BBC Radio 4 - Thought for the Day
9th May 2001
They’ve been under starters’ orders, but now they’re off - and we can look forward to four weeks of election campaigning. The main challenge facing the political parties is how are they going to get us excited enough to vote on the 7th of June?
Now, I’m sympathetic to politicians. They’ve got a tough, if not nigh impossible, job and I for one don’t envy them. But, if there is one thing that does fuel apathy in me, it’s a certain type of electioneering language. It’s the type of statements that go “we will winthis” or “we won that”. It just doesn’t seem appropriate to claim credit for winningsomething if it is not all our own doing.
It’s one thing if you are Arsenal or Liverpool slugging it out in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. Whoever lifts the FA Cup on Saturday can at least claim they did it themselves.
However, a political candidate or party wins by the rest of us casting our votes in their favour. So, I would prefer to hear speech recognising that their victory is conferred by our grace, rather than being some independent achievement.
The Hindu scriptures are quite concerned about our preoccupation with notions of success – and particularly our conviction that we are the cause of any result – whether in politics, sport or life in general.
The Bhagavad-gita tells the story of Arjuna, a statesman who was facing a civil war, but had become confused about his political duty. Whichever way he acted, it seemed that the only result would be misery for many.
Lord Krishna then advised him: “Perform your duties to the best of your ability, but don’t be fooled into thinking that you are the cause of the results that seem to come from your actions. So-called success or failure is not your responsibility. The only thing that is within your power is your desire to act with integrity.”
We tend to judge if something is successful according to how it matches our expectancy; but God judges the intention. In the saying - “Man proposes, God disposes” - there is scope for our initiative and determination. But when God has weighed up all the factors of what, how and why we proposed something and how it connects with all the other issues in the universe, the end result should be accepted with humility.
I would be really impressed if politicians vying to become our leaders would lead us to a better understanding of a culture of gratitude by using language which recognises that the grace of others has much more to do with the outcome than one’s own efforts. Such an approach might help reduce my apathy. And, if I feel like it, it might even win my vote.
© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Thought for the Day” on the Today programme Radio 4.