Throughout the history, there have been plenty of rulers or even entire political systems that have exploited common people and depraved them of their basic human rights all for the sake of some greater good, such as expanding the country’s territory or winning an important war conflict. In many of these instances, the politicians made the argument that politics have no relations with morals, and that the main duty of politicians is not to be ethical but to make decisions that ensure the country’s survival and prosperity. This argument, however, does not carry as much weight when we look at it from a broader perspective. It is undeniable, that a country being prosperous and globally influential does not always mean that the standard of living in said country is very high. Even nowadays, there are great powers such as China and Russia, where many of their citizens live below the poverty line. In cases like these, it is important to question what is more important – a country’s global reputation and power, or the welfare of its own citizens. Ideally, politicians should be aiming to create an equilibrium between these two. This would not only benefit the citizens but also the government since happy and satisfied people tend to be more loyal to their country and are less likely to revolt. Additionally, it is impossible to say that politics have no relations with morals, since for a lot of people these terms are almost synonymous. After all, it is politicians who create and change the law, and the law is in many ways the symbol of a country’s morality. Although people of a certain country can follow a religion with its own set of morals or have their own ethical values, at the end of the day they have no other option but to accept the general rules of the state. As a study conducted by Penn State University in 2019 suggests, our political affiliation shapes our morality. The study revealed that while a person’s morals cannot really predict their future political beliefs, a person’s political attitude will almost certainly affect their morals. In other words, once a person finds a political ideology that they identify with, they will try to justify anything that normally would go against their own moral values. As Peter Hatami, American political scientist and Distinguished Professor of Political Science notes: “There are examples of members of both the political left and right excusing or explaining away things that on paper should go against their moral compass. We’ll recondition anything, on average, through our ideological lens. If we see something within our political party, that may conflict with our morals, we will often say “no, it’s moral because of this” or “no, it really is fair because of that.” We tailor what we find acceptable to our politics.”
All in all, I believe that it is neither correct, nor entirely possible to separate politics and morals, as these two terms have always been closely intertwined. For centuries, common people were neither educated nor independent enough to form their own moral compass to guide them, and thus they just passively accepted the laws that their rulers made and enforced. The ruler’s actions were therefore the representations of the country’s morals. Nowadays, thanks to the accessibility of education as well as the quick spread of news on the Internet, things have changed and people became more engaged in politics. Most counties in the world have a democratic form of government meaning that people can vote for their representatives or sometimes even directly vote for or against the passing of certain laws in a referendum. Hence, politics and morals are now linked closer than ever before. It is rare to see someone in the modern world who is not familiar with up-to-date political events and even more rare to see someone who does not have a strong opinion on them. Still, there is a considerable number of countries, where this is not the reality, and where people’s basic human rights are being violated by the law. Due to the strict regime that is normally present in such countries, there is very little that these people themselves can do to change the situation. Any kind of protesting, or sometimes even expressing their disagreement with the political system could put them in danger. This is why organisations that ensure the protection of human rights, such as Amnesty International and United Nations Human Rights Council are extremely important. If a country is to exploit its own people by creating harmful and discriminatory laws, there has to be some other authority that has the capacity to intervene and reestablish order. It is the relationship of a state to external recommendations where we can see its attitude to morality.
The Kultúrny kyslík/Cultural Oxygen project was supported from public funds by the Arts Council (Fond na podporu umenia) as the main partner.