go abroad in search of opportunities. This phenomenon is famously known as ‘brain-drain’, and it is affecting our countries growth and economy adversely.
The prime evidence to this is the fact that we rarely have come across a Nobel laureate of Indian nationality. The maximum ones are Indian origin scientists and academicians who are settled abroad and have taken up other nationalities.
Follow up to this is the moral degeneration that has resulted due to unethical politics. The immoral policies have set a bad example in front of the public. Our nation has a rich heritage in humility and fraternity. One thing we Indians can be rightly proud of is being humane.
Although we have been calling ourselves secular, the politicians seem to have forgotten to read the preamble. There is no stopping them from playing the communal card to generate a vote bank for themselves while destroy that of the opposing party.
Not just religion, but caste and social status are also dragged into their dirty game just so that they can win a few more seats in the parliament or legislation. But the expense of that is planting seeds of resentment in the minds of the community.
This cascading effect has surely left the citizens manipulated and the society devoid of morals. As mentioned earlier, the corrupt politicians setting bad examples and getting away with it, has unfortunately inspired many people to become unruly citizens of our country.
Extortions, kidnapping, crime against women, corruption… there is no end to the heinous crimes that the people in the society indulge in. Social scientists have established that there is a definite connection between corruptions in high places a euphemism for corruption among the politicians-and the breakdown of law and order countrywide.
The sociological effect is felt from across small families to large political organisations. Religion is another social organisation that has been affected by the activities of unethical politics. It has been used as a tool to promote their personal propagandas.
Many god-men have come up in the past few decades claiming to be holy preachers of their religion, but all they are doing is milking money from the simple citizens. And finally we have the economic turbulence which the immoral practice has brought with it.
The government had not maintained transparency and had constantly used the tax that common people pay to pay for their own comforts. The resulting deficiency in the standard of products and quality of living in a common man’s life is undeniably visible, and along with that, the scams and scandals come as complementary parcel.
The irresponsibility shown by the corrupt politicians, by aligning themselves with anti-national elements, is hastening the approach of a catastrophe in Indian economy.
Politicians are at the helm of the ship that our nation is. It is upon them to steer our country into the tempest or away from it. They wield a vast amount of power which if used ethically can help a common man benefit and the country grow into a developed nation.
They should stop neglecting the needs of their people and become a lot more altruistic. The politicians in their defence may say that the fight for staying in power is a difficult one and they have to use such tactics to get an upper hand on their opponents, but the sad truth is something else.
They are ready to drop as low as they can to keep filling their bank accounts in Switzerland from the hard earned money of an average Indian person. Wherever the word politics appears, ethics start to fade away.
Even though there exist several bodies that are tasked with keeping a vigilant eye to keep the unethical activities in check, the not so virtuous ideas have crept deep inside the souls of our politicians and condensed with it.
It is a difficult task to eradicate such an evil existence since it is a result of the choices that the politicians take and live with.
We as responsible citizens can only use the best of our knowledge to bring into power the least corrupt and the most responsible leader that our collective intellect can decide upon and prevent actual narrow-minded selfish politicians from being in power and prevent unethical politics. At present we have very limited options, but we can always hope for a better future.