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VOTE, AND VOTE WISELY

The closest form of voting that can be seen in the Bible is the casting of lots.

What is this ‘casting of lots’? For me, the most prominent occurrence of this is on two occasions; of course there were more.  One of these is the casting of lots by the Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus. It is understood that at a crucifixion, soldiers were allowed to take from the crucified anything they thought of value and Jesus’ robe was particularly attractive to them so they did not want to divide it into four equal parts.  In John 19: 23, 24 it is written: “When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided His garments into four parts, one for each soldier, with the tunic remaining. It was seamless, woven in one piece from the top to bottom. So they said to one another, ‘Let’s not tear it, but instead let us cast lots to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfill the Scripture: ‘They divided My garments among them, and cast lots for My clothing.’ So that is what the soldiers did.”

The other famous casting of lots is seen when the apostles needed to find a replacement for Judas Iscariot, who had betrayed Jesus Christ and went on to commit suicide. Peter specified the minimum qualification for the candidates to be considered; it had to be a man who had been with the apostles the whole time that the Lord Jesus was living among them. That time began when John was baptising and ended when Jesus was taken away from them. Peter was also specific that the person to be chosen had to join them in telling people that Jesus rose from the dead. The book of Acts, in chapter 6 verses 23 to 26, reads: “So they suggested the names of two men. One was Joseph, who was called Barsabbas. He was also called Justus. The other man was Matthias. Then the believers prayed. They said, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen. Show us who should take the place of Judas as an apostle. He gave up being an apostle to go where he belongs’. Then they cast lots. Matthias was chosen. So he was added to the 11 apostles.”

In these two occasions, we see the casting of lots being used to determine the outcome of situations that are quite opposite in terms of their intentions. One was intended for good and the other was for bad. Either way, the bottom line here is that these people knew they had to seek divine wisdom in reaching an important decision. The ancient Jews and Christians are said to have believed God’s will could be determined by the casting of lots. Even heathens are said to have cast lots because, they believed, the gods would guide what happened. Both believers and non-believers knew the importance of choosing wisely. Therefore, they paid particular attention of the choices they needed to make. The same should apply to the decisions that voters make during an election. American author Andy Andrews pointed out, in one of the countless interviews he has had, that: “If we are concerned at all about our country and its future, we must pay attention to the election and use our votes wisely.” Presently here in Eswatini, there is a flurry of opinion regarding the 2023 National General Elections.

crossroads

Everyone expects this year’s elections to be hotly and tightly contested, more particularly because of the prevailing political atmosphere. One could say that the country is at a political crossroads – a time when critical decisions must be made. But who should make those decisions? Undoubtedly, the ball is in the court of the electorate. They carry that responsibility. According to Professor Dilip V. Jeste, the author of ‘Wiser: The Scientific Roots of Wisdom, Compassion, and What Makes Us Good’, politics is a matter of opinion and everyone has their own. But in at least one way, we all mark our ballots with this singular desire: That our choices be wise and our elected leaders be wiser. Jeste, who is director of the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging and a distinguished professor of psychiatry and neurosciences at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, observed that as voters, but more importantly, as members of a wondrously sprawling and diverse society, we seek wisdom in our leaders to help ensure we might all lead rich and fulfilling lives.  “It can seem hopeless at times, but the good news is that because wisdom is based in biology, it can be measured and modified, not unlike exercising to build stronger muscles. We can actively work to make ourselves wiser. Voting and voting wisely is an act of practical wisdom. If we choose wise leaders, they will help make the rest of the society wiser too. Then everyone wins.”

To ensure that everyone wins, wisdom should guide us into voting for leaders who are honest. As Andy Andrews noted that in American politics, with regard to the Republicans versus Democrats contestations, neither had managed to change anyone’s mind. But when asking anyone, rich or poor, black or white, old or young, whether they thought it was okay for politicians to lie, or should they tell the truth, every single person would say their leaders should tell the truth. Truthfulness in the people we seek to make our leaders should be fundamental. Generally, politicians (leaders) are equated to lawyers when it comes to the truthfulness test. They are both known to be enemies of truth. We certainly don’t have any room for leaders who still advance this trait. “Speaking the truth should be the least we require of our elected leaders. It won’t solve all our problems, but it is a beginning,” said Andrews.  He spoke deeply about demanding honesty and integrity from our leadership—and rewarding that integrity with our votes. “That’s how we will elect leaders who will have the fortitude to make the hard decisions that must be made to change course,” he said.

We shouldn’t vote for leaders who will later make us regret ever voting for them. We have seen how some constituents later turned to give labels such as ‘Phutsaletfu’ (our mistake) to their elected leaders. Situations as the one the nation got to hear from Chief Makhosikhosi of Ekwendzeni Chiefdom should not characterise our politics. The chief described as a ‘mistake’ the decision he made in voting for Simosakhe Shongwe to be his Member of Parliament under Mtsambama Constituency. The chief said he was walking testimony of voting wrongly. Hesaid he voted for a person who, when he got to Parliament, changed and wanted to ‘ride another horse’, and this was evidenced by the fact that no development projects had been achieved by his constituency. He said he wished the people would choose someone who had love for the communities and the country, so that the kingdom would develop. What Chief Makhosikhosi said boils down to the importance of choosing wisely.  Seeking wisdom is fundamental to making the right choice.

According to Professor Jeste, based on current research, wisdom consists of seven distinct components. First and foremost are pro-social behaviours like compassion, empathy and altruism. He says humans are social animals;  they are hard-wired to need each other, and they fare best when they work together toward a common good. When humans do not step out of their own minds (and interests), they fail not just those around them, their communities and society, but also themselves, the professor says. Next comes emotional regulation, which he says is exactly as it sounds: the ability to leverage one’s emotions to the best possible advantage—not just yours but others’ too.

exercised

He says there are times when emotions like fear, anger or joy should be keenly felt or exercised and times when they should be tempered by reason and brain’s frontal lobes. He points out that nature depends upon homeostasis—an equilibrium of forces—and so too does a wise person. Wise people, the professor goes on to state, possess the ability of self-reflection and insight; they can look at themselves, unvarnished, and see where they can improve and become better persons. Similarly, he says, they accept the reality of diversity: Other people have other perspectives; their opinions are shaped by their own brain’s biology and different experiences; these differences, no matter how strange or off-putting, need to be acknowledged and respected. He further states that wisdom also demands decisiveness; if a situation demands action, action is taken based upon all known considerations. Deciding not to act can be an act in itself.

“And wisdom is shared. It makes no sense, it benefits no one, if lessons learned in life are not shared with others in good faith and intention,” Jeste says. He then adds: “Spirituality is the latest component added to the empirical definition of wisdom. It does not mean a wise person belongs to a particular religion or faith, but rather that they find meaning, solace and inspiration in something bigger than themselves, whether it be God, Mother Nature or the incomprehensible vastness of the cosmos.” Whichever of the seven distinct components of wisdom you consider to apply to you, use them (it) in this election. Vote –and vote wisely.