This article was published on The Times on 23rd December 2017 – Link
Christmas is best seen through the eyes of a child: expectant, joyous, genuine. Every year, children shed a new light on the age-old narrative of this festive season.
The story of Christmas is probably the most famous adventure ever: a very ordinary human event set in very extraordinary circumstances. Religious convictions aside, Christmas evokes a powerful image of humanity at its most beautiful and most difficult simultaneously. The delicate start of a new life met with the cold indifference of a city. It is easy to scoff at the insensitivity shown towards that desperate family until we realize that these events are not without their parallels in our own society.
The protagonists at the centre of the story are regular, low-profile individuals that have no friends in power. That have never canvassed for any political candidate; nor do they seek favours from them, not even when the Minister’s secretariat calls their home phone inquiring after them with an unseen wink of the eye.
The nativity scene presents a hardworking couple fulfilling its obligations towards the state, literally going out of its way to register for the census decreed by the emperor of the time. But even as the state is busy overseeing an ambitious headcount and drawing up statistical data, it ironically discounts the addition of a new, fragile baby head.
The heartbreaking situation reminds us of the primary function of the state and its governance: to serve the wellbeing of every citizen. How easy it is for politics to turn into the business of managing a civil system while ignoring the needs and wants of the very individuals that form it.
In a politically-charged country as ours, many people will tell you that politics has no place over the festive season. Especially towards the end of a relentlessly polarizing year as this has been, a few weeks of peace from partisanship are more than welcome.
However, far from bracketing politics out, Christmas brings the very essence of politics to the fore. It prompts us to look out for those who are being left out and behind, the vulnerable who are not represented by the official statistics. Christmas is the perfect period for politicians to examine their actions and intentions, and see how they tally with their oath of office.
Most importantly, Christmas takes the politicians’ eye beyond the illuminated main streets and towards the backstreets of injustice and inequality. We question our concrete commitment to our shared European and global values of dignity and humanity. While the authorities today congratulate one another and declare this time the merriest in our nation’s history, politicians true to their calling will pay attention to those individuals that still find no room in this seemingly happy place.
Let us not be fooled into thinking that economic success automatically makes society better. It can only do that when society is guided transparently and fairly. Let us not be blinded by voting majorities and their claim to good governance. Unless public life is held to account by strong and autonomous institutions, power becomes dominance. Let us not buy naively into loud hype and publicity. Without the complementary scrutiny by free media, information is nothing less than indoctrination.
Christmas is such a special period because it is a time for honesty and authenticity. Although all of us indulge in things that are somewhat superficial, we still take the time to seek those persons and elements that matter most to us. Politics, too, must make of Christmas a time to find its essence and commit itself to the fundamental and common good. To make sure that tomorrow’s society is ready to accommodate the aspirations of today’s children.
Politicians are better-placed than everybody else to deliver the Christmas promise of “peace to all people of good will”.