Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Ethical questions - Part III

The setting of the value premise for democracy or what can be expected as outcome when a debate about ‘ethics and politics’ takes place as the case of the conference held in Heraklion, Crete, May 25 - 28, 2006? Here are then ethical questions involved when it comes to formulating political concepts and followed through by practical and political judgments when hearing, seeing and experiencing through its practical implementation.

Ethical questions are involved when forced to take decisions. An example was given by a philosopher coming from then (1979) Yugoslavia when he posed a question to his students at the Otto Suhr Institute of the Free University in Berlin: how would you decide if engaged in resistance and two in your group would be wounded in a fight with the occupant – would you leave behind the wounded or else jeopardize everyone in the group by trying to save the two and take them with the group when retreating although it might slow everyone down and eventually jeopardize all? Of interest is that in such situations there is revealed a hierarchy of values according to which decisions are made.

It shows as well that ethics has to do with safeguarding the life of everyone with the added qualification given by the example, namely ‘if possible’. There comes to mind the Medusa raft and what Gericault inspired to paint this tragic story of not everyone allowed to stay on the raft so that the remaining ones could survive.

The Raft of the Medusa 18191

The ethical dimension of politics is such that this dilemma of saving lives by sacrificing other lives cannot be easily resolved. It illuminates, however, how important it is that such possibilities are talked through before they are incurred. Some philosophers specializing on morals and ethics have attempted to deal with these and other paradoxes. Nevertheless, there are no easy answers.

When looking at literature, here can be found interesting stories written by Stefan Zweig under the title: “Sternstunden der Menschheit – lucky moments in the history of humanity”.2 They vary from historical situation to historical situation such as how the Turks managed to take Constantinople by the Kerkoporto having been left over or why Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo. These stories give a good account what difference individuals can make when faced by the challenge of the moment. That challenge comes in many forms, including the sudden request by the High Command of the French military put to an officer once everyone realized things were going bad during First World War. The demand was to compose a melodic song by which the soldiers could be invigorated to fight. The officer did his duty but his composition was not noticed until extra troops arriving from Marseilles picked up the tune and started to sing it. Since then the Marseilles has become part of the French military tradition. Stefan Zweig said some other unknown person would have failed to face such a challenge.

In the case of Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, Stefan Zweig thinks it was mainly due to a general whom Napoleon had ordered to pursue the Prussian army which had disappeared into the forest but with the extra precaution that the general should stay always in communication with him. This general had only been used to just obey orders. His inability to think and to decide for himself sealed the fate of Napoleon. What happened was that the general went deeper and deeper into the forest without ever finding the Prussian army. His officers reminded him of what Napoleon had demanded but the general took it to mean find the Prussian army. While still searching, the Prussian army had circled back and joined the battle field at Waterloo just when both sides were undefeated but near fatigue. By throwing fresh troops into the battle the crucial balance was tipped in favor of Waterloo and Napoleon ended up being defeated.

Another way of looking at this moral dilemma of having to resort to violence has been expressed most emphatically by Albert Camus in his letter to his German Friends to explain why they had to take up arms and resist German occupation of France. He clearly apologized for doing so. It explains also why French resistance started only very late to take up arms. There had been many friendships, with people studying together so that many could not really be convinced that German soldiers even if there was Hitler meant to harm the French people. Sometimes it takes time to see the real danger and then it is often too late to do anything about it in time.

Ronald Aronson in his book about ‘The friendship between Camus and Sartre’ 3 went on to explain why the very same man who had acted politically even before Sartre had entered politics, why this man from Algiers who knew his people, namely Albert Camus had no voice in the Algiers war. Ronald Aronson concludes that Albert Camus did not want to tell his people the truth. He had hoped violence could be avoided from both sides: the French colonists and Algerian resistance. Apparently the shock of his earlier actions which meant taking up arms sat too deeply in him. Moreover he could or did not want to see that violence is at times no longer, so it seems, in the hands of individuals but a part of the system, in the case of Algiers the Colonial system which was so corrupt as to be still reformed or modified. Camus believed in human but non violent revolt as the only way to uphold respect of human life.

