Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Tale of Morality

Have you noticed how morals and morality have been sliding into politics recently? At least, that is the case in word if not also within deed. Listening to politicians speak when being interviewed by the media, and additionally whilst strutting their stuff within that pantomime arena known as the House of Commons, a stranger to our world might be struck at how high they place the ethics of their idealistic pontificating.

Of course, it all started with the world of banking. With banks blamed for precipitating, fuelling and maintaining the current economic crisis, politicians were very quick to harness their high principles to the bandwagon of corporate flagellation; conveniently ignoring the fact that years of political mismanagement, overspending from the public purse, and misguided interference into systems (such as the NHS) where they understood very little about the work at the coalface, were all part of the same fiasco. Bankers’ bonuses were the first to be targeted in the name of the public good and as a means to shift discredit from Westminster towards the City of London. The words ‘morally wrong’ and ‘immoral’ were heard issuing from the lips of politicians as though they were experimenting with a new-found toy and took delight in the sound it made. Such words of high standing started to join the lexicon of the political interviewee along with ‘active’, ‘best’ and ‘capable’; all designed to make the smallest of statements sound impressive and reliable.

Other large corporations followed the bankers down the path of political castigation, with the manufacturers of faulty silicone breast implants and metal hip joint replacements being urged to ‘act morally’ and ‘fulfil their responsibilities’ to their customers. Corporations are not, of course, the same as people. In law, a corporation has an identity of its own; a living beast that has to pay its tax and can be fined for wrong-doing, but which has no humanistic features like a brain or heart and doesn’t breath, eat or sleep. So it is not the corporations that need to be behaving responsibly and showing observance towards moral tendencies, but the people employed to run those institutions.

Like the National Health Service, for instance. However much as individuals we try to blame the parent organisation, the organisation is in effect the sum of our individual parts. Our collective actions contribute to the identity of the whole. Ultimately, our own individual morality, when compounded with that of our colleagues, has an effect on the entire establishment. Are you listening Sir David Nicholson?

So when politicians speak of morals, they need to understand that it starts at home; like admitting to speeding and not committing perjury, for example. Morality should not, as The Devil’s Dictionary puts it, ‘have the quality of general expediency’. But then again, the same dictionary does describe politicians as ‘eels in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organised society is reared’; continuing to state that ‘as compared with the statesman, he (the politician) suffers the disadvantage of being alive.’ Perhaps I am expecting too much from our leaders.

First published in the Scunthorpe Telegraph, 28th March 2013
© Copyright Robert M Jaggs-Fowler 2013

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