Let’s get back to the common good

Pope Francis says every state must aspire for the common good of its people.

“To move forward together, as a way of shaping the future, requires a noble willingness to sacrifice something of one’s own vision or best interest for the sake of a greater project, and thus to create a harmony that makes it possible to advance securely towards shared goals. This is the basis of a society’s nobility. This is the path to the building of an inclusive society, one in which everyone shares his or her own gifts and abilities, through quality education and creative, participatory and mutually supportive labour. In this way, all become protagonists of the common good, where the weak, the poor and the least are no longer seen as undesirables that keep the machine from functioning, but as citizens and as brothers and sisters to be fully incorporated into the life of society. Indeed, how they are treated is the best indicator of the actual goodness of the social model that one is attempting to build,” says Pope Francis. “This entire process needs to have a heart and soul, and a clear goal to achieve, one imposed not by extrinsic considerations or by the growing power of centres of high finance, but by an awareness of the centrality of the human person and of his or her inalienable rights. For a harmonious and sustainable development, the concrete practice of solidarity and charity, and the increased concern of social, civil and political forces for the pursuit of the common good, it is not enough to modernise economic theories, or professional techniques and abilities, however necessary these in themselves may be.”

Who or how can one disagree with what Pope Francis is saying?

Doing the right thing, surrendering our short-term self-interest to serve the needs of the whole, has never been easy for humankind, but now, more than ever, that is exactly what we must do. Future generations are counting on us.

As Dr Fred M’membe once aptly put it, “For what is socialism? With the frills removed, it is people collectively running society. Instead of being the prisoners of anarchic capitalist competition and the mad rush for profit at any cost, it is working together for the common good. Our tremendous co-operative power would be controlled, not by a ruling class in the search for ever greater profits, but democratically and for the fulfillment of human need.”

True democracy focuses on the public interest; it defends the common good and protects its citizens – especially the weak and the vulnerable. We maintain that no democracy can survive without the powerful notions of compassion and public service. The level of wealth inequality in this country has gotten so far out of hand, the quantity of compassion so diminished, that the very future of democracy is at stake. And a dictatorship of people trying to protect the immense wealth they have suddenly acquired is looming.

The “self,” it seems today, is at the core of our outlook rather than others, the common good, or God.

A good nation is formed by the willingness of each of us to share in the responsibility for upholding the common good. A government is invigorated when each one of us is willing to participate in shaping the future of this nation. We must define the common good and begin again to shape a common future. Let each person do his or her part.

Political civility is not about singing praise for those in power, for Edgar Lungu and his minions. It’s about reclaiming the power of the people to come together, debate the common good and call our multiparty democracy back to its highest values amid our differences.

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