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Democracy then and now.... Democracy then and now....
by Christos Mouzeviris
2011-09-08 07:18:33
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Democracy in Ancient Greece, its cradle, was a right and privilege but not only for the elected few or the rich and famous! Every free man that was eligible to be a citizen of Athens could and should take part in the political life of his country; the "koina". Any free citizen could participate as equal if he wished, in this direct form of democracy. It was not the representative type of democracy as most of us are used to now days, rather a more Swiss style democracy.

The first democracies in the World though, were not without faults: the position of women and the slaves, but also the numerous rules on who could be eligible to be called a citizen, thus be able to practice his rights and participate, made valid points for criticism in ancient and modern times. Nevertheless, what the ancient Greeks managed to do, is to offer humanity new political systems, other than kingdoms, empires and the laws of most nomadic peoples of the ancient times. It is not by chance that many of the basic political terms in our everyday vocabulary are borrowed from the ancient Greeks: monarchy, aristocracy, tyranny, oligarchy and democracy.

The architects of the first democracies of the modern era, post-revolutionary France and the United States, claimed a line of descent from classical Greek demokratia - 'government of the people by the people for the people', as Abraham Lincoln put it. But at this point it is crucial that we keep in mind the differences between our and the Greeks' systems of democracy - three key differences in particular: of scale, of participation and of eligibility.  (taken by the BBC History website, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/greeks/greekdemocracy_01.shtml)

I will add in the above differences and comparison between Democracy during the ancient times, and how it evolved in the recent years. Today Capitalism prevails. The Markets and the Banks can dictate nations. Money is the only thing worth fighting for and making a profit is the only reason for progress. Nations can be rated by private agencies, and their population can be forced to accept their wishes through their Governments, dictating the future of those nations for generations to come. Our media are controlled by the rich few of this World, and they are shaping our perceptions while they are influencing our beliefs, our needs, the way we think and see this World. This is the freedom of speech of our Media.

So in our modern times, your freedom is the freedom to buy and get rich, the freedom to consume, the freedom to be part of the system. You can use of course your democratic right to buy with credit that you can not possibly repay and put yourself in heavy debt, so that you achieve this freedom to consume. You may use to democratic right to vote for your favorite act in the X-Factor or any other reality TV nonsense that they want you to watch. You may use your votes to decide which celebrity you want to watch being kicked out of  similar rubbish shows and you may use your voice to grasp the 15 minute fame they promised you. You are free to believe what they want you to believe, as long as you do not question how the system works.

You are free to feel special, demand and know your rights: as a consumer. Everyone out there is there to serve you and you may use your democratic rights to get the "customer service" you deserve. Be pleased that you can spend and consume, because that is what is going to bring you happiness. If any employee in a company that you may go to fulfill your democratic need to be served and pampered, does not satisfy your freedom to do so, you may again use your democratic right to complain and make his/her life more miserable, even lose his job!

Again democracy and freedom is something that we can give to an unfortunate nation that can not experience it, let's say Iraq and Afghanistan, with an invasion and bombings. It is our democratic right and obligation to give those people the freedom they so desperately need, either they want it or not. If they do not, they simply do not know it...yet! Since when democracy can be imposed with weapons, is something I can not fathom. And all that so that we can create new markets, new free people and nations that will use their democratic right to consume, thus supporting the Capitalist system and making some people very, very rich!

That is what Capitalism has done to us, with the Western mistaken idea of "freedom" and "democracy." Instead of being an active citizen and be part of the governance of your country, they just turned you into a manic consumer. Instead of having an opinion on how your country or the society you live in should deal with the arising challenges, they want you to have an opinion on each celebrity and their moronic lifestyle. And no wonder; they are the best advertisement for the lifestyle they want you to have, they are the ambassadors of this new Western version of "democracy" and "freedom".

Instead of getting involved in the political life of your country, you are being part of every reality TV show, in order to become another celebrity; and of course avail the lifestyle that is forced upon you with thousands of advertisements bombarding you everywhere from a young age. So who represents you in the Parliament then? What is your relationship with your "representatives?" How can you check their work and actions, on what criteria you vote for them, and how much our Governments really represent us? Well if you can question all the above and even ponder on them, then you have just made the first step in releasing the true Democrat in you!


   
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Emanuel Paparella2011-09-08 15:03:37
Interesting article with plenty of food for thought. Indeed the Chinese are proving to us that capitalism does not need democracy to do well; it can thrive under authoritarianism just as well. Some say that it remains to be seen, in the long run. Be that as it may, it all brought me back to one of the first postings I wrote for Ovi on September 17, 2007, four years ago. It too makes a comparison between the modern and the ancient form of Democracy. It is titled “Democracy and the Common Sense of the People: Confronting the Ancient to the Modern View.” It began with a famous quip of Churchill on this very topic which went like this: “No one pretends that Democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the other forms that have been tried.”

Let me attach a link for the inquiring reader who may wish to engage in a dialogue on this fascinating topic:

http://www.ovimagazine.com/art/2043


Christos Mouzeviris2011-09-08 20:43:57
True..Democracy was criticized even in the ancient times especially the Athenian democracy..Athens was not the only state to have democratic rule, other city states did so as well, though in a different form.. Today, the thing that annoys me about the modern democracy is that the so called freedom of speech is free only for those few multinational companies that own the vast majority of the global media..people like us can not express our opinion in the mainstream media...where is the debate.? where is the acceptance of all opinions..?the majority wins in a democracy but that does not mean that the minorities can not even be heard...


Emanuel Paparella2011-09-11 18:19:35
Indeed Christos, you point to a real problem about democracy of which the founding fathers of the US were well aware of; that is why they wrote the amendments to the constitution and the Bill of rights: to protect the rights of the vulnerable minority against the tirranny of the majority. They also included in the Declaration of Independence the concept of inalienable rights, or rights which are not given by and cannot be taken away by any government on earth. Much work remains to be done in this respect.


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