Algiers became a brutal battle ground in which many of the leading figures of contemporary French politics made a name for themselves, including LePen, the Right Wing politician. It is not unusual that political socialization but also qualification through military action is the best way to make a name for oneself. Almost all Prime Ministers of Israel, prior to becoming politicians, have been army generals with a record of utmost brutality and violence or extra courage and leadership as all depends on which side one stands on when appraising use of military power or this resort to violence. If it serves the survival if not greatness of the nation, then use of violent means is usually perceived as something positive and therefore easily justifiable when in fact it is not. But that unpleasant truth and denial of ethics is usually suppressed for obvious reasons.

Andre Breton in his interview 4 reported that one French General made his political career by letting his troops rotate very often during First World War. In that way he got to know many soldiers who became grateful to him for that quick rotation. All this can be called recycling of violence. By establishing a definite link between military and political use of power for a certain purpose, violence is perpetuated and once justified by success, intensified while fear of possible or even real loss would trigger off even more use of violent means in order to reestablish the illusion of being in control, in power.

Examples of violation of the ethical principle of non violence show that politicians tend to rationalize use of force and never question such measures which lead to only more ‘human atrocities’ being committed even if they admit, as did Bush and Blair May 25th 2006 with regards to the war in Iraq, that some mistakes have been made:

Bush shows what is pushed out the front door, can be brought back in through the back door i.e. if Saddam Hussein would have been left in power, he would have ‘restarted’ his weapons program and therefore the ‘real’ and not ‘fake’ reason for going to war in the first place.

Too many ‘crimes against humanity’ occur all the time. Over and again mistakes made are justified in terms of what the other side has been doing. It goes beyond revenge for it presupposes fighting for the own people is always justified. As a result ‘crimes against humanity’ are converted into ‘war crimes’ and reduced accordingly to ‘collateral damages’ easily justified. In an incidence of bombardment in Afghanistan by US planes in a fight against the Taliban in May 2006, it was reported that among the twenty, forty or sixty killed there were at least sixteen civilians. The answer by the military is typical for such rationalization. Shortly after the incidence became known world wide, a military spokesperson released a statement saying the Taliban had fled into houses where civilians lived and taken cover there. Taken into account that Afghanistan is becoming in 2006 besides Iraq rapidly a second war front for American troops, and given the fact that more than 30 000 civilians have died in Iraq as admitted by President Bush who justified these as necessary sacrifices on the way to democracy, the explanation given by the military in Afghanistan is no surprise. The man on the street would usually complement this with a shrug of the shoulders as if to say: ‘what to expect since any war is a dirty war!’ It means never shall be spared innocent lives like all those children who got in-between both war fronts and die as a result of a hail of bullets often shoot at random, out of fear.

That was just recently the case in May 2006 when the Israeli Defense Force assassinated a militant Hamas leader in the Gaza strip and in the process of such a missile attack killed as well his wife, grandmother and child who were following in the car behind.

Remarkable about Gadaffi is that he allows himself to be embraced by the West although a similar attempt was made to kill him. At that time the missile strike missed him but killed instead his small daughter who was standing beside him.

The political assassination method as practiced by the Israeli Defense Forces has not been challenged either legally or morally. There is no ethical debate to question use of such methods not merely on legal but on moral grounds. Always such brutal methods are excused as Israel’s Right to defend itself. The problem is that most of the time such political assassinations are done more hidden than apparent. Only few of them are spotted by the media and therefore brought to world attention. That is all the more remarkable as such assassinations by-pass any judicial process and thereby put civil society at the fore front of a dangerous use of lethal weapons. Although such assassinations execute a death sentence by political and military order, it is never doubted that the accused should have been arrested and made to stand trial to serve justice. Rather justice is served in a pure act of revenge. As punitive measure being applied by the one who claims to have the Right to kill as a way to safeguard own security, it shows that own security needs have a higher priority than finding other just, including non violent solutions.

In America it is readily admitted that ‘to shoot first and only then to ask questions’ is a much preferred policy and principle practiced by almost everyone. It reflects how uncertainty when faced with the need to make a sudden decision is being dealt with, namely not at all and shows to be at the wrong end of the hierarchy of values.

