Thursday October 30, 2014 Search
Weather | Athens
19o C
12o 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)  
Time is running out in Afghanistan
Cool heads required
Obvious reforms
Survivors’ tales
Tsipras to meet with BoG governor on Thursday
SYRIZA chief Alexis Tsipras was expected to meet with Bank of Greece Yannis Stournaras on Thursday. According to sources the meeting had been originally scheduled for Friday, but was nearly ...
Over 1,500 buildings and vehicles damaged in flash floods
Applications for compensation following heavy showers last Friday had reached 1,085 for homes and businesses and 422 for vehicles by Thursday, while 395 people had filed for emergency compen...
Inside News
Germany’s bonds rise as consumer prices decline in six states
Germany’s government bonds rose for the first time in three days after data showed consumer prices unexpectedly fell in October from the previous month in six states of Europe’s largest econ...
Peripheral banks lead European shares lower after positive start
European shares turned lower on Thursday as banks in countries such as Italy, Greece and Spain resumed their recent downtrend. Shares in peripheral banks have mostly been falling since the p...
Inside Business
BASKETBALL
Panathinaikos and PAOK retain perfect record
The third round of games in the Basket League over the weekend saw PAOK overcome the strong resistance of host KAOD at Drama, and Panathinaikos and Olympiakos inflict heavy losses on AEK and...
SOCCER
Gattuso recalls resignation from OFI bench
Gennaro Gattuso has recalled his resignation from the OFI Crete bench following pressure by the club’s fans and administration, one day after his quitting accusing the club and its players o...
Inside Sports
SPONSORED LINK: FinanzNachrichten.de
SPONSORED LINK: BestPrice.gr
 RECENT NEWS
1. Tsipras to meet with BoG governor on Thursday
2. Germany’s bonds rise as consumer prices decline in six states
3. Over 1,500 buildings and vehicles damaged in flash floods
4. Clientelism belongs to the past, says Mitsotakis
5. Peripheral banks lead European shares lower after positive start
6. Students hijack university senate meeting
more news
Today
This Week
1. Greek euro dilemma is back as minister predicts volatility
2. Students hijack university senate meeting
3. Peripheral banks lead European shares lower after positive start
4. Clientelism belongs to the past, says Mitsotakis
5. Over 1,500 buildings and vehicles damaged in flash floods
6. Germany’s bonds rise as consumer prices decline in six states
Today
This Week
1. At least 11 banks to fail European stress tests, three in Greece, report says
2. Austria’s creative bookkeeping beats Greece on secret debts
3. Cyprus to block Turkey's EU talks after EEZ violation
4. End of reason, end of humanity
5. Clean bill of health for Greek banks from stress tests
6. Samaras pledges action after flash floods in Athens
   Find us ...
  ... on
Twitter
     ... on Facebook   
About us  |  Subscriptions  |  Advertising  |  Contact us  |  Athens Plus  |  RSS  |   
Copyright © 2014, H KAΘHMEPINH All Rights Reserved.