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A return to Democracy?

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posted on Aug, 21 2016 @ 03:04 PM
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The word "democracy" (Greek: δημοκρατία) combines the elements dêmos (δῆμος, which means "people", "neighbourhood", "district") and krátos (κράτος, which means "force" or "power"). In the words "monarchy" and "oligarchy", the second element arche (ἀρχή) means "rule", "leading" or "being first". It is unlikely that the term "democracy" was coined by its detractors who rejected the possibility of a valid "demarchy", as the word "demarchy" already existed and had the meaning of mayor or municipal. One could assume the new term was coined and adopted by Athenian democrats.



Therefore, by the 6th century BC, the majority of Athenians "had been 'enslaved' to the rich", and they called upon Plato's ancestor Solon, premier archon at the time, to liberate them and halt the feuding of the aristocracy. However, the "enfranchisement of the local laboring classes was succeeded by the development of chattel slavery, the enslavement of, in large part, foreigners."[6]


The true foundation of democracy. Before Athenian democracy they were ruled, mainly, by Aristocrats who sought out personal interests over the interests of the people. Much like we see today. So could the answer of a potential revolution today be a return to the Athenian system and, by learning from our mistakes, construct it in such a way as to ensure its continuation?

Looking at some apects of Athens that would conflict with society today, we can see two that stand out. Slavery and the oppression of womens rights:


The non-citizen component of the population was made up of resident foreigners (metics) and slaves, with the latter perhaps somewhat more numerous. Around 338 BC the orator Hyperides (fragment 13) claimed that there were 150,000 slaves in Attica, but this figure is probably no more than an impression: slaves outnumbered those of citizen stock but did not swamp them.[20]......

...The women had limited rights and privileges, had restricted movement in public, and were very segregated from the men.


Of course this would'nt be accepted in todays society and nor should it. But the Athenians can be forgiven for such a stance as it was a common theme during those times, and for most of history.

Next we can look at the way the "political" system worked. How much power did the people actually have in their Democracy. Looking at the number of people of a population, the number meeting requirements of office, and the number holding office, the power seems to be shared quite equally, with only age being a major factor. No one would counter this as a fair arguement considering anyone effectively could hold office so an age limit would hopefully bring some form of wisdom, even if only a medicore dose.

The council:


In 594 BC Solon is said to have created a boule of 400 to guide the work of the assembly.[32] After the reforms of Cleisthenes, the Athenian Boule was expanded to 500, and was elected by lot every year. Each of Cleisthenes's 10 tribes provided 50 councillors who were at least 30 years old.
The most important task of the Athenian Boule was to draft the deliberations (probouleumata) for discussion and approval in the Ecclesia. The Boule also directed finances, controlled the maintenance of the fleet and of the cavalry, judged the fitness of the magistrates-elect, received foreign ambassadors, advised the stratēgoi (generals) in military matters, and could be given special powers by the Ecclesia in an emergency.[33]

The Assembly:


The central events of the Athenian democracy were the meetings of the assembly (ἐκκλησία, ekklêsia). Unlike a parliament, the assembly's members were not elected, but attended by right when they chose. Greek democracy created at Athens was direct, rather than representative: any adult male citizen over the age of 20 could take part,[26] and it was a duty to do so. The officials of the democracy were in part elected by the Assembly and in large part chosen by lottery in a process called sortition. The assembly had four main functions: it made executive pronouncements (decrees, such as deciding to go to war or granting citizenship to a foreigner); it elected some officials; it legislated; and it tried political crimes. As the system evolved, the last function was shifted to the law courts. The standard format was that of speakers making speeches for and against a position followed by a general vote (usually by show of hands) of yes or no.

Now the interesting thing about the assembly is it resembles, generally, voters today. The amount of power they had as a political unit was quite incredible though, Imagine the ability to try political crimes today. I would not agree personally with their decision to allow the courts to try political crimes, especially not in todays political climate. And this power was available to anyone of the correct age, creating both an equal share and a high level of protection against corruption. Also they police each other.


If the assembly broke the law, the only thing that might happen is that it would punish those who had made the proposal that it had agreed to. If a mistake had been made, from the assembly's viewpoint it could only be because it had been misled.