A more recent example of taking sides without wishing to do so is the writer Peter Handke. By attending the funeral of Milosevic who had been standing trial in den Hague for ‘crimes against humanity’ but died in his cell before the verdict could be found in a trial lasting already four years, Handke wished through such an act to refute the so-called Western world. He perceives that world as claiming to know always the truth. Hence he wants to take sides as writer in order to counter-weigh what he thinks are one sided accusations of the West leveled against the Serbs and thereby unwilling to see that there were also Serbian victims.

What Handke demonstrates, and it can be linked to the ‘culture of memory’ as proclaimed in post war Germany when a matter not to forget Auschwitz, is a risk to reverse the role and plight of perpetrator and victim. Germans are responsible for the Holocaust but they did suffer as well bombardment and persecution especially towards the end of the war. But this should not end up confusing as to who committed the crime against humanity with what are the consequences of such acts. As understandable as the wish is for a re-entry into another level of political discourse, Germans then or now in the case of former Yugoslavia the Serbs each has to take responsibility without justifying use of violent means as mere attempt to defend one’s own people as the case of Handke with regards to Milosevic. A similar merging of very different levels of morality can be observed on hand of Günter Grass who started to write suddenly about German refugees as if they were neglected because everyone else would remember only the fate of the Jews in Second World War.

It seems that always the same mistake is repeated when taking sides with the side not represented in the political claim of knowing the truth. It ends up just justifying things out of the national perspective e.g. Serbian Nationalism, or else claims to serve German reconciliation with the own history even though it tempers the most terrible facts. Why is it not possible to discuss and view things out of an ethical dimension? It would mean to be everywhere and at all times against violence linked to abuse of power. Indeed, everyone should jump immediately to the defense of the other the moment there is abuse of power.

Habermas touched upon this issue when giving a lecture about Human Rights in Athens. He called justice the time to turn around once it becomes apparent that the methods applied for correction of injustices start to become themselves unjust e.g. women using permanently quotas to correct inequality between the genders.

The question is, therefore, can justice exist only if both the means and the end(s) are just? At the very least they must be mediated within an ethical dimension which indicates that people are following their insights into morality and recognize each other as ‘moral human beings’. Such consciousness must prevail that means and ends fit to fulfill that claim of everything having an ethical dimension.

Something like that must have been on the mind of the RAF people who realized too late, but nevertheless they did express it, what happens if the means employed to achieve a certain end i.e. a just society, risk dehumanizing so much those enacting upon that principle of violent means to achieve such a society, that they shall never be able to live in the end among others in such a society.

This observation about means becoming a negative end takes then things back to what Frazer described in ‘The Golden Bough’ insofar as a warrior who had been commanded by his village to kill someone in another village would upon returning from his mission be taken to a special hut outside the village as if he had become ‘sick’. The fact that he would be kept at a distance from the others means the people realized a man would change in his entire character and personality once he had killed another man. The same happened with US soldiers upon returning from Vietnam; many of them failed to integrate themselves into society while some of them turned sooner or later to violent actions. They continued to do the same things as in Vietnam but now they committed crimes as if they could no longer regret that they had allowed themselves to be dehumanized.

As a matter of fact, anyone and in particular a Prime Minister or President rationalizing use of violence as means to fight should not ignore the real impact this has upon those called to implement such decisions e.g. to topple Saddam Hussein in Iraq or to drive the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. Responsibility cannot be delegated as power does not mean being able to do things and get away with it although it appears to be very often the case e.g. when charges against lower ranked soldiers and officers are leveled for torturing prisoners but no one higher up, lest of all the President himself was accused of fostering such permissive atmosphere for such and other prisoner abuse.

With regards to the relationship between ordinary soldiers and leaders, Solzhenitsyn showed in his novel ‘August 1914’ what generals think they can do and command as a separate class or elite. It goes as far that they think they can experiment with the foot soldiers as if this is not human life, but just another factor in the equation of the war game being played out. In the case of the Soviet generals Solzhenitsyn shows how they debated whether or not the soldiers were fit to fight the Finns at the start of First World War. To decide that debate they ordered all soldiers to get off the trains taking them to the Finnish border and to march there. By the time they got there after a three day hike they were so exhausted that it was easy for the Finns to defeat them.

