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May 6, 2011, 1:09 PM

"Democracy", a term often used (sometimes loosely) is defined as the free and equal right of every person to participate in a system of government, often practiced by electing representatives of the people by the majority of the people. (Encarta Dictionary). "Democracy is like the experience of life itself - always changing, infinite in its variety, sometimes turbulent and all the more valuable for having been tested for adversity." (Jimmy Carter)           

Recently, I took the liberty of looking deeper into this term which is likely more mentioned than a famous mantra. Every single day in the news, on TV and radio, it is certainly mentioned. To truly understand a concept even one as revolutionary as this one, which breaches divides, one must comprehend its source or inception.


The Greeks gave democracy to the world. Amazing, isn't it? The word itself comes from the Greek words demos, meaning 'the people', and 'kratos', meaning 'rule'. Greek democracy evolved from the 7th century BC and it grew out of the mosaic of independent city-states which then covered Greece.           

Not all the city-states were democratic. Sparta, for example, was ruled by land-owning aristocrats. But those that were, shared more power among people than any earlier civilizations did. The leading democracy was Athens, which overthrew its aristocracy early in the 6th century and under the reformer solon [about 638-559] established a constitution giving supreme power to a citizens’ assembly known as the Ecclesia. The right to vote at the assembly's meetings in the market-place was by no means universal, however. Only free-born male citizens- about 40,000 people out of a total population of between 300,000 and 400,000-had the vote. Women, slaves freed slaves and immigrants were all excluded.

In the city-state of Sparta the elite male citizens- the Spartiate - were groomed for a life of military service. The Spartan existence began at birth when babies were inspected by the elders, and weak infants were put on a mountainside to die of exposure. From the age of seven, boys were trained in the skills of a soldier. They wore no clothes until they reached the age of 12; then they were allowed one mantle a year. They lived in military barracks up to the age of 30 and moved into clubs until they were 60 years of age.

The men were encouraged to marry in order to produce strong and healthy children for the state.  But they were not allowed to spend the whole night with their wives. They had to slip out after dinner and head to their barracks to sleep. Spartan girls also received physical training so they could give birth to sturdy babies. All the Spartiate's work- including farming and trading-was done by 'helots'; serfs who were owned by the state. Hard facts are courtesy of Reader's Digest

Democracy has through the ages progressed in some aspects positively but in other respects as medieval as when it was first introduced and practiced by the Greeks. In some places courtesy of narrow minds, it is unwelcome and fought to the core. Ultimately, it is something that all people are entitled to and which a lot are willing to sacrifice everything to experience.


In life, there needs to be a give and take relationship existing between the people and their leaders as we simply cannot do without the other. Looking around the world presently there is so much political tension and the most important thing being the 'the people' is constantly being overlooked.

All governments are put in place to cater to the needs (mind you I said needs not wants or desires] of the people. The minorities need to be afforded the same opportunities accorded all other.  All people are and should be treated equally.

No matter how many times it has been said it stills needs to be drummed into us until we act upon it. We can all contribute towards the betterment of this country and ultimately the world. Ultimately, democracy is what we the people make it. So let's take control of the fate's wheel and steer our future in the right and positive direction.