O Modelo Democrático Ateniense que moldou o mundo tal como o conhecemos.14 Janeiro, 2007
Let me say at the outset that there is another technical word for this democratic theory and it is buncombe. I knew it was buncombe by the time I was old enough to vote, which back in the good old days was 21. How? I had taken no classes in political science or philosophy and had studied only the potted American history they teach in high schools and universities, though the one semester I had taken on the French Revolution might have scared the democratic illusions out of any normal human being. No, for the previous 5 years I had been doing little else in school than read Greek and Latin, but that was enough to tell me that democracy, as used in modern America, was simply a propaganda term for a certain kind of European and American regime that was better than many alternatives, such as Nazism and Communism, but perhaps not as good as the system set up in 1787 in Philadelphia, and that was certainly no democracy.
It is not often commented upon in civics classes, but few of the founding fathers of the American republic were fond of democracy. The exception was Jefferson, but his view of democracy was completely opposite to the American system today, whose centralized and intrusive power would have horrified the poor states-rights Virginian. But Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Madison, and the others were determined, in drawing up the Constitution, to prevent democracy, which they regarded as a kind of mob-rule that ended in tyranny. As Franklin said, when asked what kind of government they had given the nation at Philadelphia, “a republic, if you can keep it.” Any government that has no monarch may be described as a republic, but the word is also used in something of the sense of Aristotle’s word politeia, a constitutional commonwealth, what John Adams to as the rule of law and not of men. As Aristotle also points out, a democracy that elevates the will of the people above the law is really only another kind of tyranny.
Most of the leaders of the Revolution and the framers of the Constitution were classically educated. They had read Plato’s scathing critiques of democracy—Plato says the fate of a just man under a democracy is to be killed. They had also read Aristotle’s more balanced but highly critical analysis of the forms of government and of the process by which they become deformed—how constitutional democracies collapse into a mob tyranny run by political propagandists. Some might have also read a little anti-democratic pamphlet wrongly included in the works of Xenophon. The author of the pamphlet, the “Old Oligarch” as he is known, though he might have been under 30, praises the cynical Athenian democracy for breaking every known moral law in pursuing its own selfish interests. For example, he insists that Athenian democrats have to overthrow the aristocratic governments of their allies because they can only trust politicians who agree with them on policies of looting the rich. This is the first analysis of democratic globalism.
Above all, they would have read the historian Thucydides, who charts the tragic course of Athenian democracy. We are taught in school that Pericles was a great democratic leader who gave Athens its golden age. Thucydides, his younger contemporary, has a more measured view. While he praises Pericles’ intelligence and abilities, he also points out that while they called it democracy, the period of his influence was really the rule of one man-in other words a dictatorship.
For all his capacity and prudence, Pericles made several moves that sealed the doom of his city. First, he drove his moderate and responsible opponents into exile, thus depriving Athens of their considerable talents. Among them were prominent members of Thucydides‘ own family. Second, he radicalized the democracy and ruined the institutions that were designed to prevent mob rule. Third, he insisted simultaneously on fighting a war with Sparta and on turning the Delian Confederacy into the Athenian Empire. In Pericles’ own lifetime, the Athenian democracy brutalized any Greek city that tried to leave the empire, but the worst incident came later, after his death, when mob-orators and demagogues could stir up the Assembly to any crime.
I shall give the story only very briefly, since most of you know probably it. Athens demanded that the tiny island of Melos join the empire. The Melians refused. Unlike the Athenians, they were Dorian Greeks, not Ionians, and they had a longstanding alliance with Sparta. They appealed to law, tradition, and the gods. The Athenians responded with sneering contempt for both law and religion. When the Melians persisted in refusing this offer that could not be refused, Athens conquered the island, killed all the men and enslaved the women and children. This was the greatest of the world’s democracies, the model for democratic states that we are told over and over do now wage aggressive war. As the poet Yeats would say, “they say such different things in school.”
Thomas J. Fleming
(Publicado simultaneamente no “Hempel’s Ravens“)