Are politicians responsible to a different moral code? Are there extreme situations where even non-politicians might follow a different moral code than they otherwise would? These are the issues at the heart of the philosophical problem of “dirty hands,” which is also the subject of this typically thought-provoking episode of Philosophy Bites. Of course the first example that comes to mind is the 24-esque ticking time bomb scenario, but philosopher Tony Coady teases out a more nuanced case he dubs “extrication morality,” in which a political succsessor might be forced to extend the moral wrong of his predecessor into his own administration rather than immediately reverse it and risk further harm to the public.
The School of Life’s Catherine Blyth weighs in on the peculiar mechanics of diplomatic gift-giving:
As each exchange is a diplomatic act, similar rules apply to presents as to flattery. When Gordon Brown welcomed Barack Obama to Britain with a pen holder whittled from timbers of a sister ship of the Resolute, out of which the Presidential desk in the White House is made, plus a seven-volume, first edition Churchill biography, Obama gave him 25 DVDs including Psycho. Commentators scorned Obama’s ‘insult,’ but the error was Brown’s. His presents were too great to be returned.
I’m so excited to have the opportunity to be in DC for the Obama Inauguration next Tuesday. As the big day draws near, I was re-reading this excellent post from London’s The School of Life on Obama’s roots as a Chicago community organizer. Community organizing as we know it now was also the brainchild of a Chicagoan, a man named Saul Alinsky who developed his approach while trying to defeat the influence of organized crime in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood in the 1940s. In 1971 Alinsky wrote a primer on community organizing called Rules for Radicals. The rules, slightly abridged, follow: “1) Always work inside the experience of your people. 2) Wherever possible go outside the experience of your opponents. 3) Power is not only what you have but what your opponent thinks you have. 4) Ridicule is our most potent weapon. 5) Keep the Pressure On. 6) The Price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. 7) Pick the target, freeze it, personalise it and polarise it. 8) The Action Is In The Reaction.”
Animator and director Chuck Jones’s rules for writing Road Runner cartoons: 1) Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going “beep, beep.” 2) No outside force can harm the Coyote—only his own ineptitude or the failure of Acme products. 3) The Coyote could stop anytime—if he was not a fanatic. (Repeat: “A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim.” —George Santayana) 4) No dialogue ever, except “beep, beep.” 5) Road Runner must stay on the road—for no other reason than that he’s a roadrunner. 6) All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters—the southwest American desert. 7) All tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation. 8) Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote’s greatest enemy. 9) The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures. 10) The audience’s sympathy must remain with the Coyote. (Via Charles Miller via Daring Fireball)