Demos (pronounced “day-moss”) is Greek for riffraff. Yes it has many meanings but it was used to refer to the people separate from the wealthy and the ruling council. Here is how the Demos came to rule Athens and Democracy began. So the Greek city of Athens was ruled in a fashion that was close to inclusive but still meritocratic with the wealthy mostly being on top. Then the Peloponnesian War began and the city found its government faltering due to defeats in battle and the people’s fears of disaster. The demos of Athens – the riffaff – and others who had very little direct input on decision-making took to the streets. They threatened violence and some of the leaders fled the city. At this point, whoever desired to lead would make a speech in front of the demos and debate with another contender. Whomever the demos cheered the loudest for would lead the city into the next success or debacle. This was a government by the people, for the people, and literary made up of the people since the demos was there to represent themselves. This is democracy at its best and boy is it chaotic and difficult to sustain because in effect it is tantamount to mob rule. The mobs in Egypt and Libya were termed the people and democracy in action by some world leaders including Obama.
Modern democracy attempted to reach for the essence of this direct involvement of the people through elections. But it is really difficult. However, democracy is not simply elections, it is a system of government for the informed and the involved. The demos in Athens was informed when it came to their power and the defeats the city’s armies had suffered in battle. However, they were not entirely sharp when it came to other affairs of state. They made decisions based on emotions and through their anger they made some mistakes as well. Which brings about the usual questions: Who is there to watch the watchmen? Who oversees the overseer? And that’s when checks and balances come into play.
At best a nation can work out a system that comes close to Athens’ democracy. Because democracy is actual mob rule it is unsustainable and needs elements from other systems of government. To be sure there are only 3 systems of government which waver between good and bad extremes. There is monarchy, aristocracy, and, democracy. When these 3 devolve they become tyranny, oligarchy, and anarchy respectively. At their best they are benevolent dictator, philosophical society ruled by reason, and communism. However, it is clear that as long as human beings remain imperfect beings these systems will always be mixes of each other always tending towards devolving into something terrible. And so there is no true democracy in the world. In fact, there is no democratic country in the world period.
The USA is the closest any nation has come to a democratic state with a few other countries in Europe coming close too. The USA is a representative republic. Let’s start with the elections: People do not elect a president directly, rather they vote by state for a candidate. The popular vote in a state decides who the state is supporting. Then based on the representative votes the state has – the electoral college – the candidates receives a certain amount of the 539 votes that can elect a president. And then we move on to Congress. The nation elects people to go and represent them in a gathering called Congress. These people are called Congressman or Congresswoman. Laws are proposed, decided by vote whether they will move on to the Senate. The Senate is another body of elected representatives who then vote and decide what passes on to the president. The president signs the law into effect or vetos it for a few months. If these bodies fight they go to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is a body of 9 people appointed by a president. When appointed they sit on the bench for life which means they do not rule on cases to keep their seat. They oversee the elected overseers and help make this representative republic stick to the democratic ideals as much as possible. This is the best system that we know in the world that comes close to a democracy.
It is by no means perfect. It can be subject to abuse. Some representatives go to Congress and the Senate and abuse their positions. They get paid by some other groups of people to pass laws and go to wars that the people they are representing do not agree with. Furthermore the country is huge and this system though it functions does not end up communicating with each individual as in Athens. Hence you have citizens who become disengaged due to partial information and blatant misinformation.
Which brings us to this place where democracy in the USA has been deteriorating, even though we know it wasn’t a democracy to begin with. People in the USA have forgotten that a democracy runs on education and information, even a representative one. Many in the USA think that Africa is not a only a country but its full of mud huts and backward people. In fact, may in the USA do not know that New Mexico is one of the 50 states on the union. And recently so many showed their ignorance when it came to the electoral college and the effects of protesting and rejecting election results. Africa has been a good case study when it comes to the effects of challenging election results. Democracies are sustained by information, and education hat is modeled to produce people of character not simply job ready people.
The rest of the world clamors for democracy but doesn’t know what it is or what it takes. America is an example of what it can look like but it falls so short it can be misleading. The Iraq War was protested against by over 10million people, but the government still went ahead with the war and in the process lined up the pockets of military manufacturing companies. And now Hillary Clinton won the election’s popular vote by about 2.9million and now people are suggesting she is the rightful president. In other words 3 million people is enough to decided what the country should be doing but not 10million. Many people protested and occupied all street but no changes were made. In other words this representative republic is prone to abuse and cover ups. And if any nation in the world really wants to be a democracy, they should first note that it is tantamount to mob rule int hat it involves everybody. And just as the founding fathers of the USA devised the American government so can anyone out there do the same for their country.
At its best Democracy can be a great system of government but maybe there is one that is better. Human beings have been known to be innovative and scientifically inclined. We have made aeroplanes and rockets, we have invented touch screens and go pros. Yet we have only managed to devise 3 or 4 systems of governments in the centuries we have been alive. We have not been able to go beyond 3 variations at all. It is a sad state of affairs for a species that claims it has been to the moon and back. Maybe Africa which has so many of its governments in flux could bring about the establishment of some radical and new forms of government. We are yet to see.
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Life is a misery to be endured until we die. Even those with terminal illnesses find times of respite and laugh and enjoy their lives. So too is mortality a terminal illness. We will all die, I for one am glad this is so. But before that day I will define myself, I will not go without giving everything I have got, and I will love with all my heart.
I am proud to be an Afropolitan; a world citizen of African descend. I am called Allen and I love writing, eating, and singing in the shower!
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