Parliamentary candidates, as we meet them on the frontpages of the daily papers, are forever fighting each other, competing in the battle for the top spot, for President, or vice-president etc. They tell us why their rivals are useless and unworthy of a place among the supreme decision-makers.
By Fr Oskar Wermter sj
Why are they no good and don’t deserve a prominent place in the nation? Scandals make for good headlines, but where is the really substantial news?
As a passionate newspaper reader and writer, I suggest an answer to these questions. We should not opt for a person who is just a propaganda success, but, who has no programme that is constructive and shows the way forward, a person, who can build and will not sow seeds of disgust and revulsion.
What a registered voter dreams of is a candidate who knows what he wants to do for the good of the nation. Not just to clobber all their rivals, and rubbish the good names of competitors on the ballot papers — who wants to swallow all that? — but introduce a new vision and direction for a tired country and people. Such a man or woman is a leader, not a character, who can run after others without an idea where he himself is going.
Often, we the majority, get the impression that parliamentary candidates and other leaders competing for positions of power decide the choices just among themselves. It seems it is all a matter of controlling the levers of power and hang on to total control. Who needs power if nothing has been built, nothing that gives a vision for the future?
Many of us — parents of teenage children, entrepreneurs, people who are creative and have imagination and courage — would like to meet political and social activists, with whom they can start new initiatives in their families and communities.
I am always surprised that so few people in industry and business come up with new ways to revive our economy, give people jobs and train the young ones for the future. That seems to me much more important than fighting for power in political leadership and trying to get their personal ambitions fulfilled by opening foreign bank accounts.
Entrepreneurs, who make the economy grow and create employment, should be rewarded and receive prizes. The heroes of our entertainment media should not wield machine guns and wipe out fellow citizens by massacres and the slaughter of whole classrooms full of pupils and teachers.
But teachers who coach their students in initiative, creativity, imagination and time management should be commended, rather than the destroyers of life and property.
Why not invite successful professionals, men and women, to tell their story of success, and include in history the growth of industry and technology to pave the way for the young in engineering, design and construction?
It is sad when the young have no other ambition except meeting influential party leaders to imitate them for a clever career or gain access to economic prosperity. It is a dubious career to use party bosses as ladders on which to climb up. You need your own homeground to settle. Don’t uproot your children and let them be refugees.
A professional career, which is built without regard for ethical values, rests on sand or broken stones. It has no direction, no foundation. If parents themselves have no values like the common good or solidarity with the local community or feeling a strong identity with neighbours, we need not be surprised: there is no cohesion, no emotional or social “glue” that makes them “stick”.
Too often, parliamentary candidates are chosen and nominated by some of the party leaders, who act on their own at top level without involving the members at the lower level. A party that is run by all members from the grassroots upwards does not know such an authoritarian command structure. Such a party allows all registered members to participate and have responsibility for all policies and decisions right through the whole body. The political process should start at village and ward level, and move then move to the top. It should not be triggered off for the oppression of the majority further down.
In Christian political circles, they call this the “principle of subsidiarity”. One could also call it the principle of mutual assistance: If the grassroots cannot cope on their own, they will ask the top-ranking members for help. If the majority lower down are strong enough they will not be declared superfluous by the top leadership, but will do as much themselves as is in their power, to have maximum involvement from the bottom to the top. Only if their resources run out, will they appeal to the powers higher up. “Subsidiarity” aims at a balance of the various powers, and at a distribution of responsibility as widely as possible.
A parliamentary candidate of this kind knows his neighbours, his immediate community, workers as much as managers, he knows their needs and stays in touch with them at all times. He will find support on polling day because the people consider him or her as “their” MP and not some foreign body imposed on them. They are not like aliens to each other, but are familiar and bound together as friends and companions. Conflict and rivalry, tensions and frictions are not the normal thing. They know they belong together and have to pull at the same rope as one body.
Needless to say that violence and aggression, hate speech and vicious propaganda are taboo in such a human and friendly climate.
Fr Oskar Wermter sj is a social commentator. He writes in his personal capacity.