“Democracy” is uniquely English. Both the word and the notion it denotes. Examining this is not “nitpicking” – it is of vital importance to our future.
The French, the Spaniards, the Russians, the Italians, the Germans, and most of the rest call it “Demokratia”, albeit with spelling variations.
Demokratia the notion may have hues but is universally tightly associated with the supreme human right to be free. A corollary to this is that “people govern themselves” and defend themselves from being governed by “others”. For otherwise free cannot be.
The Brits are woefully different in this. Somehow, I do not know how, but I can see why,
the Brits departed from the “norm” and screwed up Demokratia, a little the word, seriously the notion. The British Establishment feared that it could not survive denying Demokratia to the people and decided to fake democratization of the society. They started the deception by tweeking the word from Demokratia to Democracy.
Thus Democracy became the name for the system we are governed under, and which is different from the system we are conditioned to hallucinate we are governed by. I will use Democracy to denote what we have, and leave Demokratia to denote the real thing.
There is an ever popular description of Democracy Churchill uttered in 1947. He faked humility to assert that democracy is not good, except for all other systems of governance ever tried being worse. It is a trap. Churchill spread fear, he induced the scare of change – Since all systems are worse than Democracy, any change would result in a worse system.
The adage is copiously used ever since to “explain” the failings of Democracy. With the weight of his provenance, Churchill counsels resistance to change and urges serving the Lords forever and defending the status quo for equally as long.
In this we have the lion-hearted warrior meekly “surrendering” to the “lesser evil”. A sad sight as it may be, it is worse than that. If St.George is scared of the dragon, nobody can save the maiden, so let’s sit back and watch the beast having a meal.
Remarkable is that Churchill, having discovered that Democracy is the “less bad” system, did not to lead us in to battle for Democratia. Instead, he unfurled the white flag of surrender he had hidden in his backpack and leads us, generation after generation, to surrender to “less bad”. We need dump that deafeatist adage and go for the “best possible”.
Churchill is silent about the systems he asserts were “tried”, but were really imposed by despots and their courts. Equally conveniently, he “forgets” to compare the Democracy he was peddling to Demokratia, the system that gave the world the “Golden Age of Athens that produced Western Civilization”. These because the Churchill objective was to have some of the glory of Demokratia rub onto Democracy.
At the time he uttered this nonsense, Churchill was bitter because the “Allies” did not continue WWII to destroy Communism, which is what Churchill wanted to do. His Democracy speech was meant to fuel the Cold War and in this it served.
Demokratia was implemented in the Athens of Socrates and Pericles. Thereafter, it was tried in Rome and it worked too, but Rome “fell” before the system matured, before outgrowing gladiators slaughtering lions in the Coliseum for the fun of it.
After Rome, democratia has been pursued by “revolutions”. The French, American, Russian, and Chinese revolutions. Problem is that revolutions, besides being messy, are essentially power confrontations. Successful revolutionaries have tasted power, which corrupts whom has it. Hence “Le plus ca change le plus ca reste la meme”.
There is no known way to democratize a society overnight. Solon, who upgraded Dracon’s code (Draconian law), remarked on the importance of “un-learning” the rubbish from past epochs implanted into our heads by our parents’ generation. Socrates died for that too.
The Greeks suffered the Dark Ages and 400 years of Ottoman occupation. Now, 200 years later, the remnants of enslavement remain vivid. Look too, at the World now, seven eons after Dante began unravelling the Dark Ages, look at us Canadians spending like drunken sailors some $100M to have the Pope visit to bless us all, except of course, for those who sleep in the streets.
Yes, “Democracy” is not Demokratia. To avoid being biased like I accuse Churchill of being, I will let OED, the British foremost lexicon tell us what Democracy is
“democracy > a form of government in which the people have a voice in the exercise of power, typically through elected representatives.”
For the other side of the story I will let Larousse the French counterpart to OED tell us what Democratia is
“democratie > Gouvernement oú le peuple exerce la sovereintè”
Mindful of “copyright” issues, Larousse credits Pericles, which is fair.
Yes, in a Democracy the Monarch and the Lords, (temporal and eternal), and Justin Trudeau (under any name), may gracefully “allow” us, the populace, to “have a voice” (how generous of them!). And then they go ahead and screw the society.
This is precisely what for Democratia was invented to prevent.