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Speaking truth to power


A prominent bishop said the other day to his congregation, ”Don’t be afraid to go into politics.

But if you do, speak the truth and be a light to the people”.

That most politics happens in murky darkness is no reason to avoid it, quite the opposite.

When the lights go out you need a torch. At night you look out for a bright star.

What do most people go into politics for?

“They want power,” would be a common answer. Sure, politics is about power.

But what do they want power for?

Many will consider that a nonsensical question.

They just want power. Period. Really?

Just for its own sake?

We must never be content with simple answers and stop asking questions.

Power is not an end in itself.

It is just an instrument. If you have power you can do something with it.

You can achieve something.

The trouble is most people striving for power do not seem to think that far.

It is like the old joke about the dog racing after every bus that is passing.

Says one bystander to another, “I wonder what he is going to do with that bus once he’s caught it.”

What are we going to do with the power “once we have caught it”?

Most politicians seem to have no idea.

They just enjoy the perks of office, the glamour of being deemed powerful.

That they are supposed to do something for the people, all of them, equitably, for the country in its entirety, in one word: for the common good, is news to them.

If you seek power ‘for its own sake’ you probably consider it something absolute, without limits, something almost divine.

The Roman Emperors thought the people should worship them as divine because they held absolute, limitless power.

There are some tyrants and dictators around even today who demand to be worshipped as if they were little gods.

An educationist may go into politics because he wants to make sure the educational system is built on solid foundations, well funded and entrusted to well-trained and properly motivated men and women.

A doctor may try to get into parliament so as to help build up a good health-care system.

She may think that in that way she is saving more lives than by prescribing pills to individuals.

What we need now is real leaders who want to turn our “failed state” around and re-write the rules of the political game.

Politics is not a career for self-enrichment.

It is for creative people who want to do something, not just for themselves and their immediate clan, but for society as a whole, even those at present in the shadows, and not only for their own supporters and ‘clients’.

Such real leaders are ashamed that we are a nation of beggars.

They will not just want to distribute charitable gifts from NGOs and embassies, but will promote people of initiative, capable of restoring the productivity of the country.

They will not just give “jobs for the boys and girls” (of their own party), but will restore the rule of law and respect for human rights, thereby removing the obstacles for capital to come into the country without which productivity cannot be restored.

Though chosen by a party and elected on a party ticket, their ambition is for the whole country to thrive, not just their home province.

Power is never absolute, it has its limits, therefore it must be used wisely.

Every lawmaker must know that there are laws that are “given” already.

They are not open to debate.

They are as old as human nature.

That human life is precious and blood must not be spilled, our ancestors knew already.

The ‘Bill of Rights’ which is to preface the new Constitution is only confirming what we and our forebears have known for thousands of years (though it may not always have been practised !).

That marriage and family are basic building blocks of society and need to be protected should be acknowledged.

You neglect them at your peril.

The fundamental equality (not sameness!) of man and woman may have been obscured in some societies, but it is not exactly a novelty either: both are created in the image of God.

This has been known and taught since ancient times.

The bishop said:

if you go into politics speak the truth!

How will that be possible?

Are politicians not notorious for being ‘economical with the truth’, using false propaganda and making false promises?

And yet, there is no greater need in politics than for truth, for forcing leaders to come face to face with reality.

Nothing makes as blind as power.

The powerful refuse to know the truth, they have the messenger of bad news shot at dawn.

It would seem that going into politics on the bishop’s terms needs a good deal of courage.

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