So it is election time. Someone threw a flyer over our gate. His priorities are water, roads and refuse collection. Nothing very revolutionary there. Basic needs.
But basic needs not yet met. After all these years. Is the candidate ‘blowing in the wind’? Is there any prospect of these basic things being done? Are we just ritually marking up one more election? We go through the motions but nothing changes. The focus of the world will be briefly on us. Then they will move away to something else.
What we yearn for, year after year, is subsidiarity. Long ago (in 1931) it was defined by Pius XI as a principle by which every unit in the nation – family, local council, district, province and central government – performs the tasks which it can do at its own level. ‘The true aim of all social activity should be to help individual members of the social body, but never to destroy or absorb them.’ In other words, no higher body in the state should take to itself powers which lower bodies can do.
Paul VI commented: ‘To take politics seriously at its different levels – local, regional, national and worldwide – is to affirm the duty of every person to recognise the concrete reality and the value of freedom of choice that is offered to them to seek to bring about both the good of the city and of the nation and of all people. Politics are a demanding manner – but not the only one – of living the Christian commitment to the service of others.’
So there we have it. There are jobs to be done – providing water, mending roads, collecting rubbish – and no shortage of people willing to work. But no one, at the local level, to say nothing of the national level, is able to exercise their freedom to organise and carry out these works. So they are not done. Our social fabric is gridlocked, paralysed. And we are faced with five more years of inaction while the people languish in poverty and frustration.
It would surely be a simple matter to allow people to develop their social and economic activity at the level where they are able to do it. But there seems to be a terrible fear that if the people organise themselves on the local level – and succeed – it will somehow reflect badly on those at a higher level. And yet is it not obvious that if people succeed at the local level, it will redound positively on those at a high level? Parents take delight in the achievements of their children.
Do the people in the higher levels trust the ordinary people?