Wednesday April 23, 2014 Search
Weather | Athens
23o C
15o C
News
Business
Comment
Life
Sports
Community
Survival Guide
Greek Edition
Democracy 411 BC and today

By Nikos Konstandaras

There are moments when people’s faith in democracy is shaken. Just when everything was going well, when we felt sure of where we stood and were making plans, comes a crisis like a disease that falls upon all of us and changes everything. Relationships change. The way we see things is altered. We seek culprits. We seek security. We want to know where we are going and will follow those who claim to know. But our minds are clouded and we may make mistakes. Democracy is a living organism, it demands that all its parts help solve the problems that it faces. That is why what happens in Greece is important for Europe. That is why the first democracy serves as an invaluable guide.

Athenian democracy was based on the principle that the law is more important than those who administer it, and that all citizens are equal before it. There were, however, many instances in which citizens took terrible decisions – ranging from inhuman to self-destructive – under the influence of demagogues. Today we call the problem “populism.” Another threat came from groups of citizens who believed that they were more capable of governing than the Demos. These few – the oligarchs – wanted a return to a form of government that preceded democracy. In 411 BC, when a major Athenian military expedition against Sicily had ended in disaster, after 51 years of democracy, the Athenians, shaken and uncertain of their course, accepted an oligarchic regime without much fuss. They quickly repented and restored democracy in the following year. In 404, when they lost the war against Sparta, the Athenians were forced to accept an oligarchy again. One year later, democracy was restored. It lasted 80 years, until the Macedonian invasion. In those years, as the historian W.G. Forrest puts it, democracy provided “peaceful, moderate, efficient and popular government for the largest and most complex state in Greece.”

Today, we see a conflict where the widening inequality between rich and poor (people and states) is testing the limits of the democratic system. “Populists” want to punish the system that betrayed them by seeing it swept away. “Oligarchs” are ostensibly behind that system. With the crisis, the imposition of austerity (in order to save the system) has pushed many toward those promising easy solutions, such as a return to an idealized past. The populists’ influence, however, will most likely lead to reckless policies that can only result in further austerity, greater tension and instability. Then citizens will lose faith in themselves and may accept autocratic solutions.

History teaches us, however, that people who have tasted the benefits of democracy cannot accept another form of government for long. In this crisis, Greece is a scout in the search for a way that will lead to support for each troubled nation and support for Europe. Here, with Europe’s help, we must find a way out of the forest of austerity, populism and authoritarianism. Democracy is not a given. And without it there can be no Europe.

ekathimerini.com , Thursday February 6, 2014 (20:06)  
Reality´s other side
Enough barbarity
Unanswered questions
Avoiding extremes
FBI seeks to identify victims of suspected US child molester who worked abroad, including Greece
U.S. authorities have asked the public to help identify as many as 90 possible victims of a suspected child predator who worked at American and other international schools in at least nine c...
Tunnel boring for Thessaloniki metro to resume after two years of inactivity
The two tunnel boring machines that are being used to construct the Thessaloniki metro are to start work again after almost two years, it was revealed on Tuesday. The borers have dug 73 perc...
Inside News
Corfu property market puts up resistance to pressures
A survey by Savills has revealed increased interest in Corfu’s property market. The report by the international estate agents on areas in high demand by holiday home buyers has identified th...
Major tourism promotion at travel fair in Latin America
Greece is the country of honor at the World Travel Market Latin America, the region’s biggest travel fair that opens on Wednesday in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous city. It will last unti...
Inside Business
BASKETBALL
Reds and Greens stay alive in Euroleague
Easter – and home advantage – worked wonders for Panathinaikos and Olympiakos who stayed alive in the Euroleague play-offs beating CSKA and Real Madrid respectively on Monday in Greece. Shak...
BASKETBALL
Greens lose badly as CSKA Moscow
Panathinaikos has a mountain to climb in order to reach the Final Four of the Euroleague after losing at CSKA Moscow on Friday for a second time in two days, only this time it was comprehens...
Inside Sports
SPONSORED LINK: FinanzNachrichten.de
SPONSORED LINK: BestPrice.gr
 RECENT NEWS
1. FBI seeks to identify victims of suspected US child molester who worked abroad, including Greece
2. Corfu property market puts up resistance to pressures
3. Major tourism promotion at travel fair in Latin America
4. Eurostat to confirm the size of 2013 primary surplus
5. Hundreds of thousands of social dividend applications
6. National bond issue already covered
more news
Today
This Week
1. FBI seeks to identify victims of suspected US child molester who worked abroad, including Greece
2. Three more arrests made on Santorini over Easter injuries [Update]
3. PM Samaras sees Greek bond yields falling more
4. Athens airport worker dies after being hit by shuttle bus
5. Vodafone sued for 1.4 billion euros by former Greek distributor
6. Warning issued over Evros River overflow
Today
This Week
1. Greece's market return mirrors return of tourists
2. Greece startup leaders say they can’t break jobless cycle alone
3. Ground-breaking Good Friday mass signals thaw in Cyprus
4. Mayoral candidates clash over Athens mosque plans
5. Government looks to kick on
6. Greece offers to help find Turkish F-16 lost in 1996
   Find us ...
  ... on
Twitter
     ... on Facebook   
About us  |  Subscriptions  |  Advertising  |  Contact us  |  Athens Plus  |  RSS  |   
Copyright © 2014, H KAΘHMEPINH All Rights Reserved.