If hierarchical thinking leads to such developments, then the hierarchy of values poses a problem for sustaining and attaining the ethical dimension in reality. Having said that, it seems that always the ones at the lower end of the ladder have to do both the bad deeds and carry the full moral weight. In reality they cannot do either and break down.

Nevertheless it was at least encouraging when the anti Vietnam movement started to question the ethics of pilots who would just push the bottom to drop bombs upon innocent civilians but not care that these napalm bombs would destroy entire villages and their inhabitants. They would claim that they were just following orders and be doing his job. Only with time and effective ‘moral’ protest did doubt creep slowly into the minds of these pilots.

Of interest is that the military response over time to that moral challenge was to refine technology with the outcome being now the claim that ‘surgical bombing’ is possible i.e. hitting only a designated target but not anyone in the vicinity. Naturally in practice this proved to be a difficult enterprise but has opened up the way to what has been described above as the method of political assassination.

Sadly to say the moral discourse in Western Societies has continued since Vietnam but was unable to stop the going to war in Iraq. As a matter of fact two outstanding principles seem to indicate a regression of what had been attained through the anti Vietnam protest. Rationalization of war has to be linked first of all to a reduction of public protest. It has been made possible by no longer having enforced conscription. Secondly, deployment of troops or army units goes hand in hand with what may be called the outsourcing of war. This is something the report by amnesty international 2006 has pointed out as well. In Iraq many private security companies operate aside from the military; equally many companies are involved in the reconstruction business like Halliburton, the company where Dick Cheney worked prior to becoming Vice President of the United States.

All what has been debated so far in public but solely on a pseudo moral basis is a weak questioning of this linkage of politics with global companies in such ‘war businesses’. The real ethical questions, namely violent regime change along with the killing of civilians as well as what such a war is causing in terms of cultural destruction, are hardly ever discussed at a level that would affect the public at large. Only when mothers whose sons have died in Iraq take to the street, then there seems to be galvanizing itself some protest movement. Yet it cannot gather so much strength as to challenge the US administration or the Blair government. Both of them were re-elected when the people had a choice to set another signal. Moreover protest movements resulting out of the realization of human losses have not the same validity as the one which protested right from outset against this and any other war and not protest only once the war is going bad. Unfortunately there is the saying, that a victorious war has many generals, a lost war but becomes an orphan which no one seems to want.

The relativity of morality in case of suffering losses is evident. It has been underlined by the deliberate attempt of the Bush administration to keep out of sight the real costs of the war e.g. no real body count and no ceremony or press coverage when dead soldiers are returned to the United States in coffins draped with the American flag. It seems the military has learned quite well its lesson from the anti-Vietnam protest movement.

There is another factor which dampens public opinion or which leads towards rejection of the ethical dimension. This is the case once the value premise ‘thou shall not kill’ is transformed into a variety of interpretations about ‘the Right to Life’ in reflection of who deserve to die if going against this Right e.g. abortionists. This is the position of the Fundamentalists of all Religions. They have apparently no problem with justifying war especially when it does not challenge their beliefs in any immediate, that is practical way. As a matter of fact the more divorced they are from real life, the more radical the demand for a demonstration of strength around the declared moral principles.

As Klaus Heinrich in Berlin puts it nowadays more emphasis is being put on how to die rather than what happens after someone has died. 6 The shift in emphasis seems to suggest that the consequence of death as not natural but provoked has no bearing upon moral judgments in the case of war; only in terms of capital crime the death penalty is justified as form of detrimental prevention in the eyes of those who have not yet decided to counter this urge to revenge in an equal barbaric way. It seems many believers of pro life, but at the same time believers of the death penalty take this stance to mean resoluteness and a showing of strength. They don’t see this as act of revenge, let alone as contradiction to any claim to be upholding moral principles. That can be explained partially. It is usual that the arguments put forth by Fundamentalists aim fore mostly to deny all kinds of human weakness and call repeatedly upon everyone else for a show of strength. This includes resoluteness around the acclaimed moral principles as if this would be the best and only method to safeguard their way of life.

