To answer this question we can turn to the great Greek poet and soldier Aeschylus. Also known as the father of tragedy, Aeschylus was a great admirer of Athenian policy. He witnessed the change of policy from tyranny to democracy and was in awe of this new system. One of the biggest reasons why the Greek poet enamored democracy so much was because it meant that a human had control over his surroundings. Aeschylus depicted this faith in the Orestes trilogy where a young man, confronted by the goddesses of redemption, flees to Athens to let the good people of the city decide his fate. Orestes was spared death by the hands of goddesses by the Athenian people and this was done by a simple act of voting. People took it in their own hands to judge the young man’s fate and simple mortals prevented goddesses from killing him. Thus we can conclude that a human’s fate was changed by voting. We should not forget that Athena was also in the pole deciding Orestes fate. But Athena, like a simple citizen, had only one vote. She did cast the vote in favour of Orestes’ survival, but she did not alter any other votes, people judged Orestes themselves with no pressure from fate, a divine being or a bribe. Thus we can surely say that people by the simple act of voting, changed a human’s fated death. This was an astounding act in literature and thought dominated by the belief that nothing could be done beyond one’s fate. In Greek mythology everything and everyone, including Zeus and other gods and goddesses themselves, were slaves to fate. They could do nothing to alter it.
Thus by the traditional mythological model Orestes should have died by the hands of the goddesses, but instead he was spared by people, who judged his actions themselves. This meant that democracy had the power to take control over one’s fate. To depict this idea in art was something completely new. Aeschylus moved past from the mythological model and created a new, literary model, which was free from the belief that nothing could possibly be achieved beyond fate. Thus the great Greek poet took democratic view of the state and used it in his works. By doing so Aeschylus ensured that democratic values be imbedded not only in political actions but in general human thought. Democracy meant that people were responsible for the world around them and they must take action, instead of leaving it to fate or a tyrant. Thus living in democracy enables a person to feel power over his social life. How can we relate all of this to our modern society? The turning point in ancient thought was the realization of responsibility. Today value of voting is not emphasized well enough. Most of the voters in democratic countries see the election as a tool to choose this or that candidate, thus allowing themselves to put all of the responsibility of their social lives onto the system. Which in turn helps them to feel comfortably angry at a president or a political party.
In these cases people forget that they themselves are responsible for electing someone. The whole basis of the democracy is a responsible citizen working for the development of an efficient system. The latter exists only because of the former. There of course are people who did not vote for the party they are dissatisfied with and they blame all of their social troubles on other voters. But this is also not a productive approach. Instead of pointing fingers a responsible citizen should act on the basis that the collective thought may be organized in a fashion that is most suitable for the majority, one can do this by a number of means, ranging from a blogpost to creating a social awareness class. All of this may sound somewhat comic but it is still better than doing nothing. Living in a democracy has no point if people shift the center of responsibility from themselves to others. The point of democracy is to feel powerful over your reality by embracing the responsibility that comes with it. The reason why living in a democracy is important is because a person should have control over his social life. Another reason why living in a democracy is important is because it is a system where law is protected. For a democracy it is important to ensure the safety and freedom of citizens, for they are the people that contribute to determining the collective thought which the system will have to obey. Indeed for a democracy to work the ancient roman formula dura lex sed lex must always be protected. All of this may almost seem dreamlike. In truth a democracy has its downside. This system demands constant awareness of one’s responsibility towards the surrounding reality, which may prove difficult for the fragile human nature.
Another great ancient poet Euripides saw this fault in democracy and continued to use the mythological model of fate’s supremacy when writing his tragedies. That is why Euripides’ characters are more passive, for they know that nothing is above fate, certainly not a human’s will. This approach, even though somewhat impotent, is nevertheless quite understanding of human nature. Euripides saw fault in humans and was understanding of our basic traits and considered democracy and citizen’s responsibility too much. Thus we can attribute Euripides’ lack of faith in humans not so much to distrust but to sympathy. Such assessment from Euripides’ side, although humane, was nevertheless quite unproductive for the development of society. Democratic values nevertheless prevailed and people chose to embrace responsibility. Of course democracy had a lot more competition throughout history than one poet’s considerations for human nature, but nevertheless we have our time where in most of the countries people choose their own social lives. Living in democracy is important as long as a citizen’s responsibility is emphasized and is taught about. In reality we take democracy for granted, even though it was brought to us by centuries’ worth of struggle, development and education we still do not take full responsibility for our social life. To change this approach, to go back to the same model that inspired Aeschylus to put his faith in human’s will, we should finally put the center of responsibility in ourselves and prove that value of democracy is still relevant and efficient.
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