Whenever elections come up, people are bombarded with different ideologies, debates, criticisms, promises and futuristic visions. According to political psychology, in this emotionally charged atmosphere there are many voters who get fervently swayed by the rhetoric, and so, find it hard to make a rational choice. They usually vote for a candidate who mirrors and reinforces their psychological, occupational, social, ethnic or religious identity in a hope that once selected, the candidate will help them in safeguarding and consolidating this identity. It is also observed that individuals dislike candidates who seem to challenge their identity and world view and may go to extremes to lobby against them.
Usually, in selecting political candidates, we are guided by these selfish interests, conscious biases and unconscious prejudices. Therefore, the outcomes of such electoral choices are never exceptional. Our representatives are forever worried of antagonising their support groups and a lot of their work is directed at keeping their voters happy, often ignoring the larger collective good. All this has sabotaged our growth as a nation.
The Tamil spiritual classic, Thirukkural, clearly states that a representative who guides the country wrongly is worse than numerous external enemies. It says that an ideal minister is the one who is physically and mentally strong, morally upright, hardworking, intelligent and compassionate. He inquires deeply, takes correct and firm decisions and executes them boldly.
For the growth and betterment of our nation, we must learn to rise above our narrow identities and choose wise representatives. But many are of the opinion that there are no ideal candidates and therefore does one simply settle for the best of a bad bunch? But an ideal can manifest at a collective level when many amongst us strongly invoke, relentlessly aspire and work hard for it.
We can make a new beginning by relinquishing our selfish interests, renouncing divisive groups and think like a nation. This movement will surely encourage candidates to think, feel and act from a higher level. In short, a transformation in the collective psyche of voters can bring a similar transformation in the collective psyche of candidates and turn them into more enlightened representatives.
Before casting your vote, read manifestos carefully, listen to speeches of various candidates attentively and scan through their past work records trying to figure out how they touch the facets of your deeper self – compassion, empathy, integration, growth, peace and righteousness. We need representatives who feel strongly for all those who are ailing, suffering and the marginalised and who are willing to walk that extra mile to support them. Peoples’ representatives should transcend man-made boundaries of class, caste, region and religion and look at the nation as an indivisible whole – bringing different castes, classes and subgroups together and slowly forming a cohesive collective.
This will end meaningless conflicts and instill cooperation, harmony and peace and put the growth of our country on a fast track. While non-violence and peace are very important, we also need representatives who are righteous and do not
shy away from confronting and uprooting an evil if all deliberations have failed. The goal of spirituality is to touch and transform all facets of life and therefore, we must let it transmute our voting behaviour as well. Let us all become more evolved and inspire our representatives to transform themselves.