Democracy has been described by the ancient philosopher, Plato, as "a charming form of government". And, indeed, it is a noble idea. There is much reason to commend it. However, another philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau, who lived in the 18th century, has said that, "in the strict sense of the term, democracy has never existed".

The truth is that democracy is a golden idea. It expresses well the desire of most of mankind. It is a system which recognizes in principle the equality of the rights of all men and women. But it is not something that is given once and for all. It is always under threat. It demands growth and development. It is an immense challenge. It calls for brave men and self-sacrificing spirits.

Party politics is a natural offshoot of democracy. It is, indeed, a recognition that nothing can be achieved unless citizens endeavour to come together in solidarity for the achievement of certain goals. Others have their own ideas. The result will be that various groups or parties develop in a State.

In itself, this is a blessing. In a democracy, all ideas are permitted to contend. The right of every man and woman is recognized to speak on national affairs, matters that pertain to their destiny. But evil lurks at every corner and threatens to corrupt everything. Well has it been said: "The corruption of the best is the worst."

Party politics has attained the status of local wars. And people seem to love it. However, we need to ask ourselves in the present political circumstances in which we live: How can we work constructively? How can we share our diverse gifts? How can we pray together? How can we worship together? How can we present ourselves as the People of God?

There has developed among us a certain fascination with crushing one's opponents. People approach a General Election as if they were in a state of war. Every weapon in their party's arsenal is used to destroy their opponents. A General Election should be a golden opportunity in a democracy for people to quietly and peacefully make a free choice of their representatives. There should be no financial or political pressure, no mudslinging, no character assassination, no victimization, no efforts to deny citizens their just rights, no effort to cripple an opponent. Mutual respect should exist at all times.

We live in a democracy, characterized by a legal system, which purports to provide justice for all. Any legal system always remains a mere human construct. As such, it will have flaws. We need to bear in mind that what is not illegal is not necessarily moral. Some of the greatest wrongs go unpunished by law. However, one will have to answer for them to God.

This leads us to the question of conscience. We claim to be a Christian people. But do we live by a Christian conscience? Dominica is overwhelmed with places of worship. Yet, we tolerate, condone and even champion flagrant offences against human rights. We need to remember that God is the guarantor and the champion of the rights of every man and woman.

Our political attitude speaks loudly to us about ourselves. The more empty are people's lives, the more willing they are to fill them with all sorts of foolishness. People who are materially and psychologically deprived are continuously looking for "saviours". A charismatic political leader often appears to fulfill this basic need.

During the last century, one political minister of Germany maintained that his conscience was the Fuhrer Adolf Hitler. Yes, he could boast that Adolf Hitler was his conscience, but when "push came to shove", he was not able to get him out of the pit.

The whole message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is directed to urging us to make choices that are according to the Spirit of Christ. We need to listen to the Lord's message and live by our conscience, if we are a Christian people.

Most Christians endeavour to manipulate God. Instead of praying that the Lord may direct their choices in life, they make their own choices and then call on God to ratify them and support their endeavours. During the American Civil War (1861 - 1865), President Abraham Lincoln was asked: "Do you believe that God is on your side?" That great President replied: "I do not know whether God is on my side, but I hope that I am on God's side."

May the Lord in his goodness save us from the dreadful Day of the Jackals!