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Principled Action in Politics and Life
|by R. D. Ashby|
In government as in life, respect for principle is everything. From our earliest days we are taught, even in the process of achieving literacy and numeracy, the principle that judges between right and wrong ways of doing things. When a thing is done correctly, a sentence written grammatically or an equation in maths solved, it is the principle of right action that is vindicated. We develop, whatever our religion or nationality, whatever the circumstances of our upbringing, a respect for the principle of right action that sustains life to the extent it is identified with life. It is true to say the principle of right action, as a living entity, governs all human institutions in their functionality.
In a given community, wrong action is defined by the breaking of the harmony of principled action. When someone does wrong the principle of his action is said to be self-gratification as against gratification in the act of working for the good of the community. But the latter is also a form of self-gratification, since fulfilment is experienced in doing the right thing, gaining the love and respect of the community. Self-gratification in the act of doing what is wrong entails alienation from the community, and all that means in loss of respect and affection. Criminal self-gratification is isolating, no matter how rampant it is, symbolised in the isolation of a prison cell. It is an unhappy state, but, once embarked on, self-perpetuating, since it is nigh impossible to regain the respect of the community. A broken mirror, as Nigella Lawson said recently, with respect to her own shattered reputation, repaired yet shows the cracks.
Politicians are well aware of the consequences of corrupt action in loss of communal respect and affection, which they rate as fickle anyway, and make allowances in accruing wealth for security in the future. The corrupt politician comes to care for none but his immediate circle of relatives and friends or a supportive wife and family. A self-made man he remains.
Corrupt behaviour is compulsive, which perhaps explains its prevalence as based on opportunity. By this I mean that in certain circumstances opportunistic gain is compelled against the individual’s will in the guise of a greater right. This is a sad fact of human psychology. It proves corruption prevails the strongest desires to avoid it by appearing as a right action. Even persons of the highest integrity, what one would call ‘squeaky-clean’, are prone to this failing. The technique includes concealment. The latest scandal of the exposed affair of President Hollande of France and the actress is an example. In the bible, a sinless Adam in paradise yet takes the apple Eve offers, the forbidden fruit, because it appears good to eat. He then proceeds to hide from God.
Love of principle for the sake of principle is well-nigh impossible and has to be hedged by laws, even then, prone to be disobeyed. It then becomes a case of consequences of wrong action as a deterrent. This is also insufficient, as there would be no incidence of crime or corruption. St Paul calls law an ‘articulation of condemnation’. The law does not give one the power to abide by it. Only charity, as Christ preached by example, something experienced as a principle of right action, can avail right action in any circumstances. Every sin or crime is essentially a sin against charity. This is why Christ preached it in one word. The question is can we expect politicians to act always in the principle of charity? What is certain is that the principle of right action in charity is always present, is in fact an eternal principle, on which is based the substantial hope of eternal life.
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