Friday October 24, 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)  
Tension for tension’s sake?
Testing ground
Defusing a crisis
PM needs to step up
Greek private workers´ union calls 24-hour strike for November 27
The country's umbrella union representing workers in the private sector, known by its Greek acronym GSEE, on Friday called a 24-hour strike for November 27 to protest austerity measures bein...
Finance Minister appeals for support for amendments ahead of vote
Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis on Friday called on MPs across the political spectrum to support a series of legislative amendments proposed by his ministry, including a recommendation to...
Inside News
Tax revenues up by 1 bln euros in 2nd quarter, public sector wages down
Tax revenues increased by nearly 1 billion euros in the second quarter of this year, according to data released on Friday by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) on Friday while publi...
ECB bank assessment to show 6-billion-euro capital gap, Citi says
The euro area’s biggest banks will show a 6 billion-euro ($7.6 billion) capital gap in the European Central Bank’s tests of the quality of their assets and ability to withstand economic shoc...
Inside Business
SOCCER
Panathinaikos snatches point at Eindhoven
Panathinaikos offered its fans a glimpse of its glorious past in European competitions snatching a draw at PSV Eindhoven, on an otherwise bad night for Greek soccer in the Europa League, as ...
BASKETBALL
Greens succumb to first loss at Bayern
Panathinaikos’s unbeaten run in all competitions came an end on Thursday as the Greek champion lost 81-75 at Bayern Munich for the Euroleague. Bayern is a team that improves every year, and ...
Inside Sports
SPONSORED LINK: FinanzNachrichten.de
SPONSORED LINK: BestPrice.gr
 RECENT NEWS
1. Tax revenues up by 1 bln euros in 2nd quarter, public sector wages down
2. ECB bank assessment to show 6-billion-euro capital gap, Citi says
3. EU says Turkey´s energy hunt off Cyprus is a a ´serious concern´
4. Greek private workers´ union calls 24-hour strike for November 27
5. Finance Minister appeals for support for amendments ahead of vote
6. Credit line only open to Greece if it meets economic targets, sources say
more news
Today
This Week
1. Woman killed in tram accident in Floisvo, south of Athens
2. Clocks to go back 1 hour on Sunday
3. ECB vies for third time lucky in European stress tests
4. Venizelos slams Turkey for 'flagrant violation of international law' off Cyprus
5. Cyprus GDP upgrade seen as boosting bailout exit plans
6. Cyprus president to be released from hospital on Friday following readmission
Today
This Week
1. The past, present and future of the Greek debt crisis
2. Greece’s closed society is central to its current malaise
3. Coalition shooting itself in the foot
4. Greece must stick to reforms, says Schaeuble
5. At least 11 banks to fail European stress tests, three in Greece, report says
6. Cyprus to block Turkey's EU talks after EEZ violation
   Find us ...
  ... on
Twitter
     ... on Facebook   
About us  |  Subscriptions  |  Advertising  |  Contact us  |  Athens Plus  |  RSS  |   
Copyright © 2014, H KAΘHMEPINH All Rights Reserved.