BBC Radio Wales - Wednesday Word
30th April 2003
Assembly elections tomorrow – and, yes, I’ll be turning out in our village hall to do my bit as a good citizen. When you think of all the fuss about bringing democracy to Iraq, it’ll be interesting to see how many folk here in Wales choose to vote in the Welsh national elections.
We hear criticism of a lack of democracy in some Islamic countries, but really none of the world’s religions is big on democracy. There’s no major religion that allows all of its followers to vote who should be the head of that religion. Can you imagine the campaigning? Vote for me and I’ll downgrade the Ten Commandments to just “Half-a-dozen Guidelines to think about”. Or, “Let’s cut tithing down to 9%!”
The ancient texts of Hinduism describe a type of democratic voting – but only to chose a person from amongst one's peers to represent the views of the whole group. Voting for representation is one thing. Voting for someone to govern the group is another…because what we are actually doing is choosing someone to be a higher moral authority over us. I suspect that many religions have a deep-rooted feeling that universal suffrage isn’t necessarily the best way to ensure the instatement of a moral authority for a country, but most do recognise that it’s probably better than having non-elected governments.
You might think that moral authority has nothing to do with the Welsh Assembly or your local council. After all, the issues are practical. They consider the allocation of resources and don’t usually involve ethics and morality. But, any decision by anybody can only be made on one of two grounds – either it is based on pure selfishness, or it’s based on considering the effects on others – and that is a moral judgement. How we spend money on schools shows how we value the younger generation and their future. Our systems of social care speak volumes about our attitudes to the old, sick or needy. These are moral issues and we need truly moral people to be in government at all levels.
If there is a democratic message from the world’s religions, I think it is that we must cast our vote wisely – not choosing the person or party that promises the most for me – but electing those wise souls who will selflessly serve the needs of all their constituents – people we have confidence in to be a moral authority.
© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Weekend Word” on BBC Radio Wales.