Politics Without Ethics is a Disaster | NiccolÃ² Machiavelli | Corruption
The result is a political culture without ethics that naturally degenerates into wilder corrupt practices. As power corr...
Politics without Ethics Is a Disaster
In modern states absolute power rests with the poli-ticians. This is so in India too. The huge expenses involved in electioneering and the desire for a grand life style tempt the political leaders to amass money, often unethically.
The result is a political culture without ethics that naturally degenerates into wilder corrupt practices. As power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely every aspect of Indian life becomes corrupt.
Development of Thought:
Corruption had been present in poli-tics from ancient times. Machiavelli's book The Prince illustrates the corrupt practices, rulers indulged into, in Renaissance Italy. In the ancient democratic Greece even Pericles was charged with corruption. Chandragupta's minister Chanakya has mentioned the unethical practices of kings of ancient India in Arthashastra. But the corruption of ancient was different from that of modern times in the following ways.
1. It was not so "wide-spread. 2. Influence of sane people like Socrates, Buddha and such was more positive on people. Their teachings acted as a counter weight on corrupting influence. Religion had a check on corruption among the masses. 3. Even those rulers who acquired power through corrupt means trans-formed themselves into humanitarians later. Medici rule of Italy is an example corruption that emanates from political leaders affects the Indian society in several planes.
It has its (1) moral, (2) intellectual (3) sociological and (4) economic impact and the damage it causes is considerable. The malady ap-pears un curable because society is caught up in a vicious circle where present day politics corrupt the society and that corruption in society, is making poli-tics and politicians more corrupt.
Is there any possibility of a change for the better? It is not likely to come from within the society. It may come from outside. Something like a new incarnation may happen. Not in the traditional way, but differently, when evil will get destroyed by its own internal struggle. But the process may be miserably long and during the course even the good people are likely to suffer.
Politics in the widest sense is the art of ruling and Ethics, the science of morals, of good and bad. In modern times, politics in India and for that matter politics in any country is found to be devoid of ethics. In the absence of ethical considerations in political decision making, the resultant corruption and associ-ated evils spread around in society.
Politicians in modern states wield a lot of power, practically absolute power and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is what we find around at the moment in India. Immorality, selfishness and greed have crept into politics, the set of power with the consequential decay eating into the entrails of Indian society.
There is no organizational body, intellectual or professional that is free from this degradation at present. More tragically, there is no individual of eminence in the field of politics or religion, education or economics, art or craft, science or technology who is free from the taint of the all embracing corrupt practices of the present.
What Y.B. Yeats talked about the moral decay of the post-world-war Europe fits the Indian Scenario exactly.
"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed...
The ceremony of innocence is drowned
The best lock all conviction... "
Society is decaying, time honored values are declining and the human bonds are shattering. Honesty, innocence and integrity are not valued. Greed rules the roost and almost all people of consequence worship Manmon as their god.
If we look, back into history, perhaps we can find the absence of ethics and the existence of corrupt practices in politics from ancient times. Machiavelli's advice to Italian rulers, in his book.
The Prince, is full of amoral or unethical nuances. And that book is presently the bible of politicians everywhere, in an-cient Greece, where modern democratic government is said to have its origin,
corruption in high places was not unknown. Even Pericles, whose name gave a golden aura to the history of Greece, was charged with corruption.
Why, in our own country what did our famous Chanakya do to establish a mighty empire for Chandragupta Maurya, as his adviser? His Arthasastra illustrates the then pre-vailing practice of indulging in cunning and crafty means in acquiring, keeping and expanding.
But there is a lot of difference between the amoral political practices of those times and the absolutely selfish and rottenly corrupt practices found in politics around us.
Though corruption existed during those times, the influence of that corrup-tion on society at large was not all embracing as in modern times, for the following reasons.
