Cleansing Ones Hands-Or At Least Accepting the Dirt
When hands become dirty the simplest thing to do is go to a sink and clean them. One turns on the facet, presses for soap, scrubs their hands together for a couple of seconds, then lets the water clear the dirt and soap away until ones hands are clean again. This technique works when ones hands are literally dirty, but how does one justify, or go about for that matter, cleaning ones hands of figurative dirt?
Walzer discusses the matter of politics with regards to the politician’s work ethics and their roads to where they now are. It is known that a politician can not keep his hands clean for long, and it is almost impossible to accept one in such a position to do so, but how can a politician go about doing his job without doing wrong? As Walzer mentions, those in politics are similar to entrepreneurs in their methods of lying, misleading, hustling and their methods of wearing masks (162). However, they are different in that they are required to represent not only themselves, but the people that they govern as well, and the only way for them to gain success is through the power and glory that others give to him. As he later says, “no one succeeds in politics without getting his hands dirty” (164). Therefore, this is what we have:
To do right you need to succeed in your positionàIt is right to succeed especially in a political position that betters the people you representàto succeed you need to get your hands dirtyàgetting your hands dirty is wrongàthen it is wrong to do what is right.
How is it possible that the only way to do right is to do wrong? Is that possible? Fathomable? Comprehendible? Well, Yes. At least in Walzer’s mind there is.
If we look at the example Walzer gives us we can figure out how it is possible to do right while doing wrong.
In the example the politician running for office faces a moral dilemma- should he make an agreement with a dishonest ward boss to secure his victory in the election? This quarrel is very complicated for the candidate because he is a good man and he questions whether agreeing to this is in fact the right thing to do. He might run through reasons why he shouldn’t, such as some supporters only support him because he wont make this deal, or because he simply feels unclean dealing with a dishonest man. However, all these reluctances and second-guessings are the reason that the author believes the candidate to be good and to be the one to make this deal. “It is important to stress that we don’t want just anyone to make the deal; we want him to make it, precisely because he has scruples about it” (166). There in lies the reasoning and the possible way to solve the above dilemma. Because he is a good man, he will not only think he is doing wrong, but he will feel guilty about doing it. He is not a man who will pretend like nothing went wrong and that his hands are clean, but a man who acknowledges he wronged in order to do what was right, and the fact that he understands this and accepts it is what makes him a good, honest man deserving the victory he seeks and making it morally acceptable to have hands dirty.