Downloading Democracy

History tells us that democracy should not be taken lightly. Without the proper cultural foundations, in can be a messy business indeed.

Issue: Winter 2004-2005

The common addiction to general words or concepts tends toproduce mind blockers or reality distorters. As Clive James has putit, "verbal cleverness, unless its limitations are clearly andcontinuously seen by its possessors, is an unbeatable way ofblurring reality until nothing can be seen at all."

"Democracy" is high on the list of blur-begetters--not a weaselword so much as a huge rampaging Kodiak bear of a word. Theconception is, of course, Greek. It was a matter of the free voteby the public (though confined to males and citizens). Pericles,praising the Athenian system, is especially proud of the fact thatpolicies are argued about and debated before being put into action,thus, he says, "avoiding the worst thing in the world", which is torush into action without considering the consequences. And, indeed,the Athenians did discuss and debate, often sensibly.

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