First we were stunned. Then some said, “We told you so!” Now people try to find out what caused the collapse. We are like doctors, who are basically without a clue why the patient died, but try to give a reason why it was inevitable and they were not to blame.
But all this talking remains on the level of the mechanics of democratic elections, how and why certain mischievous people were able to fiddle the whole process. What is democracy anyway?
Positively we can say it is government by popular participation. Negatively that the ballot replaces the bullet, voting replaces the struggle for power by force of arms. In this armed struggle the opponent had to be destroyed. As democrats we respect his integrity.
For democracy and democratic elections to succeed we have to make a dramatic U-turn. We have to respect the rival and opponent as a fellow human being and preserve his or her integrity as a person. Democrats honour the human dignity of every individual person. They do not treat the individual as just a fragment of the despised “masses” (to quote a favourite expression of revolutionary leaders).
This respect for human dignity and for the personal integrity of the opponent is the moral, even spiritual basis of democracy. It is also the basis of all human rights. The moral key concept for all this is tolerance.
We have to dig deeper still and go for the spiritual roots. The Judaeo-Christian belief in every man and woman having been “created in the image of God” is the root of our respect for the human dignity of every fellow citizen, regardless of his or her political outlook. Tolerance is the secularized version of Jesus’ command “Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5 : 44).
What we have learned in these last few days is that setting up the mechanics of how to cast votes is just not enough. The sheer mechanics can be endlessly manipulated. We must be guided by the original Spirit. We must believe in our dignity given to me and my opponent equally by the Creator. Our ultimate aim in the political process must be the love of all our people and the desire to contribute to their welfare nationwide.
A huge task awaits the Church. The roots of good governance are in our faith. We must honour one another as children of God created in his image. We must respect even the stranger, the rival and opponent as our brothers and sisters, looking at them with the eyes of our Lord. As believers in the love and goodness, justice and mercy of our God we must eradicate all fear in our hearts and speak up with courage. And even within the Church there is plenty of room for more “popular participation”.