Elections ask us to take a stand

“Life must be understood backwards. But it must be lived forward”. Soren Kierkegaard’s words seem especially relevant now as we face the democratic responsibility of electing our leaders for a new term in office.

It may have seemed impossible for a democracy to elect a demagogue a few years ago, but we have since seen it happen in the Unites States.

Former US president Donald Trump in 2020.Credit:AP

How have we forgotten that it is always possible for a person with enough drive and single-mindedness to appeal to the disaffected? How have we forgotten that the lust for power in such an individual can be so overwhelming that nothing – reality, truthfulness, the rule of law – is allowed to stand in the way of attaining and maintaining it?

But we do forget. Often we become so busy living in the present that we neglect to remember the lessons of the past.

We know that thinking things through is necessary before acting. But we give ourselves excuses: too rushed to read and watch those who carefully dissect the happenings of the day; too tired to discuss issues of importance; too reluctant to change those habitual ways of thinking and acting that are no longer adequate.

Elections, however, do force us to focus on defining what is important to us and what price we are prepared to pay for it.

How much do we care about policies of inclusion that require higher taxes to implement? Policies that support renewable energies and cut global warming, but that involve a painful and expensive stage of transition? Or pledges that would bring about a fairer tax system to the detriment of some? How about commitments that focus on the national and international good, rather than our own?

Elections ask us to take a stand on how open-minded and generous we really are prepared to be. It takes courage to ‘live forward’, to look at the world as it really is, and to take on the responsibilities of life as they come to us.

It’s a burden to constantly keep learning, constantly keep changing, constantly keep trying to do better in a difficult world. It’s very tempting to find reasons to retire from the struggle.

But our reward for a life of continual effort will be that of the good and faithful servant – a “well done” and “welcome home” and the hope that we have left the earth a better place for our having been here.

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