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11.01.2016 Opinion

The Problem Of “Dirty Hands” And Corrupt Leadership

By Philip Tettey
The Problem Of “Dirty Hands” And Corrupt Leadership
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“Be sure, gentlemen of the jury, that you would not be angry with me for speaking the truth; no man will survive who genuinely opposes you or any other crowd to prevent the occurrence of many unjust and illegal happenings in our Country Ghana. A man who really fights for justice must lead a private, not a public, life if he is to survive for even a short time.” (Socrates, in Plato’s Apology, 31d & 32a) “You should therefore know that there are two ways to fight: one while abiding by the rules, the other by using force.

The first approach is unique to Man; the second is that of beasts. But because in many cases the first method will not suffice, one must be prepared to resort to force. This is why a ruler needs to know how to conduct her or himself in the manner of a beast as well as that of a man.” (Niccole Machiavelli,) That is why successful political leaders have often been of questionable moral character. A persistent image in the political sphere is that of the active and powerful man willing to do whatever is strategically important in attaining his desired ends even though doing so may weigh heavily on his conscience. Is excellence in governmental leadership somehow incompatible with moral excellence? We ought to do things that will promote Excellency?

Taxonomy of Dirty Hands
For taxonomy of dirty hands, is in one’s capacity as a leader precludes the possibility of doing what one ought to do as a human being. “The problem of dirty hands” refers to the alleged necessity of compromising or abandoning moral principle in order to play the role of a government official effectively. “Dirty hands” are said to result when a leader encounters a conflict of duties or values and must choose between alternatives, none of which is entirely satisfactory. In Jean-Paul Sartre’s play Les mains sales (Dirty hands), Hoederer sometimes expresses a conceptually distinct view, evaluating as good any and all sufficient means to one’s desired ends: “All means are good, when they are effective” ([1948].

According to realism, sometimes immoral means are required as Hoederer explains the view to Hugo (who refuses to “dirty” his hands): You cling so tightly to your purity, my Lad! How terrified you are of sullying your hands. Well, go ahead then, stay pure! What good will it do, and why even bother coming here among us? Purity is a concept of fakirs and friars. But you, the intellectuals, the bourgeois anarchists, you invoke purity as your rationalization for doing nothing. Do nothing, don’t move, and wrap your arms tight around your body, put on your gloves.

As for myself, my hands are dirty. I have plunged my arms up to the elbows in excrement and blood. And what else should one do? Do you suppose that it is possible to govern innocently? ([1948] in thinking about this issue, it is important to distinguish self-serving opportunists from those who suffer corruption through their sincere efforts to govern well. Self-serving opportunists often rationalize their dubious measures to themselves through self-deceptive references to “the good of the whole,” claiming that group loyalty demands moral sacrifice or that “the end justifies the means.” Egocentric opportunism, however, differs conceptually from dirty hands.

The question before us is whether corruption in the political realm might arise as a result of the very nature of governance and morality. Do rulers simply have more opportunities for temptation and therefore succumb more often than do private citizens? Or does good governance sometimes require the sacrifice of moral standards? When corrupt governmental agents are detected, society tends toward leniency in its “punishment” of them.

Might this leniency reflect recognition of the problem of dirty hands, which leads people to forgive and forget so easily the crimes of their governments? “Realists” maintain that dirty hands are inescapable. In contrast, “idealists” hold that the so-called problem of dirty hands is merely an excuse adduced by those who lack the moral fibre to do what they really ought to do in governmental contexts. 1 Kenneth Winston sums up the opposition between these two positions:

“To be a realist in politics is to believe that political life exceeds our capacities in certain crucial ways. Idealism is of the view that human capacities are adequate to political life” (1994, 39–40). At issue, then, may be humanity in the moral sense of that notion. The question is whether corruption, is a fundamental transformation in one’s moral character?

THE PROBLEM OF “DIRTY HANDS” AND CORRUPT LEADERSHIP in principle is an inevitable consequence of one’s election of a governmental vocation. The word corruption derives from the Latin for “broken” and has a decidedly negative connotation, implying a loss of wholeness or integrity.

We tend to view corruption as regrettable for persons themselves, even apart from the dangers that their corruption might hold for others. Because the sorts of transformations in character that government officials undergo may well be irreversible, “dirty hands” might more aptly be termed “indelibly inked hands.” For example, according to Aristotle in Nicomachean, Ethics, “habits build character” (1980), so a person who sacrifices his own principles one time becomes more likely to do so again in the future. Agents who set aside what once were their moral views become progressively desensitized to the sorts of violations that formerly elicited their moral indignation.

Agents learn, and they become habituated to accept what once seemed unacceptable, no longer had feeling compelled to object to what once seemed objectionable. In clinging to some goal while neglecting others, even temporarily, her moral beliefs and principles, the Electoral Commissioner thus metamorphoses slowly into a corrupted image of his former self. In this view, those who renounce moral standards and principles for the prudential interests of a group thereby transform themselves into persons who no longer embrace those standards and principles. Some might claim that they know where to “draw the line,” insisting that they will not sacrifice certain fundamental beliefs.

Still, if habits build character, then even the act of sacrificing less-fundamental beliefs renders one more likely to sacrifice other, perhaps more-fundamental beliefs in the future. Corruption may be a long, irresistible journey down a very slippery slope as Realism and Idealism Versus Pragmatism. Therefore, we as Ghanaians should not allow such a corrupt Electoral Commissioner be trusted to hold such an office, 1, She has held on to her salary from her previous job as member of Board of Directors until just December 2015, 6 months after, she shouldn’t be trusted for her position. She should resign immediately without delay, the Elders and all intellectuals should push such a case to even Court to stop her, it will be dangerous for Ghana. ….to be continued

Thank you all, I will be back, Philip Odei Tettey
(Republic of Ireland) [email protected]

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