What is Democracy: History of Democratic Practice

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Most of the governments in the world affirm that their country is a democracy. But let’s have a little bit of memory and check ​ 1984, by George Orwell ​ a science-fiction novel in which the government removes words from the dictionary in order to control us. Just think for a second: If people don’t know the word ​ war ​ , they are not going to use it when there is an actual war, they are just going to say there is ​ less peace ​ . They would call the problem with the name of the solution. The same thing has happened with democracy throughout history. The real meaning has disappeared. We do not live in democracy. But, have we ever? If you ask someone, he will say we do live in a democracy that took a lot of effort to achieve. A lot of people think that suffrage was the conquer of society, that the power resides on the people, that politicians are prepared people, that the elected government is going to execute all the promises in the electoral manifiesto and that our system comes from Athens. 

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But if you go deeper, they will admit that politicians are not always prepared people and that we do not have a way to throw them out if we don’t like what they are doing. If you ask them about where power resides, they say that the power resides on the people but at the same time, they say that giving the power to the people would be a madness and that not everyone is prepared for taking decisions. Suffrage was the perfect technique for making the people think they were living in a democracy. People thought that just the fact of choosing one option made them have a voice. However, just listening to what Tocqueville said: “I’m not afraid of the suffrage: people will vote for what their are told”, we can draw the conclusion that if people have to choose between some options, the wealthy people will make sure that what the option they want will be the one most visible. 

More and more people were starting to demand the right to vote, and this ended up in the famous universal suffrage. We “achieved” the universal suffrage but everything was functioning through a system of representatives. As Rousseau said, for a law, to be a law, everyone needs to participate in its approval, whereas if it is approved by representatives, they can do whatever they want while we the people don’t have any power to stop it. This is an example of how representatives are actually bosses. Let’s think on when only selected groups of people could vote. As you can imagine, most of this privileged people personally knew the political candidates. But what happened when a lot of people could vote? This is the moment when political parties were born just for classifying people by their ideologies and opinions. The electoral manifiesto helped political parties to attract people with promises that later they were not going to make. It doesn’t matter that they don’t do what they promised because we, as citizens, do not have any mechanism to make our voice be heard. We can draw the conclusion that voting a party doesn’t guarantee us they are going to make anything they promised. Before political parties existed, the parliament was a place where people shared ideas and listened to each other proposal. But when political parties appeared, the capability of debating and listening disappeared. 

The parliament became a matter of power. Political parties were always going to be against what the other party says, even before of studying the proposal. Just turn on the TV and look at a political commercial. They do not have proposal or new ideas. They just want you to hate the other party telling you how bad they are and addressing them was extreme ideology groups. This is call polarization. Political parties are a way of diving society. They go against dialogue and reasoning precluding any possibility of consensus or agreement. I have looked for the word democracy in the US Constitution and in the French Revolution Constitution, and I haven’t found any result at all. The closest thing I have found are a couple of quotes by John Adams, one of the founding fathers of the United States, the oldest representative governments. He said that “Democracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy” and that “Democracy never lasts long”. He wasn’t the only one, because the fourth President of the United States, James Madison, said that “Pure democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property”. If the term democracy existed and was used why wasn’t it mentioned in the US Constitution? Remember 1984 by George Orwell and what happens when we call the problem with the name of the solution. So now, does the real democracy exist? 

The real concept of democracy existed and was invented and used by Athens in 500 BC. The people in Athens were tired of kings and believed that the power should resemble on the people. They had a similar system based on representatives elected by the people. However, their power pyramid was upside down. Imagine if, instead of the representatives proposing and passing laws, the representatives proposed laws and only the people decide whether or not it was approved. The pyramid of power was actually pointing to the people. This way, the people actually had power and voice through assemblies where they gathered and represent themselves. No one could be representing them because they had an actual way of being heard. However, Athens thought that electing the representatives wasn’t a good idea because they could do things without asking the assembly. The solution was easy: not electing the representatives. Most of public servants were not elected, they were randomly selected after going through tests. This way, “representatives” could not excuse their actions with “I have been elected” because no one voted for them. The fact of having them go through tests and examinations helped the people made sure that public servants were highly prepared people, not like politicians in our current representative government. In Greek democracy, there were not political parties because people didn’t need them. 

They didn’t divide the people because no one had to vote for a party or for a representative. They just voted for passing or proposing laws. Assemblies were the actual conquer of the people. Is it a madness to give the power to the people? Maybe it is not. As you can see, there is a crucial piece for this system to work: participation. Real democracy only works when people participate and get involved in it. Nowadays, a lot of people do not believe or do not care about politics. I don’t blame them. Our current system doesn’t hear us. If they lived in Athens 500 BC, they would have cared because they would have seen how their decisions were constantly heard and important. Now It’s easy to understand why the people that created our governments said that democracy is the opposite to our current political system. Is totally the opposite: power in the people where they could change things, or power in the representatives where they didn’t have to listen to the people. It’s the moment to start talking about this. It’s the moment to start talking and investigating who killed democracy. It’s the moment to show people what actual democracy is.

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