I finally opened my eyes. While I am trying to find out where I am, a person dressed in white is coming towards me. He says that surgery was successful, that I was sleeping for three days and that I am going to recover soon. I realize that I am in a hospital right now, lying in a cozy bed and feeling so weak that I even can’t raise my hand. I am trying to remember how I ended up here, while a crowd is shouting out my name. Some memories come to my mind. War!
Until war started, I was a simple worker at my uncle’s blacksmith, making swords and arrows for our soldiers. You know, I was not able to join the army, because I was missing an arm, so I couldn’t carry both a weapon and a sword. People often made fun of me and called me names, like “The missing arm” or “The broken arrow”. This was reasonable and normal to them. Well, until the revolution began.
Our system of government was oligarchy. Just these few people, oligarchs, were able to command a huge number of citizens. Most of us, the simple people, were starving and were so poor that we could barely buy a loaf of bread to eat. Thus, one day, I took the initiative and visited oligarchs’ palace to have a discussion with them. There, I suggested my wonderful idea, which was quite innovating and, in my opinion, totally fair, a whole new system of government and that was democracy.
I told them that it was very important to live in democracy, as it was a one hundred percent Greek word, that came from demos (people) and kratos (power, rule) and that people would no longer have to die of starvation. I analyzed vote process and announced that people would have the right to vote their own governors. Many would rule and people would be more productive. Our city would get so rich, that soon other citizens would come and visit us and trade would rise again. I also explained them the majority rule and promised them that we would no longer have to fight one another. We would eventually live in peace and the money spent on weapons, would be used to build schools, hospitals, parks and science laboratories.
However, despite my long-hour talking, they seemed to dislike the fact that I spoke without having any authority. They said I was talking about a fake and unreliable system and that not even in my dreams could this be “the future of the world”.
After they kicked me out of palace, I decided to quit my job and started to spread out my idea. While in the beginning people were laughing and didn’t even listen to a poor blacksmith, soon my ideas were being spread like fire by word of mouth. I knew that people were searching for equality and the right to education, so I was everyday explaining to them that only by democracy they would not starve, that they would not be obliged to follow anyone who they disliked, that they would be free to believe in their own Gods, that black, deaf, blind and disabled people would have the same rights as the rest of us and that their children would no longer have to go to war. I did what it took to make people understand their power of unity and that this constitutes the key of their achieving happiness and satisfaction in life.
Eventually, after five whole years and having risked to die a lot of times, most people started to revolt. They started to call out my name and shout out different slogans about the importance of living in democracy, while they disapproved oligarchy, tyranny and aristocracy. Their willingness to rule the city did worry the oligarchs, to whom they threw tomatoes and whatever they could find. These moments were about to make the poor rule. But nothing happened only by sayings.
A civil war broke out and most of us forced to abandon the city. Many soldiers were hanged for desertion and lots of women and children were imprisoned. In that bloody scene of civil war, I tried to save a man from getting beheaded. There, a spear penetrated me. Everything went black and that is all I remember.
Right now, people are shouting my name and I am about to stand up and salute them.
“People of this democratic land, the civil war is over. At last, we will no longer starve. We will no longer make wars and we will be free. We will be civilized, respectful and trustworthy. Everyone will have a share in everything. We should always remember the importance of living in democracy. We will be free to express our opinions and ideas, we will respect the majority’s opinions, we will solve our problems not by wars, but by dialogue, we will live as equals and egalitarians, we will respect and trust one another, we will respect and protect the right of believing in any religion, we will take care to have equal education, protect our human rights and believe in a more peaceful coexistence. To maintain these privileges, we must cooperate, respect the majority rule, participate in elections, respect our laws, criticize authorities, make dialogue the one and only form of solving problems, be responsible, stop being racists and fanatics and finally live in peace. I am Democrates and I believe in democracy.”
After that moment, more and more people chose to live in democracy and most of the cities adapted this whole new and fair system of government. Justice, respect, freedom and equality are some of democracy’s advantages against other systems.
The above imaginary story is my opinion on whether is important to live in democracy or not. In fact, the term democracy was invented by Cleisthenes, right after Peisistratus’ tyranny (507 - 508 BC). By all means, living in democracy does not guarantee that there will be no wars or incorruption. Although democracy provides society with the majority rule, which can often lead to demagogues, as the few will always have to follow the majority rule and this becomes unfair and comes in contradiction to democracy’s principles, democracy is the most steady, fair and responsible system of government that every society has to adapt. I would like to end my essay with a saying of one of the greatest ancient Greek philosophers, Aristotle.
“Wherever men rule by reason of their wealth, that is oligarchy and where the poor rule, that is democracy.”
* Stefanos Karampalis
* Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki
* Graduate student