Thought for the Day - Rt Rev James Jones
From Cairo to Burma the streets are paved with hopes for democracy. Although listening to Aung San Suu Kyi extol our own parliamentary democracy last week made me momentarily forget in a mist of pride how few people in Britain are now turning out to vote. While the east, the Far and the Middle, are crying out for elections the West takes the ballot box for granted.
If the suffragettes and chartists were listening to the Burmese heroine in Westminster from the gallery of our ancestors they too would have cheered; then wondered why the audience was not sitting in chastened silence.
There are many reasons for our electoral apathy. The major one is supposed to be our disillusionment with politicians. I’m not so sure. Most of them are known locally to be hard working, principled and keen to make a difference. Some may also be egotistical and ambitious, but that doesn’t stop the public creating and swooning over celebrities!
Perhaps the reason some are giving up on voting is that it no longer feels like democracy. The walk of witnesses through the Leveson Inquiry suggests that the relationship between the media and political classes orchestrated both the agenda and the candidates for our elections. They formed a new sort of oligarchy where the many are run by the few. Little wonder in the voting booth we make the sign of the cross so tentatively.
In the world of the New Testament people of faith were encouraged to look long and hard both at and behind the human institutions of Government, to open their eyes and see the hidden forces at work.
St Paul who felt the brutal force of the Roman State once wrote, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world”. That might seem rather a quaint world view to the modern mind. But may be he was on to something. When it comes to power he teaches us to take nothing at face value and to interrogate any system that makes a bid to control others and determine their future.
Those who fought to be free in Egypt and Burma would find the lesson from St Paul illuminating their own experience. The surprise for us is to find his words are also relevant to democracies. Whether it’s the media or the markets, politics or power there’s always more to these forces than meets the eye. It’s by having the eyes to see them and by naming the powers that the principalities are cut down to size. It’s then that the people really rule and democracy comes of age.
Available since: Tue 26 Jun 2012
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