1. Corruption in those times never used to be that widespread as it is at present. It was confined to the very top strata only. Even those rulers, who acquired power through devious means, after acquiring power, got transformed, into humanitarians, like the Medici rulers who lived a grand life and did a lot of good things to the country at large.
2. If there were people advocating unethical methods for achieving suc-cess, there were others, who championed the need of a morally good life. For the Greeks, there were people like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles and any more to act as a counter-balance to the moral degradation.
In India, Budha and Vardhamana influenced the people of the time more than the principles propounded in the Arthasastru. In Renaissance Italy, the rejuvenating influence of a galaxy of great artists and scholars formed the people's way of life more than the Machiavellian moral principles.
3. The corruption that existed in the past was not widely known among the masses. Rulers never practiced any transparency in their decisions and deeds. The modern means of transmitting news through the mass media was not avail-able to them.
The news of the incidents of immorality and other, evils, of course trickled down through the and hangers on. But the aura under which rulers lived, by the theory of divine right of kings and prineha, lessened the credibility of such news.
4. Near superstitious belief in religion with its associated belief that evil will surely come across with appropriate punishments, if not in this world, in the life to come, kept most people desire an upright life. People of such temperament neither indulged in unethical practices, nor abetted such in others, if only for the fear of nemesis reaching them ultimately.
Situation at present is entirely different. Corruption has become a way of life in India and that too overwhelmingly so. After the recent liberalization of the economy, the dominant role of politics in this all consuming spread of evil is easily discernible. One has to admit that politicians are at the helm of affairs of everything, including highly professionalized enterprises.
The MPs and MLAs and all other so called representatives of the people do not represent the voters any more. Neither do they have any sentiment of nationalism nor any humanitarian considerations. If at all they stand for anybody's interest it is for their own.
During the time of elections, they go round with a chiseled, polished smile on their lips, and with folded hand talking glibly of a government of the people for the people and by the people. Often he will talk of the poverty of the nation, the poor conditions of women and children in the country, the bad shape of roads, and a thousand other evils found in society.
Gandhiji's name will be liberally used. He would promise to establish a Ramarajya once he and his party came to power. To each the voters' imagination, he would spend money prodigiously, using all he knowledge modern information technol-ogy is able to provide.
Once he reaches power, he forgets his voters, and his promises and thinks only of his personal interests. And what exactly is that? First to make good the huge amount of money he had to spend on electioneering; then to make himself rich so that he can carve out for himself a lifestyle, something similar to that of the eastern monarchs, stories of whose fabulous living remains in his Dreams.
During this attempt, he will stoop to any mentalities. He will do padpooja to charlatan god men who abuse the name of religion, befriend 'noto-rious international smugglers and patronise drug-barons, and associate himself with notorious criminals and kidnappers.
The irony is that such politicians, though some of them are well educated, are unaware of the disastrous influence of their action, on the society at large. They are callous of any such consequences. What is more, many of them are not cultured enough, to foresee such consequences.
The second is, perhaps a greater tragedy in the Indian context. The effect of the corrupt practices of the Indian politician affects society in several ways. It has its devastating influence in the intellectual, moral, social and economic life of India.
One has to admit that the status of a nation is to be measured by its intel-lectual achievements, its achievements, in science, technology, art, music, litera-ture and the such. The intellectuals make culture grow. However, the intellectuals in India at the moment are disillusioned a lot.
They are aware of the unethical domination of the un intellectual politicians in their domain. Often the men at the top in intellectual organizations are political appointees and the incumbents have to please their political masters in various ways.
Further, when political leverage works, it does in such a way that, individual initiative is not encouraged and real achievements are not appreciated. This results in glorification of mediocrity in the field of arts, science and technology.
Many brilliant, honest and hard working men of ability, in order to free themselves from such choking atmosphere go away to foreign countries.
This exodus of the meritorious is often referred to as brain-drain. Some say they go in search of greener pastures. But it is not the truth that they go away for money. They go tempted by the more conducive working conditions, unfettered by the disgusting influence of politicians.
