According to my long ago schooling the word democracy comes from two Greek words; demos, the people and kratia, power, rule, therefore the rule of the people. The Classical Age of Greece, two thousand five hundred years ago, regarded as the foundation of European civilisation. Greece along with most of Europe is again facing turbulent times. What are the dangers that face democratic systems in the twenty-first century? Do the people we vote for actually rule as our representatives or is there some powerful force hidden behind closed doors?
Democracy is not something which arrived fully formed like an eighteen year old walking into the polling station. No it was born after an extremely protracted struggle lasting in the United Kingdom some eight hundred years, Magna Carta and all that. The one who was ruling, King John had every intention of keeping it like that, even after he put his seal on the Great Charter. Like most rulers he needed money, taxes, if you give me the money I’ll give you some of the power. The nobles agreed and another Magna Carta was sealed. Its home is in Durham Cathedral, home of the Prince Bishops. The Barons were of course all men. The people were not consulted nor did anything change for them.
Women were excluded from any form of public life with three remarkable exceptions; Queen Elizabeth 1, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth 11. The first two were very interested in power, Victoria became Empress of India. There were moves towards democracy in Victoria’s reign in the Great Reform Act of 1832 although most working men were excluded and all women. Then the suffragettes decided to challenge the accepted orthodoxy and in 1928 women were granted the vote on the same terms as men. Almost a hundred years of organised activity, time spent in prison, hunger strikes and the horrors of forced feeding. A horrible history indeed.
Don’t relax in front of the TV, the story is not over. Behind closed doors there is a power waiting to overturn democracy, the men with the money, the power behind the politicians, you know who I mean. The word begins with B——. they overwhelm us with triviality and misinformation and as one young woman interviewed on TV said ‘I’m not really interested!!! I almost exploded, politics is everyones business or we are on the road to tyranny.