Ethics and Politics Relationship
Politics has two faces—a smiling face that gives glad tidings of prosperity, power and authority, and a furious one that calls to mind power struggle, power worship, and injustice. It is owing to this that politics is likened to Janus, the first mythological king of Latium.
The gods had bestowed the king with such powers of clairvoyance that he would see the past and the future in unison. It is for this reason that they used to depict him as having two faces, portraying him as terrifying. In reality, politics has also two facets and faces: On the one hand, it is after securing the objectives and demands of the citizens and is a powerful tool for the establishment of public order and welfare—this is the favourable face of politics.
On the other hand, it is the means of rivalry, challenge, power struggle, dealing a blow to the enemy, and outstripping and outsmarting him—this gives a dreadful image of politics.
In our culture the latter face of politics is better known. Usually politics has been equated and associated with fraud, deception, and in slang, ‘chicanery’ [pedar sūkhteh bāzī].
A deeper analysis of this aspect of politics exists in Arabic and has taken the form of a proverb. It states, “To rule is mule-like (sterile)” [al-mulk ‘aqīm]. It means that it show no mercy to anybody and recognizes no kinship and kinsmen.
History is replete with this attitude to politics. Nādirshāh killed his own son merely because of a misunderstanding, and Shīraveyeh murdered his own father Khusrūparvīz (Khosroe Parvez) in order to gain power. Ferdowsī elegantly depicts the gloomy end of this unlucky king. After Shīraveyeh, who was himself a prisoner of his father, is released from the prison through the help of the soldiers, he dethrones his father, puts him behind bars, and goes in search of a person who would kill his father. But he has nobody to help to murder the king as such a deed would be inauspicious. However, he finally finds the person who accepts to shoulder the heavy responsibility.
يكى خنجرى تيز دادش چو آب بامد كُشنده سبک پرشتاب
چون آن بدكنش رفت نزديک شاه ورا ديد پابند در پيشگاه
بلرزيد خسرو چو او را بديد سرشكش ز مژگان به رخ برچكيد...
چو آن جامهﻫﺎ را بپوشيد شاه به زمزم همى توبه كرد از گناه
يكى چادر نو به سر دركشيد بدان تا رخ جانستان را نديد
بشد مهر هرمزد، خنجر به دست در خانه پادشا را ببست
سبک رفت و جامه از او دركشيد جگرگاه شاه جهان بردريد
This patricide does not end here. As a precautionary measure, fifteen other sons of Khusrū who are imprisoned are also butchered.
چو آگاهى آمد به بازار و راه كه خسرو برانﮔﻭنه برشد تباه
همه بدگمانان به زندان شدند به ايوان آن مستمندان شدند
گرامى ده وپنج فرزند بود به ايوان شاه آنک در بند بود
به زندان بكشتندشان بيگناه بدانگه که برگشته شد، بخت شاه
Shīraveyeh, too, did not remain unpunished for this patricide [and fratricide] for he was also murdered by others.
Well, the story of politics from this perspective is a tragic one and replete with patricides, fratricides and filicides. If politics is such, what will its relation to ethics be? Is it possible to build a bridge between the two? This question has occupied and challenged the minds of thinkers for the past two thousand years. Some believe that politics is a mixture of fraudulence and violence, and, as such, it cannot be rid of its abominations. This is while others do assert that politics can be ethical. But we are after finding out the place of politics in the ideological system of Imām Khomeinī and what connection it could have with ethics. In a bid to answer this question, we have no alternative but to discuss first the fundamental views on the subject under consideration. Then, we will examine the viewpoint of the Imām in this context.
Concerning the relationship between ethics and politics, there are four main views and they are as follow:
• View on the separation of ethics and politics;
• View on the subservience of ethics to politics;
• View on the duality of ethics and politics; and
• View on the oneness of ethics and politics.