This may per-haps explain why no Indian scientist working in India has reached the Nobel- status though a few of them have risen to that level after leaving the motherland. In the field of art and literature too, the suffocating political hold prevents ex-cellence from coming to lime-light.
As long as the corrupt tendencies of politics remain in the intellectual field, India is unlikely to contribute substantially in science or art, technology or industry, literature, drama or music.
One may talk of a Tagore or a Ray or a Chandrasekhar. But they are of an earlier generation not subjected to the utterly immoral political wheeling and dealings of the present.
Unethical politics has a very unwholesome effect on the morality of a nation. One of the things over which Indians can be rightly proud of is the humanitarian traditions of ancient India. But that glorious tradition of the Indian way of living started to fade into thin air, during the second half of the present century.
Politi-cal parties, in order to gain popular appeal, play the communal card indiscrimi-nately. This is true not only with the BJP and the Sangh pariwar, but also with all other major parties, that glibly proclaim secularism.
Appealing to the commu-nal and caste feelings may bring in temporary gains by winning a few more seats in Parliament or even by gaining power at the centre. But during the process they are immorally fomenting hatred in the minds of people.
This has a cascading effect and the result surely is a society devoid of moral sense, a nation without humanitarian feelings. When the materialistic world, disillusioned with the mean-ingless life it leads, is looking to the east with a longing for a better model of life, this moral degradation found in India will only add to its disillusionment.
The loss is not only to India, it is to the whole human race. Further, Indian religion, one of the most tolerant in the world is losing that nobility and is becoming fundamentalist like aggressive religions.
There is another side to the moral issue. The corruption that starts from the political field is disseminating fast. Corrupt practice, now, is the rule than the exception which it was in the past. This leads to distortion of values leading to the justification of evil on the ground that evil is found practiced everywhere.
If people in high places are noticeably corrupt, the average man may justice him-self in indulging in it, rather without any pricking of conscience. Corruption has become the norm and there is a human tendency to justify their is a human tendency to justify the norm.
But it is a fallacious view. Just because about 95% Americans have diseased teeth, as it is reported, none can think that disease in teeth is something we should aim at. Further the widespread existence of corrup-tion in society will lead the coming generation to grow up into unscrupulous people.
In the absence of any societal morality, to guide them, they turn to evil without any pricking of conscience. We have already begun to see the conse-quences. Some of the heinous crimes committed in recent day India are commit-ted by greedy teenagers.
It is absolutely clear that the consequences of the immorality the political leaders practice in public life, has its repercussions in society at large. The numerous bride burnings that frequently one hears of, the Naina Sahni case and incidents like those amply illustrate this.
The violent demonstration Delhi Uni-versity law students held defending a colleague, a notorious murderer that too in a court of law, is another shocking example. Are the politicians who are the root-cause of this phenomenon aware of their role in corrupting the society of not only today, but that of tomorrow also?
If yes, they are callous people not suitable to be leaders of society. If the answer is no they are ignorant ones unfit to belong to the ruling class. A palpable effect of this moral decay is the break down of law and order in the country. Now, might is right. It is not only so in the big cities.
For a few thousand rupees you can lure a gangster to eliminate an adver-sary, almost anywhere in India. Extortions and kidnappings have become the order of the day.
Law enforcement officers themselves are involved in crimes. Recently there was a strike call by customs officers in defense of their colleagues who were arrested red handed for extorting bribes from exporters.
There is definite connection; social scientists say, between corruptions in high places a euphemism for corruption among the politicians-and the break down of law and order countrywide.
The social, or rather sociological effect of the spread of immoral politics is shockingly felt on the Indian society, from the family to big organizations like religion and political parties. The harm done to the family is perhaps the most west have started appreciating the very salutary family bond found in Indian society.
