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  • Writer's pictureIshfaaq Peerally

The democratic bubble

"Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty." - Plato

Government of the people, by the people, for the people

About 2500 years ago, in the city of Athens was born a bright idea that would defy all preexisting concepts. Indeed, in the city of Athens, about 2500 years ago was born democracy. In prehistoric times, people used to live in tribes with an alpha-male at its head. This was the most effective way for the species to survive. As man evolved, civilization was born and with it religions and cultures. The alpha-male was replaced by a king chosen by the gods to rule over the people. But 2500 years ago in the city of Athens, was born a new idea, that of allowing the people to choose their leaders. Of course, it was limited to adult male, land-owning, non-slaved citizens. Democracy evolved along with man over the years but it is still young and fragile. 2500 years does seem a lot but mankind is 150 000 years old and the Earth 4.5 billion years old.

The Athenian democracy was eventually killed by the rise of Alexander the Great. Roman democracy survived until Gaius Julius Caesar rose to power. And French democracy led to Napoleon Bonaparte. What makes democracy so fragile? And why it always seems to end in tyranny?

Democracy is a bubble and like any bubble it can explode and most of the time from the inside. Does that mean that democracy is doomed? Not at all. It only means that it has to evolve in order to survive. Evolution by natural selection goes far beyond the genotype or the phenotype. Everything from our culture to our politics to our morals is ruled by the fact that we are all selfish animals trying to pass on our genes to the next generation. Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins coined the term extended phenotype. Democracy is not doomed because we have Google to prove it. In the year 2000, the internet was still young and there was a massive investment in the tech sector. A bubble was formed, the dot-com bubble. Information was no longer important, people were just investing in a company because it has something to do with the internet. Wisdom of the crowd. Everybody is investing in the tech sector, so will I. This company is the new Microsoft or the new IBM... Eventually, the bubble collapsed and the few survivors, such as, Google, Microsoft and Apple persisted with the advance of the internet and the tech sector. What happened then? Why was there such a massive investment? The information was there but it was taken for granted and ignored leading to a bubble to form and then burst leaving a few monopolies.

The same thing can happen to democracy. It is young and taken for granted with information ignored. Recent events have shown the weakness of democracy. A democratic bubble has been formed. We are living in the most peaceful time in human history. We have easy access to information. It was assumed to be natural but it is not. One has to fight for one's liberty. And by fighting, I don't mean to bring back the guillotine, I mean to analyze information, to always assume that everything you know, everything that you believe in, is wrong. It is hard to say when the democratic bubble is going to burst or whether it will burst at all. Maybe something better will replace democracy or democracy will take a new form. Back to Athens, about 2500 years ago, Socrates questioned everything that he knew and was forced to kill himself for that. Now we are sending space probes beyond the solar system. Despite the fact that we are "ruled" by selfish genes, mankind has achieved a lot. So don't give up. PS: If I ask you when and where democracy was born? I'm sure you'll know the answer, about 2500 years ago in the city of Athens. I repeated this sentence so often that you'll most certainly believe it. What if I lied?

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