Lots of people assert that Democracy has it’s origins in Greek Culture, specifically in Athens. What they do not make any effort to delineate is the reality that, in Greek Culture, while there indeed was Democracy, it never amounted to more than a Feudal Democracy.
What then is a Feudal Democracy?
In a Feudal Democracy, only those who are rich and influential are electable. Everyone represented by the elected hopes on willingness of the elected to look out for their welfare. When hope breaks down, mob mentality takes over.
The Greek Feudal Democracy was built, in entirety, on hope, not capacity of the people for holding of their representatives accountable. Clearly, Greek Feudal Democracy falls short of the modern definition of Democracy. In this respect, consider that Greek Feudal Democracy does not look that much different from the Feudal Lordship arrangement of ancient England. In England, if the lords were benevolent, the people prospered, the people were happy. If the lords were malicious in their treatments of people, the people were exploited, the people were unhappy. Naturally, the Feudal Lordship arrangement was a microcosm of the relationship between the lords and the English Aristocracy. If the king of England was benevolent, the lords had it easy. If the king of England was malicious, if he demanded that it was his right to sleep with the wives of his lords — and this did happen at least once — the lords had things rather difficult.
A Feudal Democracy is not much different from a Feudal Aristocracy.
In 427 BC, when Athens debated what to do to Mytilene, an ally that had revolted, the recommendation by the leader of Athens at that time, Cleon that everyone in the city be executed only was narrowly defeated, and this not because the punishment was draconian, rather because it could portray Athens in a very bad light to other ally cities.
By 415 BC, the Greek Feudal Democracy had devolved into mob rule, meaning the Feudal Democracy had broken down. Having been instituted about 510 BC, within 75 years, the Greek Feudal Democracy had lost any semblance of effectiveness. The sacking by Athens, of her best General, Alcibiades, would lead to his defection to Sparta, and provide Sparta with genius required for winning the war against Athens. In 406 BC, with mob rule in full swing, eight Generals who fought for Athens were executed for failing to rescue navymen who fell into the sea in course of a naval battle.
It was the Greek Feudal Democracy that, in 399 BC sentenced Socrates to death by poisoning for, atheism and corrupting the young.
A Democracy within which individual lives do not matter is not much of a Democracy.
Upon winning the war against Athens, having not prepared itself intellectually, and having never even approached a Feudal Democracy in it’s political organization, Sparta’s desire for world domination, a desire contrary to any sort of Democracy, would lead to squandering of opportunity, would provide Philip of Macedon with opportunity to become protagonist of Greek culture all over the then known world.
So then, if Athens was no more than a Feudal Democracy, and Sparta sought world domination, with focus on rights of individuals, clearly, Greek Feudal Democracy left much to be desired.
The mere fact that Greek Feudal Democracy was way ahead of arrangements for political governance in either of ancient Iran or India ought not to induce the assertion that it can be characterized as foundation for modern day democracy. A democracy within which representatives could not, in reality be held accountable cannot be deemed foundational for institution of modern day democracy.
The fact that Greek Feudal Democracy did not survive domination of the world by the Roman Empire is telling. Under Rome, the whole world would devolve into a worse form of Democracy — Democracy via Agitation.
In reality, foundations of modern day Democracy are traceable to arrangements that were put in place in context of the Aristocracy that was the Eastern Roman Empire. While peasants answered to Lords, Barons, and Nobles in all of Western Europe (the Western Roman Empire), that is, farmed lands owned by lords, barons or nobles, and were allowed to keep only a fraction of the produce for themselves — a fraction barely sufficient for sustenance — in the Eastern Roman Empire, peasants farmed lands that were owned and protected by the king himself, and kept all of their produce for themselves. All they had to do in exchange, was, as required by the king, be willing to provide a male family member of fighting age for protection of the Empire. Since children of Barons or Nobles also had to fight for protection of the empire, this because they were leaders of sections of the military, peasants were required to do no more than Barons.
When the rights of peasants (commoners) are protected by the king himself, with outcome, much like the baron, the peasant has rights in relation to the king himself, as opposed to through the baron, we arrive at democracy that is implemented in context of an Aristocracy. The definition of Democracy? Government of the people, for the people, by the people. The most important of the three criteria? For the people.
If an alien in human form governed, such that the United States of America arrived at full employment and the best standards of living the world over for 50 years, would you care that he is not of the people?
Is it the form of government that is most important, or the rights that are protected in context of any form of governance?
Democracies that are not anchored on debates around factual knowledge, mathematical truth, and individual rights devolve into no more than mob rule that is anchored around mobs’ favorite rich and influential people.
Ring a Bell?
The reason people keep on attributing modern day democracy to Greek Culture? With a plethora of Greek philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epictetus, Seneca etc., attribution of foundations of modern day Democracy to Greek Culture rings as if it is true, perhaps can be said to sound philosophically sexy.
But if the philosophers were as respected as they seem to be made out to be in context of their association with democracy, how exactly did Socrates arrive at being executed by the same vaunted democracy?
The truth of the matter? Ancient Greeks were no better at appreciating truths they did not want to hear, truths offered by true philosophers, than people of modern times.
It was the Library of the Eastern Roman Empire, not Greek Culture, that made possible your access and mine to writings of Aristotle.
Some ‘associations’ that are pushed intellectually today are nothing more than fables that sound philosophically sexy, that sound good to the ears, that make people feel good. Some other associations are rooted in truth.
Clearly, a society willing to execute it’s philosophers, a society which despised writings of it’s most accomplished philosopher, Aristotle so much, the writings were, at some point, lost, could not simultaneously have implemented teachings of same philosophers for arrival at form of governance evoked by their teachings.
Just because an assertion seems to ring true does not imply it is, in actuality true.