Once upon a time (ancient Greece) democracy meant the rule of the masses. Well, male masses. Well, property holding masses. Well, masses of non-slaves. Whoever met these criteria – belonged to the masses. He was eligible for any political office, except the very top military or financial ones. (These had to be competent and trustworthy in the eyes of the elitist beholders). His name could pop up when lots were drawn in a democracy. If aristocrats did not intervene. If Athens did not turn into Sparta in a pre-emptive plot.
Popular attention to public affairs was not undivided. One had to make a living. Not easy for most. Things did not get materially better for centuries. Welfare levels did not improve much until the industrial revolution. But when they did, then wealth levels really started to climb up. Levels of education followed. We are thousands of times richer and more competent than most living men or women before the last two centuries. Are we using our wealth responsibly? Are we inventing better lives conscientiously?
Democracy levels did not rise fast, either. Neither American nor French revolution trusted random masses and both limited democracy to an infrequent game of elections. In between masses had to trust their representatives, who could safely transform into oligarchies of professionals. Have we made the world safer for democracy between 1968 and 2018?
We have certainly learned how to make democratic inventions. Referendum happens. So do grass-root movements, Occupy Wall Streets or Tea Parties, or Poor People's Campaigns. Masses are back. Time to add a House of Lots to our houses of lords and houses of commons?
Poznan, May 20, 2018