However, it would bring analysis of the precarious relationship between ‘ethics and politics’ much closer to reality once it is perceived and accepted that morality has something to do with human vulnerability. As such morality expresses itself through the awareness of the fragility of life as something precious. The value of life realizes itself in the consciousness of vulnerability as human characteristic. By allowing acceptance of human frailty it contributes to avoidance of the mistake made usually by believing in training and arming oneself to fight, life itself could be made safer, more humane and just.

In the light of these and other developments a world without morality becomes unfortunately more explainable because plausible. One principle seems to hold all the time: the more reckless the action the less heed is given to morality. All at once it translates itself into a fake freedom called otherwise not needing to regard morality. But such aloofness to human reality leads to an institutional negation of the ethical dimension as being of any importance when deliberating and undertaking actions. This contributes then to the general tendency to overlook what the existence of morality reminds us of and which needs to be upheld in all forms of life: the consciousness of our vulnerability. Morality as man’s own insight says humanity should not go beyond a certain line of action but stay within that awareness of human vulnerability. Any trespass thereof would mean own live and that of others would be not merely jeopardized but put into a permanent peril especially if it creates false fears of others if unable to respond in kind. Simply said, it drives everything in the wrong direction. The constant rearmament, Bush’s latest proposal to strengthen the missile shield but an example in response to threats he has unleashed due to going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, works merely on this premise of not preventing but constantly provoking still further going wars.7

The fact that the war machine deploys so much technology is, therefore, the only real lesson the West has been drawing ever since First World War, namely to further war as way to make business. It was Bertrand Russell who said in his essay ‘Fathers of German Fascism’ that then the elites discovered during the war that technology gives them a huge power over the masses of people. He added that it was a great pity that so many people worked on making after the war this technology still more perfect because despite all of them being highly intelligent they had no morality. This, he said, led to the rise of Hitler and Fascism. This turn towards effective use of technology to kill and to main at large scale level seemed to neutralize any moral conscience or at least make ineffective any moral protest. It seems that nothing could stand in the way of providing power with the means to kill at an unprecedented scale regardless of the moral question involved. The Holocaust exceeded here all dimensions known till then.

Where then to start a debate about ‘ethics and politics’ once it has become apparent that the ethical dimension in politics has been lost a long time ago? After Second World War came new atrocities, including the war of Algiers. Many cruel things happened there. During and thereafter among others Franz Fanon realized Western Society has lost its moral compass. In his book ‘The wretched of this Earth’ he disputes whether or not the Parthenon can still be used as departure point of not only for Western Civilization but for the entire world.8 It was the beginning of a dispute about universalism as scientific claim of truth if derived but from one source within the Western world.

Even though, Western Society continues to claim superiority over other types of societies and civilizations while referring to Ancient Greece as ‘the’ cradle of Western democracy’. While the demand of universalism has been all but dropped, although it is being upheld by such critical intellectuals of the West such as Noam Chomsky, there exists still today this illusion of Western knowledge having the competitive edge over others. In the age of Globalization it has led merely to a transition from brutal colonization of Africa by Western powers to new forms of acquiring influence, resources and power on this continent as well as elsewhere i.e. whether in Iraq or in Afghanistan.

It should be said that not all Western scholars accept this ideal of democracy as if per definition Western societies would be identical to what took place in Ancient Greece. As shown by Thomas Cahill in his writing about ‘Why the Greeks matter’9, there is a huge difference and gap between Ancient Greece on how it matured towards democracy and what has become known as Western democracy. The latter is not a participatory one as was the case of the ancient polis but has remained till today a mere representative democracy.

