Wash Those Hands!

Politician with dirty hands
Barack Obama carrying out killing of Bin Ladin. Photo by Paul Windle via The Atlantic
Barack Obama carrying out killing of Bin Ladin. Photo by Paul Windle via The Atlantic

There are people in today’s society that believe in “Dirty Hands”. By this I mean that when somebody does something ethically wrong and then does something “right” to completely make up for it. For example, in the play “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare, Lady Macbeth commits a murder and convinces Macbeth to kill King Duncan. At the time she was not phased by it but towards the end of the play she envisions her hands all bloody and “dirty” because of the murder. It doesn’t merely happen to this extent in the world we are in now but it comes up in all ways.

Lets start with Machiavelli. He talks a lot about Princes and how they should carry themselves. Many talks in discussion brought us to the fact that a “good” prince should be noble/ generous, aware of their surroundings and it is better to be feared than loved. Him saying that it is better to be feared than loved is an interesting point. More people will be kept in line and listen to their leader if they fear him or her. If they love the leader they will easily be able to manipulate that particular person. After doing some reading and research on Machiavelli, I found a quote that he had said about a prince and how they “must learn how not to be good”. He kind of contradicts himself by saying that because shouldn’t a prince be noble and generous? Anyway, by not being good the prince must do something immoral in a way. This could be lying, or doing something against his people. The dirty hands method comes into play now.

Dirty hands has something to do with doing the “right” thing to do but it being morally wrong. This happens in politics all of the time. After reading “Machiavelli Was Right” by Michael Ignatieff, he explains what happened when we (the US) took out osama bin ladin (not capitalized for a reason) . The president was deciding whether to pull the trigger (pun intended) or not on the mission to take out bin ladin. Morally killing a person is not the best thing to do but it was for the good of the country. If he didn’t proceed with it, he would probably be taken from office but since he did go through with it, he was able to keep himself “alive” and gained the trust from his people.

Machiavelli made a point that a prince must learn how not to be good. This includes doing things that may not be the best thing morally but to get the best outcome for yourself or the people it is affecting. As seen with President Obama, he did what was good for the country but was killing a person right? All of this is opinionated and is why “dirty hands” is a controversial topic. Do you believe in the doings of “dirty hands”?