The role of the politician
Every profession or calling in life bears a definition. The activity of the politician cannot be easily defined. In fact, many would claim that politics is not a profession at all. As such, it defies any attempt to lay down what it is or what it is not. Every field of endeavour carries with it a job description. But it would seem that the politician is not bound by the rules governing other callings. Often he appears to be a law unto himself.
Every profession demands a period of preparation. There is the inference that the job has to be studied. It demands a process of learning. However, people move into the political arena with absolutely no formation in the tremendous task that constitutes political leadership. This is done throughout the world.
Some years ago, a certain parliamentarian in Dominica described himself as a "professional politician". Certainly, he was gifted with some leadership aptitude. But it would appear that his main qualification for such a title wasthat he had a sharp tongue and was skilled in verbal abuse.
To tell the truth, generally speaking, the politician has been one of the least respected individuals in a country. Yes, they are often feared but not respected. They are often regarded as opportunists rather than principled persons. In fact, they have often been vilified as worthless fellows. It was this which led the great English writer, Sir Bernard Shaw, to describe politics "as the last refuge of scoundrels".
More than in any other profession, there has often been the experience that politicians are not guided by moral principles. Political expediency has been the name of their game. it was this which made one author comment that "politics makes strange bedfellows".
The role of the Church is to bring every human institution under the light of the Gospel. All human constructs must be evangelized. The Church is called to concern herself not only with individuals but also with the structures that society creates. If she turns her back on this vital issue, she is not fulfilling her mission to the world.
In the Caribbean, there has not been much evidence of the Christianization of political culture. Often religion and politics have gone their separate ways. Conscience has not been a popular consideration among politicians. Religious men have sometimes condoned the injustice and ruthlessness displayed by politicians.
Fortunately, a few brave men in history have left us a legacy of honesty and integrity in the political field. They have blazed a splendid trail to be followed by those who, scorning the beaten track, are willing to introduce moral standards in public life. One of those brave men was President Abraham Lincoln, who is honoured as the greatest President of the United States of America. In one of his addresses, he stated:
"Politicians are a set of men who have interests aside from the interests of the people and who, to say the most of them, are, taken as a mass, at least one long step removed from honest men. I say this with the greater freedom because, being a politician myself, none can regard it as personal."
We live in a world in which there is the craving for power. Politicians delude the masses into believing that they merely want to serve them. Having been elected by the people, they place themselves above them and threaten anyone who challenges them or criticizes them. They use all sorts of illicit and immoral means not only to maintain political power but, more than that, to completely crush their opponents. Political opponents are regarded as enemies and even treated as if they were hostile to the State, when they are merely exercising their constitutional rights.
We need to be constantly reminded that we live in a democracy. Providing an alternative to the ruling party is part of the democratic right of the people. Political leaders in our country have often indulged in pettiness and unfair tactics to humiliate and cripple their opponents. That will not do. Things must change. If we do not resolve to do this, our annual Day of Prayer for the country, sponsored by the Government, far from being a time of blessing will be a curse upon the Land of the Lord.
The role of the politician is to inspire his constituents by his words and by his comportment. He should marshal the material and intellectual resources of the people for the good of all. He should be able to galvanize those whom he serves into action and lead them all into the blessings of development.