Indeed Western democracy is based on many hidden or obvious contradictions and compromises. Regrettable the latter have never paved the way for a positive development based on such agreements from which all could profit. Although Western societies have emerged out of the tutelage of dictators, kings and other power brokers, they all continue to use sometimes the same and real symbols of unity ascribed to kings and elites although known for not being democratic. Recently this has been the case in countries like Bulgaria and Rumania where after the break-up of the Communist regimes the so-called royal families returned to claim their property while wishing to play again a definite role in politics. Elsewhere you have such phenomenon in United Kingdom, Denmark, Holland, Spain etc. as if the presence of such privileged elite would guarantee stability and continuity of European nations. The film “But what a lovely game war is” reminded, however, how the Aristocratic elite of Europe engulfed the continent in senseless wars while living off the land in defiance of reality. Of interest is that this nobility tends to refer to people as ‘the Volk’ and thereby do little or nothing at all to rectify all forms of social injustices resulting out of Europe remaining a class society based on exploitation of ‘their’ people. As Sartre put it, the structures and organizations of society are such that it is possible to win off the masses energy without them gaining in identity. People have to work and to live under extreme unfavorable market conditions as unemployment is the leverage by which they have to organize work amongst themselves while receiving if any then an outrageous low pay.

Heinrich Boell remarked, Germany, for instance, has never left the Feudal Age since more power is to be gained by possessing land than organizing production means in such a way that qualification and work motivation would give everyone a chance to advance. The latter was the American dream and meant compared to Europe individuals were not hindered by social status and other constraints when seeking to make a career on the basis of hard work.

The existence of power based on the distribution of privileges, including a well paid job with little responsibility but a lot of prestige, shows that there exist such mechanisms by which people can be enslaved and kept in a low status of self denial rather than letting them make experiences of freedom in order that this philosophy becomes the credo of all to live and to rule by. As a matter fact, lack of democracy for the many or the masses is furthered by manipulating their dreams into such enticements that no other life seems conceivable then this way of life. The philosophy of Heidegger belongs to that instigation as if the masses of people never assume self responsibility and thus everything has to be delegated to the ‘leader’ in order that society retains an innovative character.

How this denial in favor of retaining a system basing power on the distribution of privileges works, that is portrayed by Hollywood films every time the American dream threatens to have a crash landing. No wonder then that Umberto Eco predicted that Berlusconi in Italy would win the elections the first time he ran for office as media boss insofar the Italian people were not interested in the truth, but only if the spectacle would continue.

But to return to Franz Fanon and others who developed critical thinking directed against their colonial masters but under which they had studied, one outstanding cultural effort was, for example, the concept of Negritude. It expressed the wish that Africa would find an own path but without loosing sight of the tradition of Humanism. The latter can be attributed among others to Erasmus but definitely not to Martin Luther or Calvin nor to its sociological hybrid such as Max Weber’s Protestant Ethics. They did not come anywhere close to Humanism in combination with desire for freedom. Humanism could be said to be free from ideological connotations once perceived as something aspiring man to be willing to stand on the own two feet and ready to accept moral responsibility out of love for mankind without thereby blaming others if disappointed in this dream. Ernst Bloch said always there are two kinds of hope, a well founded hope and an unfounded one, the latter leading only to such disappointments out of which no one learns or even refuses to see the reasons for the failures of mankind.

Unfortunately in Africa the many different forms of emancipation from Europe and out of colonialism have not necessarily brought about a new form of Humanism. On the contrary places like Rwanda and nowadays Dafur bring home the stark message of genocide occurring despite the presence of UN troops and efforts to escape from a Colonial past. Many other things went terrible wrong on that continent. They are not resolvable as long as no one can really think about deeper reasons for such turmoil matched by tribal and therefore hierarchical relationships exploding over and beyond any measure of doubt as to what the one or the other side is doing as being the only right thing to do. 10 The Polish journalist Kapuscinski has been one of the few to come close to understanding this power implosion when describing the transition of power in Ethiopia after Heile Selassie died.11

In 2006 it would not be wrong to say that a special war has replaced politics. After 9/11 the ‘war against terrorism’ has given rise to too many new kinds of justifications of human rights abuses that the world situation has reached such calamity, namely of having apparently no more moral counter arguments to those favoring war in the name of security and safety.

The contradiction which is not seen but felt daily is that this war has made everyone not more secure but more doubtful about the safety of everyone, including children when walking in the streets not only in Baghdad but also in London and less safe than ever before since an entire political system failed to see through fake reasoning and lack of truthfulness. E. Powell admitted he lied to the Security Council but only once out of office and after the war in Iraq had become a full scale unjustified occupation with deadly ramifications for everyone. But what system is this if its teachers would pass students at exams although they had cheated for their qualifications as doctors, lawyers, scientists, car mechanics, airplane inspectors etc. It would not count up to anything and yet society would continue trusting these qualified people that they could do the job.

