The Influence of Power on Moral Truth

According to Nietzsche there is no moral phenomena, only a moral interpretation of phenomena. This means the morality of an action or a deed is in the interpretation of that deed, making morality subjective. All things subjective are of, existing in or related to the mind. There is also the issue of motive which helps us to judge whether an act is moral or not.

For instance, we cannot say something is good or bad until we know the motive with which it’s done. If a politician builds a library or makes a cash donation to his community, we cannot say he is a good man until we know his motive, which is often definitely to seek another term of office, which means plowing his money back from state coffers or from bribes.

Kant, Locke, Hobbes and even Rousseau presented their ideas about morality as if it were a direct product of reason or rationality. They implied that primitive societies which had not ‘mastered’ reasoning had no sense of morality at all but this is erroneous. Kant in particular attributed virtue to individual freewill and autonomy but our modern experience presents a different evidence. It is indeed true that with personal freedom and autonomy comes reasoning but morality does not necessarily follow through. We pride ourselves today for being in the age of reason but our moral curve keeps plunging downwards. My observation is that virtue is an attribute of nothing but the emotions in their proper frameworks and that the source of both virtue and vice is in our primitive days. Reason only comes in after the stage is set.

All good or evil deeds proceed from the heart and reason, though resulting in self awareness and personal security, does not necessarily prevent evil. Most people who commit moral crimes are aware of the evil nature of their deeds but they do it anyway. Reason for the most part is self serving and often fails the motive check which I mentioned earlier. For instance, people who give a part of their salary to the homeless and beggars have no apparent reason or motive at all for doing that. They simply were moved by their emotions.

There is another interesting twist to morality – which makes it somewhat undulating in nature. Consider this: A murderer is an immoral person but one who murders the murderer for the safety of the community is deemed moral. It follows that the murderer’s murderer’s murderer is also deemed immoral and it goes on and on switching back and forth. We can think of it as an equation attempting psychological equilibrium, which is something inbuilt in us.

The biggest problem in morality so far is the influence of power or authority. Nietzsche goes on to say that whatever interpretations exist or persist is a function of authority and not truth. One will notice that Pilate’s question to the Jew: ‘What is truth?’ lends credence to this statement. To Pilate, truth is what the Roman empire says it is, so he wanted to know the deferring truth which the Jew was purported to have taught his disciples. In practical life, one will have noticed that the vast majority of people will readily accept truth only and if only it is backed by authority. Sometimes during a court trial, witnesses freeze or crumple in the witness box or fail to appear altogether because the truth which they witnessed will offend authority.

And now a question: Though they all claim to be doing it for peaceful purposes, do you think there is morality or moral truth or ethical merit in so called nuclear programmes? To what extent should a nation go in protecting itself or its interests?


Crimes Against Humanity

 “The Hole of Humanity” by John Hemmen







Sharpville, South Africa

On the 21st of March 1960, 69 black South Africans were shot dead in Sharpville, a town in the then Transvaal in South Africa, for staging a peaceful protest against the apartheid government. No one has been brought to justice. The recent xenophobic attacks by South Africans is a sign that, in South Africa, many wounds have failed to heal. When a white man attacks a black man, a lot of noise is made about racism but now blacks are attacking fellow blacks. What a shame!



Patrice Lumumba

Patrice Lumumba

In January 1961, Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo was brutally murdered. His murderers are still keeping certain bony portions of his body as a trophy. No one has been brought to justice. It was rumoured that at the time, United Nations could and should have saved his life but it buried its head in the sand as an ostrich does. Apparently, Lumumba had been labelled by the imperialist Belgian government as a first-rate communist.



Photo by Reuters

Photo from

On the 15 January 2009, the nation of Israel admitted firing phosphorus bombs on several residential areas across the Gaza, including schools housing innocent children. No one has been brought to justice. The office of the chief prosecutor argues that the Palestinian government has not subscribed to the jurisdiction of ICC and therefore war crimes committed on their soil is not within the legal reach of the ICC. The only way is to apply to become a member. It is possible that war crimes may have been committed by both parties but Israel is not a signatory to ICC.




Photo from

On March 19th, 2003, a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and deposed the Ba’athist government of Saddam Hussein. Iraq was, until the invasion, a relatively peaceful country. Thousands, perhaps millions have died. Now there is a blood thirsty hydra-headed creature called IS. And many do not know that this creature was conceived the day Iraq was invaded. No one has been brought to justice.




Thomas Sankara

On October 15, 1987, Thomas Sankara, the then head of state of Burkina Faso, who was very much liked by the people, was killed by an armed group with twelve other officials in a coup d’état organised by his former friend Blaise Compaoré. They were backed by the French and I assume we all know well the negative effects of French policies in West Africa. No one has since been brought to justice.



Photo by

Photo from

In August 1833, two Portuguese ships heading to England, namely “Santa Maria” and “La Guardia,” carrying about three thousand slaves in all, after learning that slave trade and slavery had been abolished in The British Empire hatched a plan to dispose of the slaves. From fear of been prosecuted and fined, up to three-fourth of the slaves were hurled into the sea, most of them with chains on. No one has been brought to justice.

The Holocaust, the Bosnian genocide, the “Armenian genocide,” the Rwandan genocide and the mass killing of the members of the Pygmy tribe during the Congolese civil wars are only a few cases in hundreds. Some of these incidences happened a long time ago but the pain cannot just disappear. I think in cases where prosecution is not possible, a formal apology to the descendants of victims will do.

Lastly, some Africans criticize the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecuting only African leaders (referring specifically to the clamouring by ICC for Omar al-Bashir, president of Sudan) and other offenders because many crimes committed outside of Africa are been ignored.

I think the misunderstanding here has to do with the requirements of international law and not natural law. Many countries, including the United States, United Kingdom(?) etc, although they have been members of ICC, they may not have actually ratified (signed and approved) their membership. Hence prosecution cannot occur as regards citizens of those countries. An appeal can only be made by victims to the supreme courts of those respective countries.