Society today rests on a fundament of principles. World views. Things which we believe to be absolutely true and eternally valid. One of those – in some ways by far the most important of them – is the idea of democracy.
Democracy (literally: rule by the people) is the glue which links all of the various elements of our society together. It is made possible by the essential idea that all people are born equal and that the opinion – the vote – of any one of us is worth the same as that of any other. From this springs the concept of free speech – and indeed the belief that all people should be free and that slavery, in any form, is an abomination against nature. And this again gives nourishment and power to a rich diversity of thoughts, including the emancipation of women, social welfare, and even the Internet.
But democracy isn’t by any means the “natural state of things” for a human society. It is, in fact, an extremely rare occurrence, which has only ever existed in its present shape for a mere one hundred years or so. Let that thought rest for a moment: a single century of universal democracy out of more than five thousand years of recorded history…
To say that democracy is rare is an understatement. It is not rare. It is unique.
Why is that?
It is unique because the circumstances where it can be established are very specific and uncommon. And, once it has been created, it is fragile and needs constant care and attention – lest it dies.
The problem lies in the radical nature of democracy. It is government by the people, not by the elite. So why should the current elite allow that to happen at all? Under what circumstances would the ruling class of any country voluntarily step down and let itself be reft of power, pushed aside and replaced?
It can only be as a last resort. To be considered only in the direst and most threatening of circumstances. Something like, say, when the common people of a neighbouring country imprisons their entire aristocracy – men, women, and children – and begins feeding them to the guillotine…
Yes, that would probably do it…
It was neither by chance nor coincidence that the idea of democracy spread rapidly throughout virtually all of Europe in the years following the French Revolution. It was, rather literally, an idea born in blood. The sudden gush of warm blood from the severed heads of 40.000 French aristocrats.
The news of that calamity, brutally unexpected and totally without precedence, could neither be repressed nor ignored. It forced the ruling classes of Europe to consider extreme measures to safeguard their own safety. For France was not, by any means, the only place where revolutionary ideas were finding fertile soil.
They tried to quench the revolution in its own blood. And failed, miserably. That left just one option.
If you can’t beat them, join them…
The centuries to follow were rife with war and tension, blood ran in long rivers, and the smoke from gunpowder and cannon clouded the hills and forests of Europe.
But the French Revolution did not repeat.
Democracy, tightly controlled and screened though it was, began to bloom.
– Northern Dragon © 2019. All rights reserved.