Securities of all the members are assured in the traditional Indian family life. However, under the shattering influenced of the murky corrupting situation, that exists now, the Indian family bond is wearing thin and in the urban set up it has already disappeared.
Religion is another social organization which has ceased to be of positive contribution, under the cloud of prevailing corruption. First politicians started to patronize religious organizations for electoral advan-tages, despite the fact they didn't have any religious convictions whatsoever.
Slowly, even honest religious leaders, started to swing away from their idealistic convictions and became pragmatists. The tragic consequence is that religion has lost its positive influence on Indian society. Religion no longer can help Indian society in keeping its traditional humaneness, its intellectual honesty and its social awareness.
Sanyasins, Maulahs, Sants and Bishops who used to be the conscience keepers of Indian society now have no conscience to keep, neither that of the society nor their own. In such a situation society decays quickly. The existing poverty of India makes the decay quicker.
It is an approved fact that a poverty stricken nation is kept in the upright path by religion even by religious superstition. The ultimate damage done to Indian society through the vanishing influence on religion will be realized only later. All sane minds think that the damage will be considerable.
The influences on political organizations are reciprocator, creating a vicious circle: Corruption starts with the individual politician and it has a cascading effect, ultimately corrupting the whole organization.
Thus the fully corrupt orga-nization, goes on to corrupt the new entrants coming into its fold. Thus it forms a vicious circle perpetuating corruption. The same corrupting influence works on industrial and financial firms, social and sports of organizations.
The various scams that acquired notoriety, recently and the hawala connection of political heavyweights are glaring examples of the evil effect of corruption at political level on society.
The economic damage that political corruption causes is perhaps the most palpable. The liberalization of the Indian economy has brought in hitherto un-seen prosperity and growth to Indian industrial firms and financial institutions.
However, the economic benefits that pundits predicted for the common people are yet to be realized. An independent firm indulging in economic analysis says that India has lost at least four billion dollars worth of foreign exchange during the two financial years 1991-92 and 1992-93, through hawala deals and similar irregularities.
These anti-national deals continue to exist, just because the poli-ticians at the very top enjoy a share of it. The nexus between the politicians with hawala dealers like the Jams and underworld dons like Dawood Ibrahim has come to the open recently. But it has been in existence for a long time and one finds that no party is innocent of it.
The economic damage done to the country by extending political patronage to anti-national dealers is devastating. The ap-parent prosperity the country enjoys now is dependent on heavy borrowings, both foreign and internal.
Unless the gains coming out of the new liberalization reach the country's coffers, very soon, India will be caught up in a debt trap. The irresponsibility shown by the corrupt politicians, by aligning themselves with anti-national elements, is hastening the approach of a catastrophe in Indian economy.
It is clear that politicians remaining at the helm of affairs in the country are important decision makers, and as such they wield vast amount of power. They utilize their power for their own private gains neglecting that of the country and its people.
It has very devastating effect on the country's economy, its moral consciousness, its social and intellectual life. The corrupt politicians are the ultimate cause of keeping India, one of the poorest countries of the world despite almost half a century of self-rule.
Indian society is caught in a vicious circle where the politicians through their corrupt practices make the country miserable and the resulting misery making the individuals more corrupt. What is the cure? It seems as if there is no man-made cure for the malady India faces.
Perhaps the cure has to come from outside; for all the inside is already rotten, still getting more rotten and is unable to reform itself. Bhagawad Geeta says that when evil becomes all pervasive, a new incarnation of God takes place, to destroy the evil doers and to protect the good. But as it was .understood earlier, may not happen in this age.
Perhaps incarnation may happen in the form of self destruction of evil, by fighting in itself. And after the destruction of the evil society a good tomorrow may dawn upon us. But then, it may take a little time for such an eventuality to take place and in that process even the few good people that exist may face extreme misery.
What ever that may be, the consequences of corruption in politics has immediate and long time results that are devastating not only for India, but to the whole humankind of which one-third are Indians.