Ancient greeks about today’s democratic Russia

On the other hand, we are facing obvious contradiction, for the term “democracy” should be applied to a form of government only in case if people actually use the right to participate in political decision making and in administering of public and state affairs. If broad socio-economic and political rights of citizens are executed as established by legislation, if declared rights and freedoms, stable rightfulness, law and order etc. are guaranteed by the government. In our country there is something different, rather an anti-democratic or pseudo-democratic formation. In the West they consider us an international shabby hobo, and even in the East they turn away from us with arrogance. Many of our misfortunes are caused by lack of respect by state leaders to their own people, who would be officially acknowledged a bearer of sovereignty and the only source of authority in terms of a democratic political regime, as it is known.

Thus major part of ordinary citizens living in Russia take democracy as it is with a big grain of salt, because judging by the example of the last decades the “democracy” formed in our country instead of the rule of law and virtue in society, and government brought the decline of moral, depravation of people, leadership of various human whatnot, vulgar herd, demagogues and similar people aiming at self-enrichment, satisfaction of their malign desires which have nothing to do with the common welfare and the supreme good.

In this regard it is interesting to look into the depth of centuries at considerations of a world-famous Ancient Greek philosopher Plato who lived several hundred years before Nativity of Christ and even then predicted, in a way, political regime formed in our contemporary Russia.

Thus, when Plato describes four types of perverted forms of government he names as one of them democracy built on oligarchy – “form of government fraught with a number of vices” (Plato, Collected Works, M., 1994, V. 3 Page 328). Plato rallies democracy being such form of government at which law cannot rule, and ruling belongs rather to disorder and anarchy. “In a democratic state there is no need to take part in ruling, even though you are capable of it; neither it is necessary to obey if you don’t wish, nor war when others do, nor comply with peace terms together with others if you are not longing for peace. And again, if there is a law which forbids you to rule or judge, you still can rule and judge, if it comes to your mind”.

In accordance with substance and matter of democratic formation generally recognized virtues are formed, or rather, transformed: “Impudence, dissoluteness, lechery and bestiality will be wreathed and praised in milder expressions: impudence they will call enlightenment, dissoluteness – liberty, lechery – magnificence, and bestiality – bravery”. Modesty will be called stupidity, reason – lack of bravery and so on.

According to Plato, democracy will breed a “democratic person” complying with its needs, tasks and requirements – a mindless human being, adrift and anchorless, a slave to own passions, desires, faults and prejudices.

“From day to day such person lives indulging every desire which comes to him: he either gets drunk to the sounds of flute, or suddenly drinks only water and exhausts himself, or takes to athletic exercises; or it happens that laziness gets on him, and he doesn’t feel wish for anything. Sometimes he spends time in studies which seem philosophical. He often takes interest in public affairs: all of a sudden he jumps up and says and does something accidental. He gets carried away with military people – and he is pulled there, and if he gets carried away with dealers – than to that side. There is no order in his life, necessity does not rule it; he calls this life pleasant, liberal and blissful as it is and makes use of it all the time”.

In a democratic state, according to Plato, freedom has the highest value, but the perception of it is quite peculiar: citizens obedient to authorities are mixed with dirt, but rulers who look like subordinates and subordinates who look like rulers are honored; father becomes like son and fears his sons, while sons behave like father and lose fear of parents; a teacher is afraid of pupils, and pupils defy their teachers and mentors; everything which is involuntary makes people indignant as something unacceptable, and they end up stopping to consider written and unwritten laws; excessive freedom turns into slavery: “This is the form of government… which brings about tyranny” (Plato. Collection of Works, M., 1994. V.3 Page 352).

If we come out of judgments of ancient thinkers about democracy, then hardly will anyone have a wish to move towards democratic form of government.

Aristotle, who called a human “a political creature” predicted long life to democracy: “Evil passion of cupidity of rulers which constantly made them lessen their own number involved strengthening of population so that it descended upon them and established democracy. And since the states increased in territory it now seems unlikely that another form of government but democracy could appear.” (Aristotle. Works, M., 1984. V.4 P. 479). And it turned out that Aristotle was right: since that time (since IV BC, in Hellenistic epoch) democracy became neither stronger nor weaker, but from then it has never disappeared from the horizon of political life of peoples.

If we want to create a normal democratic form of government in our country, the government itself should learn true democracy, and then teach it to the people, regenerate democratic ideals as possible, purify morals, and gradually attract citizens to governing matters. All government officials today need to discern good from evil, enlightenment from superstition, culture from platitude, freedom from slavery, virtue from amorality and cynicism, patriotism from chauvinism and racism, holiness from sin, greatness from moral turpetude and nonentity, nobility from gross-out and insolence, spirituality from obscurantism and ignorance. And the main thing, finally, is to start loving people. And we ourselves would speak with more reason if we did not despise our own people – the base of a democratic state.

One wants to believe that the upcoming democratic reforms and transitions in Russia will be accompanied by relevant legislative, moral and cultural transformations. Otherwise these reforms will either be ineffective or appear effective but will soon be ruined the same way as Russia itself as a democratic state.

Vadim Venediktov


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