Tuesday, January 18, 2022

968: On Democracy....

For the development of an understanding of democratic freedom, the period between 500 to 400 BC in Greece is important.


Herodotus (484 - 425 BC) wrote his "Histories" in that period, a detailed account of the Greco-Persian Wars.


From it we learn about the democratic self-governing of the Greeks, which he opposed to the situation of the Persian subjects, who were slaves of their ruler.


This gave the concept of freedom a wider meaning than just physical freedom. It got a political dimension. Depending on who is governing people are free or slave.


This is not the only reason why Herodotus is so interesting. Another reason is that he was one of the first in history to reflect on the value of freedom. 


Political freedom, in other words, self-government by the people, was important, he made clear, 


because only under this form of government could people arrange their lives as they wished and enjoy personal security and independence. 


Only under a free government could people control their destiny. Life under a monarchy was simply too precarious to be called free. Even a good king could suddenly turn bad and start abusing his subjects.


He left Herodotus in no doubt that the battle between Greeks and Persians was not just a military conflict. It was a clash of civilizations.


In his view, in the Greco-Persian Wars, the freedom-loving Greeks faced an enemy with a completely different and much more hierarchical worldview. 


It would also have put an end to the Greek way of life. Not only would the Greeks have been subject to foreign domination, a Persian rule, as Herodotus repeatedly pointed out, would have meant the end of popular rule in Greek cities.


Athens was the cradle of this popular rule. Not everyone was happy about that. The wealthy upper class, the elite, or the oligarchs, as the Greeks called them,


 had their doubts and fought against the democratic concept of freedom. 


Democracy, in their view, was in fact not the rule of all, but a form of government that gave excessive power to the poor, who in any society outnumber the rich. 


In other words, in the eyes of the wealthy minority, democracy did not lead to freedom, but to another tyranny: the tyranny of the poor.


This oligarchic critique of freedom can largely be seen as a reaction to the increasing democratization of the Athenian political regime.


 After the reforms of Cleisthenes, the founder of Athenian democracy, about 508 BC, Athens was already one of the most democratic cities on the Greek mainland. 


Under Cleisthenes, for example, civil servants were elected, but in the fifth century that system gave way to appointments by lot, 


which prevented an elite with the right social contacts from dominating elections and monopolizing official functions. 


An exception was made for positions requiring specific skills, such as defense and finance. In addition, Athenian reformers introduced to pay for government positions. 


As a result, political power fell into the hands of ordinary Athenian citizens. ln any decade of the late fifth and fourth centuries BC, between a quarter and a third of citizens over thirty, 


the minimum age at which they qualified for office, have held public office. 


Reforms were also made to allow more ordinary Athenian citizens to participate in popular assemblies, where key political decisions were made. 


In 390 BC. participants received a small wage so that even the poor could afford to attend the meetings that often lasted for days.


And the most striking is, that just like today the rich claim to be "more equal" than the poor and anti-democratic, to paraphrase Orson Wells.


Thank you for your attention again....

Main Sources:
MacMillan The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1995
Annelien de Dijn: "Freedom. An unruly history".  2020

The Discussion    

[13:16] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): Thank you Herman

[13:16] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): sounds like repetition of history to me

[13:16] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): yep

[13:16] herman Bergson: You read my mind Gemma

[13:16] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): the rich afraid some will come and take their money

[13:16] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): and power

[13:16] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!

[13:16] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...

[13:16] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): i read the history

[13:16] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): they want to be in charge

[13:16] herman Bergson: it is astonishing how little homo sapiens has changed if it comes to politics

[13:16] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): sigh

[13:17] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i guess

[13:17] herman Bergson: I'll come with some more prove of how little man has changed through the ages

[13:18] herman Bergson: But what is more important is that the Greeks experimented with popular rule....they were the only ones on the planet who did that in that time

[13:19] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): very different from other cultures then

[13:19] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): yes

[13:19] herman Bergson: around the year 1 A.D under the roman emperor Augustus, Rome ruled the whole Mediterranean region....also Greece

[13:19] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): did other cultures copy the Greek?

[13:20] herman Bergson: To some extend the Romans did, yes....

[13:20] herman Bergson: and most astonishing....WE did....

[13:20] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) whispers: we?

