The Golden Age of Athens – My Idea of a Perfect Political System


tower of the winds athensGovernment officials appointed by lot? EVERY citizen having control over EVERY political decision taken in the country? All citizens of the state meeting once a week for a general Assembly?

This is how fifth-century Athens, world’s first known democracy, used to be. This period of time is also called the Golden Age of Athens, since it was marked by an accelerated development of science, art, trade and other spheres of public life. But, most interestingly, Ancient Athens was a most ingenious political system that has ever exited – and my ideal for a perfect government system.

At that time, Athens was a “polis”, that is a city AND a state at the same time. All free citizens of the polis had an equal right to participate in the political life of the state. All important decisions were discussed and voted upon at the Assembly, which took place about 40 times a year. Every citizen, regardless of his income, could speak at the Assembly and express his point of view.

Most government officials were elected by casting back and white beans into the box and picking one at random. Well, of course, some  part of the population did not have the right to vote at that time. But my idea of a perfect democracy presupposes that every person living on a certain territory (born or naturalized there) can vote.

All in all, there were about 6000 citizens who had political rights in Athens at that time. That was a very big part of the whole population. At least one person in the family could attend the Assembly and had substantial power over the life of the entire polis. How is this different from our present-day notion of “democracy”?

I’m sorry, but when one person (or a very small group of people) makes decisions that concern MILLIONS of people – this is nonsense. And they tell you that the only way you can agree or disagree is by coming to the elections. And choosing one of the candidates. Out of the 3 or 4 available.

But what if I want to disagree right now, with this very decision? It doesn’t work this way. Thus, it’s only an illusion that we are in control. We are much less in control that the Ancient Greeks who lived in the 5th century BC!

What’s interesting is that you can’t question the rule of the law nowadays. Even if this law was introduced by the same mortal human being just like yourself and imposed on you. The law is the law and they teach us to respect it. And, what’s interesting, very few people are ready to shake off this imposed blind belief that the law is just, that it is fair and cannot be questioned. Almost nobody questions it.

Please, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we should question the laws that COINCIDE with Universal laws like – “do not kill”, “do not steal”. Oh, by the way, “do not tell lies” is also a Universal law. Why not incorporate it into our official legislation and penalize liars?

The pros of the Ancient Athens-type of political system:
– People are not likely to make decisions that harm their family and neighbors
– People are not likely to make decisions that harm the majority of the population
– Every citizen feels in control of his life
– No taxes spent on “executives” who often make really evil decision
– The society progresses faster, because more people take part in the brainstorming
– Because the “rulers” are not obsessed with snatching and holding on to their power, they finally have time to think about something else.

As you see, the benefits are many and far-reaching. So, what prevents people from having this kind of political system? Well, there are many reasons. People are still quite barbaric in their nature, and, unless all states in the world are smaller communities with nearly equal military potentials, wars will be inevitable. It will be like this until we overcome our greed for material trophies and the desire to control other people.

Another reason why we cannot switch to the Ancient Greece-type of democracy is because most people just do not even think about it. Ever. They are very busy struggling  for survival in the corrupt, unhappy society we are today. Please, don’t tell me you are happy and everything is cool. Let’s talk when you are 75.

Another reason is that most people understand – the present government will not let go of their power just like that. In fact, they are addicted to it (did you know power was addictive?). And they will use even the most extreme means to preserve it.

However! There is always a way out. The way out that I see is to create a positive, emotionally charged image of the new state (you can read this post on the power of group meditation) and make the majority of people change their perspective on it. Well, a lot of people would be required for that, but it’s perfectly doable.

The idea is to make those in power see that they are wrong and feel the need to change things for the better. Only then there will be change!

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2 Comments

  1. Lets , take this idea to our leaders and hope they will learn something out of it.

  2. I really like this story, great writing, interesting. I’m still thinking about it!

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