The year is 510 BC, the sun rises upon the exquisite city of Athens but within its magnificent architecture resides a dispirited public. “The common people must have more power,” is the recurrent consensus among its public, whose subjugation under its autocratic kings has forced them into turning an anomalistic idea into an actuality. To their dismay, only a few regions of Greece would embrace such an atypical instrument of governance.
The idea of democracy had migrated across the Mediterranean Sea, over to a disgruntled region whose willingness to practice such an idea would make them the first Republic in history to do so.
Equipped by the right to vote (only men) and hereby elect their senators, the people naturally practiced power over the vast Senate of the Roman Empire, who would choose the consul in turn. However, the Senate’s toga laden occupants had little concern for the dire state of the empire. The Senate’s primary function consisted only of strengthening the status quo of the rich and elite Patricians who lived off of the poor.
Despite being an autocratic leader, the people provided Julius Caesar with a hero’s mask who made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. which is to have the Senate under his thumb and squash any opposition in the name of serving the Roman people.
Unsettled by the decline in public support, the senators were quickly reminded of their onus as guardians of democracy. Their solution would forever live in the pages of history. The stabbing of an exalted dictator, twenty-three times, on a public holiday might’ve foreshadowed the creation of a power vacuum...... if only they could’ve foreseen such tragedy.
His co-consul and part time womaniser, Marc Antony bore nearly all the traits necessary for him to serve as a heroic successor to Caesar, yet his failures would reduce him to “a drunkard married to Cleopatra”.
Fast forward to 2018, elements from Rome’s drama like politics are mirrored inside Trump’s circus White House, where he uses nugatory tweets to deploy official policies and engage in petty playground fights. In spite of the majority of the nation dismissing any prospective autocratic government (if there will be any), his tombstone will forever hold the title of “Mr. President”.
However, the United States isn’t the only nation whose current state of affairs are reminiscent of Rome’s, figures ranging from Venezuela’s Maduro to Russia’s Tsar Vladimir Putin I, have all been playing the roles of “Dictators in a Democracy”. India, Turkey and Brazil were nations that once had the prospect to call themselves as “truthfully 100% democratic”. Needless to say, their persistent flirting with dictatorship has removed any such aspirations.
Despite the number of democracies that have failed, democracy is still the most attempted manner of governance. The latest report produced by “The Economist” sings a similar tune. According to the report, 89 out of the 167 countries in the rankings are considered as “flawed democracies”, “hybrid regimes” whereas the rest are “authoritarian regimes”. Unbeknownst to the majority, authoritarianism is still concealed behind the disguise of a “Democratic Republic” (e.g. Peoples Republic of China or Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, also known as North Korea).
The fallout of the Great War brought a homogeneous tragedy upon democracy, as countries classified as “Democratic” nearly doubled; nonetheless its ineffectiveness rendered its exponential growth redundant.
Herr Fuhrer (Hitler) and IL Duce’s (Mussolini) fascist governments had eventually usurped and regained the trusts of its subjects by defying the Treaty of Versailles and had stood up to a similar tyrant who went by the name Winston Churchill.
Achievements or no achievements, the fascist trinity would later face defeat at the battlefield, in a show of success for Governments faithfully elected “by the people, for the people”.
That quote would be synonymous with democracy itself the same way “Internationale” is related to revolutionaries with its marching chorus.
A fair share of irony should be attributed to it as the quote originated from a perilous time itself. Entangled in a civil war, the people witnessed Abraham Lincoln’s immortal words at Washington. Their representatives were stalling “the greatest President’s” anti-slavery amendment, supposedly extending the civil war.
Throughout history’s rises and fall, many heroes have been promised; some are actual heroes while some are tyrants. The quote “Show me a hero” would be incomplete unless suffixed with “I’ll show you a tragedy”, which concisely summarises a huge portion of democracy’s history and its inevitable retreats.
The writer is studying A-levels at UCL and has an interest in history and current affairs.