I am particularly impressed by the following passage of PLATO; I remember that when the new EUROPEAN CONSTITUTION was drafted, the first draft contained a phrase from THUCYDIDES about Democracy, with my dismay this phrase has not been placed in the final text; something from the following would, perhaps, have had a better fortune:
But, in order that you don't think to have been fooled about my affirmation that all the Athenians believe that every man takes part of justice of of every other political virtue, here is the poof. In all others competences, as you say, if anybody affirms of being, for instance, an able flaut's player or of being able in any other art and he is not such, they either deride him or adirate against him and his neighbours go to him and try to retrieve him saying that he is mad. When, instead, the question is about justice or any other political virtue, even if everybody knows that he is unjust, when he says in the presence of many people the truth, against his own interest, the same thing which in the preceding case was deemed sapience, that is saying the truth, now is deemed madness; they sustain that all must declare of being rigthfull, either if they really are or if they are not, and that is mad one that maintains that he is not. This happens because they believe that everybody, of necessity, must somehow participate of this virtue, or, in the contrary, don't live among men. The concept which I just expressed, is that Athenians rigthly accept that everyman gives advice when the political virtue is regarded, this because they believe that erybody partecipates of it. ........................................................................................................................ It has been sufficiently demonstrated, Socrates, that yours fellows citizens rightfully admit also an iron worker or shoemaker to give advice in the political affairs and that they believe that virtue can be teached and transmitted.
PLATO, PROTAGORAS, 323a, ss
I find this a very interisteng text, the foundation of moderne Democracy, this and also other passage around it which I omit for concisivity, it is a pity that it is not in the European Constitution. The passage from Thucydides, as I said, was proposed, but not inserted in the final text.
There are a lot of negative things in these days democracy, do you think this is DEMOCRACY ? I really don't.
"I find this a very interisting text, the foundation of moderne Democracy, this and also other passage around it which I omit for concisivity, it is a pity that it is not in the European Constitution. The passage from Thucydides, as I said, was proposed, but not inserted in the final text."
Well, I agree, today democracy hardly is a real democracy. There are many thinks which are not in agreement with ancient democracy, I think to DOCIMASIA , before entering a government function, anybody could oppose and espone the reasons for his opposing in a Tribunal. EYTHYNA, at the expiring of any goverment function, even religious, one had to present a summary of his activities, and anybody could put a charge against him in Tribunal for not having properly performed his duties. Also Tribunal were populars, not with magistrates selected through Universities. So I hardly think that now we are living in democracy.
To the Ancient Athenians indeed, our representative democracy would hardly be "demokratia." It would be but an oligarchy taking faraway decisions that do not relate to the people. And I would agree with them. Given the large scale of the modern, centralized nation-state system, true and direct democracy such as the Greeks knew it is, I believe, impossible. Any democracy, within the European borders, would mean a decentralization, whether from European institutions or the Nation-States such as France, Italy, Spain, etc. A "demo-kratia," "rule of the people," works best on a small scale, at the local and regional level. We could imagine, for example, the various European regions being given a substantial degree of autonomy, and taking direct decisions involving every citizen of the region, and all regions being federated by a European federal government, certainly less "democratic" and more "aristocratic,"but which would represent every groups and every nationalities.
Indeed Athens was a not too large a town, anyhow I think that it had many interesting and valid institutions, which could and should be adopted even today in modern states. I can quote a further one: there were magistrates competent against anybody who had promulgated an inopportune Law. Laws are compelling, if they are wrong or inopportune they are very harmful, so an instituion of this kind is really proper. Today we have quite too may laws, I really think that some of them are inopportune and that an examination of them would be necessary.
Europe and the whole West (i.e. including USA, the peak of this transformation) becomes a mass of individuals devoted to survival and power. This is why our central interest regards almost exclusively money. At least since Rousseau (maybe even before) there have been people asking for immediate democracy. That seems impossible in the inhuman mega-cities that we live now, but even if it was possible (e.g. with computer talk and vote, etc), the main question would remain: who are going to make the decisions, with what information, knowledge and overall orientation? Inside what frame of values, inside what societies and culture? If our societies have become (or proved to be) cruel masses worshipping money, the decisions we would make, even if we all participated, would reflect our present condition, maybe in the end with the current results too, because representative governments are not worse than us, they reflect our interests. We must not also forget that this decay of democracy, a decay irrelevant from any political system (i.e., not inherent in democracy) happened already in ancient Athens, and Athenians stooped to the degree of killing Socrates. Our main problem in my opinion, is not a way of governing, but who we are, what our character is. Just a few decades ago we even burned people to death! Unless we see in nazism a peculiar fall of Germany, which is not, as Europeans we have maybe more crucial things to worry about than immediate democracy.