Gone is the political morality of any democrat underlined by the willingness to stand questions and answers in public debate, and to be accountable for all actions. Here Blair has already delegated judgment of his actions as Prime Minister to history while Bush claims only God is the one to judge.

Consequently the question has to be asked what philosophical debate about ‘ethics and politics’ can take place nowadays when the world is without politics, but only at war? That question has to be posed in all of its ramifications. As a topic it cannot be avoided but as a challenge to the present way of thinking the need to come to terms with self denial and therefore lack of freedom has to be taken serious. 12 Loss of practical discourse as a result of strategic military thinking combined with ‘public diplomacy’ (the official term for propaganda) has also to be kept in mind when starting out on any discussion about ethical questions. If the bringing together of thinkers is to succeed, then by the very debate being able to set such value premise that invigorates people to start themselves a practical discourse about what involves and engages people and thereby fulfils the ethical dimension of politics.

Naturally, it is philosophically possible to refer only to a relationship between politics and ethics as if both entities exist by themselves and are still in need to be defined. If that would be the case then any subsequent debate about this relationship between ‘ethics and politics’ would risk overlooking the fact that once a global war can dominate at random, and this is the case once driven by ‘terror’, then all institutional forces will end up denying human reality and therefore leave war to be a continuous threat to humanity in the short and long run.

This is already the case once coercion – the very definition of lack of freedom as there is no choice but to comply - by means of withholding money linked to not receiving food and medicine can starve the Palestinians as if they are to be punished for attempting to legalize the force they need to throw of the yoke of occupation. What was once granted to Israel, namely to legalize its ‘terror groups’ in order to become a state with its own army and security forces, should also be granted to the Palestinian people. It would mean emancipation from the status of being occupied but exactly how, in terms of ‘non violence’ as demanded by Western society, remains as complex issue since Israel deploys violent means to suppress and to intimidate the Palestinians into daily submission despite of their own beliefs and disbeliefs. Exactly here it would be of interest as to what ethical dimension Western Societies really mean when they demand renunciation of violent actions against Israel while at the same time grant the freedom to Israel defend itself as a state even though with a terrorist past and record of continual abuse of its powers when dealing with the Palestinian question.

Hatto Fischer

Athens 22.5.06

  1. Gericault, Oil on canvas 491 x 716 cm Musee du Louvre, Paris.
    www.artchive.com/artchive/ G/gericault/raft_of_the_medusa.jpg.html
  2. Zweig's historical perception is best evident in Sternstunden der Menschheit (1928, tr. The Tide of Fortune, 1940).
  3. Ronald Aronson, Camus and Sartre (2004), Chicago, Chicago Press
  4. Conversations: The Autobiography of Surrealism, Andre Breton, Radio Interviews with Andre Parinaus, New York 1993
  5. Extract from George Bush and Tony Blair's press conference at the White House, On Iraq
    in Guardian Unlimited Friday May 26, 2006 http://politics.guardian.co.uk/foreignaffairs/story/0,,1783837,00.html
  6. “Wir und der Tod”, Klaus Heinrich im Gespraech mit Jochen Rack, („We and death – Klaus Heinrich in discussion with Jochen Rack) in: Lettre International, Nr. 72, , June 2006, p. 100 - 103
  7. “An anti-Bush alliance” - See here the editorial comment made by the Boston Globe, reprinted in the International Herald Tribune. Friday, May 26.5.2006, p. 6
  8. Franz Fanon The Wretched of the Earth, transl. Constance Farrington (1963: New York, Grove Weidenfeld)
  9. Thomas Cahill, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, or why the Greeks matter, (2003, London: Doubleday, Random House).
  10. See, for instance, Jonathan Power, „Tribalism lives, for better and for worse“, in: International Herald Tribune, Friday, May 26.5.2006, p. 6
  11. Ryszard Kapuscinski, Koenig der Koenige (King of the Kings) (1978), F.a. M.: Eichborn, 1995.

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