Fitna 4: Brief History of Democracy

Abdelmoumen
4 min readDec 29, 2023

A Deeper Look into Democracy’s Contradictions (Ep2).

As we progress through the Fitna series, I want to explore the prevailing governing system championed by Western civilization as humanity’s greatest achievement: Democracy. This article is the continuity of the previous article Fitna 3: The Paradox of Democracy

Throughout history, several examples highlight paradoxes and failures in democratic systems, and we’ll explore three notable instances: Athens, Rome, and France.

· Athens:

While Ancient Athens is often hailed as a model of democracy, it exhibited paradoxes. Despite its democratic principles, the city-state silenced two of its greatest intellectual figures, Plato, and Socrates. Additionally, women were denied citizenship, and the city-maintained systems of slavery and pederasty.

Drawing a parallel to contemporary democracies, one can ponder how many dissenting voices are suppressed today.

· Rome:

By 27 BCE, Rome’s democratic system underwent a transformation as republicanism gave way to the rule of Augustus. Despite being an emperor, Augustus assumed the role of the tribune of the people, signalling a departure from democratic ideals. This shift pleased the Senate, as it relieved them of certain responsibilities, allowing them to focus on personal interests. Augustus, in an effort to quell opposition, provided endless entertainment, with bread and circuses becoming societal foundations. The Colosseum, with its gladiator events, symbolized this shift.

Consider how many modern democracies have adopted similar strategies, transitioning from democratic principles to authoritarian systems that keep the populace well-fed and entertained.

· France:

In France, the surge of newsprint played a role in the downfall of democracy even before the official inauguration of the country’s constitution. The openness of communication during the 1790 revolution was paradoxically rejected, as highlighted by Jeremy Popkin, who noted, “The same newspaper press that provided the public dimension and the means of communication required by the revolutionary new style of politics was also one of the driving forces behind the derision and conflicts of the revolutionary decade.”

According to Edmund Burke and conservative thinkers, the French Revolution posed a threat to democracy due to the qualifications of the journalists active at the time. In his renowned work “Reflections on the Revolution in France,” Burke emphasized that France progressed not through the influence of distinguished statesmen but rather through what he referred to as “spreaders of false news.”

Burke identified a paradox in the French Revolution, noting that newspapermen, instrumental in its initiation, became involved in official politics despite being ill-suited for the task of political reform. His reflections serve as a cautionary warning about the hazards associated with unleashing democratic forces without the presence of adequate moderating institutions.

In his letter to a Member of the National Assembly. He instructs that there is no peace or liberty without monarchy. “I can never be convinced that the scheme of placing the highest powers of the state in churchwardens and constables, and other such officers, guided by the prudence of litigious attorneys and Jew brokers, and set in action by shameless women of the lowest condition, by keepers of hotels, and brothels by parts apprentices, by clerks shop boys can never be put into any shape that must not be both disgraceful and destructive.”

The French Revolution descended into violence and was succeeded by a propaganda regime under the leadership of an emperor who pretended allegiance to democratic ideals.

Conclusion:

Similar to Plato, Lippmann, Burke, Popkin and numerous other thinkers, knew the paradox of democracy and fear it. As a system that have many weaknesses, that can provide only an open space of communication where the judge is the unqualified citizens who they rely on Rhetoric to choose their leaders who used persuasion animated by media to transmit their ideas.

Indeed, the media, aligned with democratic processes, may lack the necessary qualifications, time, or moral considerations to consistently convey the truth. This further adds to the complexity and challenges associated with democratic systems, where the dissemination of accurate information becomes a critical factor in the decision-making process.

This is democracy viewed through a distinct and unconventional lens, one that diverges from the conventional narratives often promoted by governments.

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Abdelmoumen

Business consultant. Exploring politics, history, and tech through analytical storytelling. https://linktr.ee/abdel_m23