[13:21] herman Bergson: The right to vote....representative politics...from when is it...1913?

[13:21] herman Bergson: The first voting rights?

[13:21] herman Bergson: 1903?

[13:21] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): woman much later

[13:21] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) whispers: none before that?

[13:21] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): seems a long time

[[13:21] herman Bergson: Only men....1914 women too in England...TheNetherlands...I guess it was 1923

[13:22] herman Bergson: Democracy was ruled out since the roman empire

[13:22] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): women in Rome were very independent tho

[13:22] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): and had some power

[13:22] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): hey oola

[13:23] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hi oola

[13:23] bergfrau Apfelbaum: hi Oola:-)

[13:23] herman Bergson: It returned when politicians...that is...certain classes in society got scared of Marxism 1848....the Russian Revolution 1914

[13:23] oola Neruda: sorry

[13:23] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ah

[13:23] oola Neruda: duhhh

[13:23] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): hallo oola

[13:23] herman Bergson: Then the elite, the ruling class began to think about giving the people more rights

[13:24] herman Bergson: it is in fact an amazing story with respect to freedom and democracy

[13:25] herman Bergson: And in the US they try to kill it again....

[13:25] herman Bergson: Hello oola :-)

[13:25] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): sigh yes

[13:25] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hmm indeed!

[13:25] herman Bergson: I heard a weird example...

[13:26] herman Bergson: Texas Houston Count....ONE dropbox...4 million inhabitants....some rural county 200+ inhabitants ONE dropbox

[13:26] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): that is what they want yes

[13:27] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): noneed to have a dropbox, we can vote by computer these days

[13:27] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): we cannot

[13:27] herman Bergson: So....the freedom WE know based on how we are governed is on the one hand old and invented by the Greeks and on the other hand very young

[13:27] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): nto from home

[13:29] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): you finally have a new government now i read

[13:29] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) whispers: is a good one?

[13:29] herman Bergson: Yes we have an new old government :-)

[13:29] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): time will tell Gemma

[13:29] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!

[13:29] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...

[13:29] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): yes

[13:29] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): figured that

[13:29] herman Bergson: No...it still is a neo liberal government.....

[13:29] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ok

[13:30] herman Bergson: It is not that bad...but I don't agree with their priorities...but that is politics :-)

[13:31] herman Bergson: But we still life in freedom with all rights to vote....

[13:31] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): right

[13:31] herman Bergson: Unfortunately the liberals have the largest party, obtained by a fair election :-)

[13:32] herman Bergson: So those who vote still liberal has to be converted :-)

[13:32] herman Bergson: But our liberals aren't that anti-social like US Reps

[13:32] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): oyes

[13:33] herman Bergson: They still have an eye and ear for the weak in our society....but that eye and ear are too small in my opinion :-)

[13:33] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): everywhere i think

[13:34] herman Bergson: Think so too....

[13:34] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): the rich rule the world

[13:35] herman Bergson: We'll see more of this poor / rich people controversy indeed Beertje

[13:35] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): tho i think some countries have a policy of a minimum living pay for those who need it'

[13:35] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): some of teh north Euro countries?

[13:35] herman Bergson: Well the main problem of all societies is to find a way to get to fair distribution of resources

[13:36] herman Bergson: Yes we have...

[13:36] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): thinks that will take another century

[13:36] herman Bergson: When you can't make a living there is social wellfare for everyone

[13:36] herman Bergson: It isn;t much but reasonable

[13:37] herman Bergson: it is not below the poverty limit

[13:37] herman Bergson: ok..let me end this lecture with some fun......

[13:37] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ohoh

[13:37] herman Bergson: Take your time to enjoy it...to me it is breathtaking....

[13:38] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): you are going to sing for us?

[13:38] herman Bergson: I put is on my FB page made it myself :-))

[13:38] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!

[13:38] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...

[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): or play cello?

[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):

[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ur great on that

[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):

[13:38] herman Bergson: Would be better indeed Bejiita

[13:38] herman Bergson: https://www.facebook.com/herman.bersgon/videos/450510810130152

[13:38] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): sing? he does not even talk here

[13:39] herman Bergson: lol

[13:43] herman Bergson: If you  have watch already a part of this clip.... I was flabbergasted...

[13:44] herman Bergson: Fraud in plain view

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