Leeds. Ancient Greece was a brutal society in many ways. He was always fighting wars, slavery was a part of his routine and women were treated second-rate. However, in one way the ancient Greeks were more advanced than modern European society and that was their political system. The citizens of ancient Athens created a political system that was far more democratic than present-day Britain or America. Our modern concept of democracy is actually a degradation of the original Greek concept.
Modern democracy is merely representative. This implies that we elect officials to make decisions on our behalf who become members of legislative bodies such as the British Parliament or the US Congress. The ancient Greeks kept the reins of democracy directly in their hands. It was truly “the power of the people”. He specifically took steps to ensure that ruthless, arrogant people could not dominate politics. Recent political developments show that we can learn a lot from the Athenians. Arguably, one of the major problems in modern times is that we are not strict about the people we allow to become leaders. Much research shows that people with negative qualities such as arrogance, ruthlessness, depravity or lack of empathy and conscience are attracted to high-level roles, including politics.
Many US mental health professionals say that Donald Trump suffers from a severe personality disorder that makes him unfit for the role of president. These include the President’s niece, Mary Trump, who is a skilled psychologist. Similar qualities were also seen in the personality of Boris Johnson in Britain. The most recent example of this was his short-tempered, arrogant response to a House of Commons report that he deliberately misled Parliament on several occasions while in office. The ancient Greeks, on the other hand, were acutely aware of the danger of people with unsuitable qualities coming to power. They used to select political officers by casting lots.
This ensured that the common man had representation in the government and was protected against corruption and bribery. The Greeks knew that this would mean the danger of delegating responsibility to incompetent people but they avoided this danger by ensuring that decisions were taken by groups or boards. Different members of the group handled different areas and kept an eye on each other’s decisions. In Greek democracy, political decisions such as whether or not to engage in war, the selection of military leaders, or the nomination of judicial officers were made in huge assemblies where thousands of citizens gathered.
At least 6,000 citizens were required to be present to pass any resolution. People usually voted by raising their hands – sometimes even by showing stones or pieces of broken pottery – and decisions were taken purely on the basis of majority vote. Putting democracy back in the hands of the people: Modern democracies still use lots to select, especially in the judicial service, but these ancient democratic principles can be used more widely to positive effect. In recent years, many political thinkers have recommended the revival of the slip system in government. In this system the members of the legislatures are selected by lot and decisions are taken after consulting experts on the relevant subject.
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