The courts:


Athens had an elaborate legal system centered on full citizen rights (see atimia). The age limit of 30 or older, the same as that for office holders but ten years older than that required for participation in the assembly, gave the courts a certain standing in relation to the assembly. Jurors were required to be under oath, which was not required for attendance at the assembly. The authority exercised by the courts had the same basis as that of the assembly: both were regarded as expressing the direct will of the people. Unlike office holders (magistrates), who could be impeached and prosecuted for misconduct, the jurors could not be censured, for they, in effect, were the people and no authority could be higher than that. A corollary of this was that, at least acclaimed by defendants, if a court had made an unjust decision, it must have been because it had been misled by a litigant.[38] Essentially there were two grades of suit, a smaller kind known as dike (δίκη) or private suit, and a larger kind known as graphe or public suit. For private suits the minimum jury size was 200 (increased to 401 if a sum of over 1000 drachmas was at issue), for public suits 501. Under Cleisthenes' reforms, juries were selected by lot from a panel of 600 jurors, there being 600 jurors from each of the ten tribes of Athens, making a jury pool of 6000 in total.[39] For particularly important public suits the jury could be increased by adding in extra allotments of 500. 1000 and 1500 are regularly encountered as jury sizes and on at least one occasion, the first time a new kind of case was brought to court (see graphē paranómōn), all 6,000 members of the jury pool may have attended to one case.[40]

None of this is perfect of course, but the power it puts in the hands of the people is incredible. Compare the "democracy" of today with this. In which one do the people have more power to effect change to their own lives? I personally see the Athenian Democracy as the greatest in those terms, abliet with some flaws and prejudice towards certain Ism's. But again time period is everything.

The flaws and critiscisms of Athenian Democracy:


Athenian democracy has had many critics, both ancient and modern. Ancient Greek critics of the democracy include Thucydides the general and historian, Aristophanes the playwright, Plato the pupil of Socrates, Aristotle the pupil of Plato, and a writer known as the Old Oligarch. Modern critics are more likely to find fault with the narrow definition of the citizen body, but in the ancient world the complaint, if anything, went in the opposite direction. For them, the common people were not necessarily the right people to rule and had made huge mistakes. According to Samons:



edit on 21-8-2016 by WanderingNomadd because: (no reason given)




posted on Aug, 21 2016 @ 03:07 PM
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a reply to: WanderingNomadd

The main, or atleast one of the main, criticisms is that those with the power were not always qualified for such positions. I agree this can easily lead to mistakes but it is protected by numbers and better a harm through ignorance, than a calculated one.


Also, Donald Kagan writes that "In the fourth century, Plato and Aristotle must have been repeating old complaints when they pointed out the unfairness of democracy: 'it distributes a sort of equality to equal and unequal alike'."[59] Instead of seeing it as a fair system under which 'everyone' has equal rights, the critics saw it as the numerically preponderant poor tyrannizing the rich. They regarded this as manifestly unjust. In Aristotle this is categorized as the difference between 'arithmetic' and 'geometric' (i.e. proportional) equality.


Again a fair point, though we see the opposite of this happening today. Now the tyranny is committed by the rich through various things such as immunity to laws and heavy influence of government, something not even the collective people currently share.

Another issue that is pointed out is the recklessness of people, whether brought on by emotion, Ignorance, or both. This example can be attributed to superstitions aswell.


In 399 BC Socrates was put on trial and executed for 'corrupting the young and believing in strange gods'. His death gave Europe one of the first intellectual martyrs still recorded, but guaranteed the democracy an eternity of bad press at the hands of his disciple and enemy to democracy Plato. From Socrates' arguments at his trial, Loren Samons writes, "It follows, of course, that any majority—including the majority of jurors—is unlikely to choose rightly." However, "some might argue, Athens is the only state that can claim to have produced a Socrates. Surely, some might continue, we may simply write off events such as Socrates' execution as examples of the Athenians' failure to realize fully the meaning and potential of their own democracy."


The Athenian Democracy was eventually brought down through a series of events involving rome.



Alexander the Great had led a coalition of the Greek states to war with Persia in 336 BC, but his Greek soldiers were hostages for the behavior of their states as much as allies. His relations with Athens were already strained when he returned to Babylon in 324 BC; after his death, Athens and Sparta led several Greek states to war with Macedon and lost.

However, when Rome fought Macedonia in 200, the Athenians abolished the first two new tribes and created a twelfth tribe in honour of the Pergamene king. The Athenians declared for Rome, and in 146 B.C. Athens became an autonomous civitas foederata. "Her independence was however little more than municipal, and, though the forms of the democracy survived, Rome ... strengthened the aristocratic elements in the constitution."

In 88 BC, there was a revolution under the philosopher Athenion, who, as tyrant, forced the Assembly to agree to elect whomever he might ask to office. Athenion allied with Mithridates of Pontus, and went to war with Rome; he was killed during the war, and was replaced by Aristion. The victorious Roman general, Publius Cornelius Sulla, left the Athenians their lives and did not sell them into slavery; he also restored the previous government, in 86 BC.

After Rome became an Empire under Augustus, the nominal independence of Athens dissolved and its government converged to the normal type for a Roman municipality, with a Senate of decuriones.


I know some people would argue we live in a democracy now but I see this as untrue. I am not an Athenian so I claim no right to anything but an opinion that this was democracy in its purest, and sometimes most ignorant form.

