On March 9th, at some point in time you will have the opportunity to put yourself in a wooden cubical, with a curtain behind you, a long paper in front of you, a red pencil in your hand and a list of names to choose from. Depending next to who’s name you will write the famous “unu” will determine the choice of who you wish to govern Malta for the next 5 years.
This is a choice which one has to make depending on various considerations, the most important of which is your personal interest. It may sound very egoistic but in fact if one had to reflect upon it thoroughly it is not the case.
The act of voting is not an easy task, if one is to make a good use of it. Various elements have to be taken into consideration, primarily, one has to understand that one’s best interest does not depend on what one (egoistically) needs now; one needs to have a long term vision.
Moreover one’s best interest depends on the other’s best interest. Considering that we live in a society, which from its very fundamental concept denotes an inter-relation of persons and their interests, I have to consider the general interest as well.
‘Common good’ as a concept, gained ground in modern civilization thanks to its reintroduction, in the late 19th century, by Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum. Although it is generally linked to Catholic Social Teaching, Aristotle had already written about it some 500 years before the advent of Christianity. The Church recuperated it, in a way to balance out Capitalism and Communism and propose a way of understanding society and the role of persons within it.What is generally known as “common interest” or “common good” is sometimes misinterpreted as the will or the interest of the majority, and that good which it seeks to gain for itself. It is not “the greatest possible good for the greatest possible number of individuals”, as a Utilitarian would uphold.
Pope Leo writes “Civil society exists for the common good, and hence is concerned with the interests of all in general, albeit with individual interests also in their due place and degree.” (RN, 51)
We started speaking about the elections and ended up speaking about Pope Leo XIII, yet what is the concrete link on how to vote? We hear many a times that the common and the personal find themselves in juxtaposed positions. But is this really so? When one thinks that one’s personal interest is not dependent or is not influenced by the other’s interest one might be missing out some important factoring (no pun intended) into the equation called Society.
To promote the good of the individual is thus to serve the common good, which is that point where rights and duties converge and reinforce one another. (World Peace Message 1999 – John Paul II)
When voting we have to understand that we will be choosing the party which will govern education, the justice system, our employment sector, our energy sustainability, the health sector, Malta’s international relations and so on. Aren’t we all dependent and influenced by these areas in some way or other?
Thus one’s choice needs to be the result of a reflection on where we stand today and where we want ourselves to be in 5, 10, 15 years time. Voting for the next legislation is neither something short-term (like getting a discount at the market or receiving a new toy) nor an egoistic exercise; we need to see to our personal interests by understanding that we are part of a whole. On D-day before going into that cubical, grabbing that pencil and indicating your preference on the ballot sheet every one of us needs to put all this into perspective, see what the parties are saying and not saying, and make the right choice in one’s and others’ personal interest.