If this kind of system was implemented today, minus the slaves and sexism, could we adapt it to be better than it was before, to ensure all were educated in political matters as opposed to restricting it by ways of enlistment in the military? Perhaps a mixture of both.

Could this be the answer to a revolution. A structured and altered Athenian Democracy as opposed to the aristocratic one we currently go along with. It requires more effort and dedication on the part of the people sure, but is that any worse than some of the work you do for others now? Atleast your mental labours would give you the chance to directly influence change as opposed to trusting in liars and thieves. But I'll be the first to say Modern Atehnian Democracy has drawbacks, I just beileve they can be countered to create a better system than we have today.

edit on 21-8-2016 by WanderingNomadd because: (no reason given)

edit on 21-8-2016 by WanderingNomadd because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 21 2016 @ 05:17 PM
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a reply to: WanderingNomadd

Uh, no.........no solution for the US, as I see it.

The problem with the US system today is that it has become the case that too many have come to realize they can vote for largesse from the public trough. Direct Democracy would only make that worse.

The other problem the US has is open borders. When the rest of the world realized that they could come to the US and vote for more and more entitlements, the country, such as it is, would be overwhelmed. Even without direct Democracy, the US is already being overwhelmed.



posted on Aug, 21 2016 @ 05:29 PM
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a reply to: TonyS



The problem with the US system today is that it has become the case that too many have come to realize they can vote for largesse from the public trough. Direct Democracy would only make that worse


Im talking about the west rather than just specific country but lets use the US. For example with citizen controlled spending the taxes could be put to better use, people and the country would be better off because the banks would no longer have the power to produce currency and therefore control debt and absorb taxes. Your thinking of a different system but with exactly the same workings as today which does'nt make any sense. The whole point would be to change the way it is currently done and direct laws and efforts towards the benefit of the people.


The other problem the US has is open borders. When the rest of the world realized that they could come to the US and vote for more and more entitlements, the country, such as it is, would be overwhelmed. Even without direct Democracy, the US is already being overwhelmed.

Again your assuming we would keep all the old laws. The whole point of proposing a new system is to remake a country in the image of the people. Controlled borders could be set up as a part of this.



posted on Aug, 21 2016 @ 05:33 PM
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a reply to: WanderingNomadd
Two points about Athenian democracy which your source does not emphasise.
When Aristotle is discussing different political forms, he identifes "choosing officials by lottery" as one of the marks of democracy. Choosing officials by election was already moving towards oligarchy, or at least aristocracy.
Also the assembly was, in principle, the entire citizen body. I remember reading (in childhood, I must admit) that attendance was compulsory, at least at one stage.
In fact pure Athenian democracy becomes impossible once your territory is larger than a small town.





edit on 21-8-2016 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 21 2016 @ 05:45 PM
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a reply to: DISRAELI
This was included in my post in regards to Aristotle


The officials of the democracy were in part elected by the Assembly and in large part chosen by lottery in a process called sortition.

People had the right, and duty (not enforced more honour bound), to attend when they chose.


Unlike a parliament, the assembly's members were not elected, but attended by right when they chose.

I think this right, and the extra powers they had, is what secures a free democracy instead of the election based farce we have today.


In fact pure Athenian democracy becomes impossible once your territory is larger than a small town.

And that is the benefit of technology. Today, people attend courts via webcam like set ups. Technology could easily be set up to allow those attending to do so from afar, aswell as those who can attend in person. You could also interconnect these assemblys across different areas of a country.



edit on 21-8-2016 by WanderingNomadd because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 21 2016 @ 05:53 PM
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originally posted by: WanderingNomadd
People had the right, and duty (not enforced more honour bound), to attend when they chose.

I remember reading of slaves being sent out with a red-painted rope, so that they could smear the garments of absentees found in the streets and thus identify them for a fine.
However, this was in my childhood reading, as I said, so there is nothing I can quote as an authority.



posted on Aug, 21 2016 @ 06:00 PM
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a reply to: DISRAELI

Perhaps. Either way I have said it could use some modern revision, so that is only a small change to make.

A system by the people for the people is the only chance anyone will have of securing and mainting freedom and human rights. The system we have now is an aristocrat based government. Political pawns and Domineering elites. The common people are not even relevant. They are just ignorant enough to believe they are. It is a shame to see people forget they once had an equal right to justice and freedom, as oppossed to just the top tiers of society.



posted on Aug, 27 2016 @ 07:18 PM
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Democracy is kind of a joke. Sooner or later a small group like always either rich oligarch, military dictatorship or cult will infiltrate and get voted in. Democracy divides the nation as long a people go for it. This is what happened to majority of the country using this system. It doesn't truly work. Especially when it comes to militarization. Happen with Hitler, happened with Japan. Democracy doesn't truly work. People who have the weapons have the power to rig and takeover. This is exactly what is happening to USA.



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