The Story of Democraczy: Chapter Eleven

by Martin Gantman

Revolution                     1,775 AD

Enlightenment                1,700 AD

and Romanticism

Very Early Modern         1,500 AD

Late Middle Ages            1,300 AD

High Middle Ages            1,000 AD

Early Middle Ages              400 AD

Pericles:                             450 BC

Ephialtes:                           465 BC

Cleisthenes:                       500 BC

Solon:                                600 BC

Hammurabi:                    1,800 BC

Ur Nammu:                     2,000 BC

Gilgamesh:                     2,500 BC

Sumeria:                          5,300 BC

Lascaux:                        30,000 BC

Religious activity:          100,000 BC

Homo sapiens:               130,000 BC

Homo erectus:            1,500,000 BC

Homo habilis:              2,500,000 BC

I have alluded somewhat vaguely to the merits of democracy. One of them is quite obvious: it is, perhaps, the most charming form of government ever devised by man. The reason is not far to seek. It is based upon propositions that are palpably not true and what is not true, as everyone knows, is always immensely more fascinating and satisfying . . . . . .          H. L. Mencken

This is the juncture of a narrative that has spanned at least several thousands of years. Clearly, from the list you can browse below, the American, as followed by the French, Revolution was not the first popular rebellion or revolt; but it was, at the very least, a high point in the evolution of human rights. The authors of the period of enlightenment, having drawn from the continual outcry of a multi-millennial chronicle, released a pent-up reserve that resulted in a new level of humans’ heretofore little realized expression of their desire for participation in their own destiny.

The American Revolution was induced by an array of actions that constrained the economic activity and viability of colonists and also had the effect of limiting their participation in governance. This control on the part of their British rulers was enough to cause these colonists to decide to put their bodies, and their lives, at peril. One must stand in awe of the decision to take such a step (though the commitment varied within the colonies, to wit the Virginia gentry’s willingness to be indignant about the limitations placed on them, but their hesitance, almost refusal, to offer themselves to the potential of physical risk). Still, it is important to try to apprehend the conditions that aligned in order for people to resolve to defiantly alter their circumstances.

But the story of democracy does not stop at the successful conclusion of these one or two Revolutions – immense as they were. The system of republican democracy, for it is that – a system, only began then. It was what those people determined to be appropriate toward the accomplishment of their goals . . . . and desires. We, each generation of Americans, since this system was initiated, are the beneficiaries of their determination; and each successive generation had/has the ability, if not the obligation, to look at this institution anew – as if never before seen. We get to parse it and to understand how it applies to us in the present – over 200 years later, when, as compared to the original states, the population has multiplied 100 times, the occupied land has at least quadrupled, most of us will never personally see or have a conversation with our federal representatives (much less our local ones), and the world’s opposite longitude is reached physically in hours and electronically in microseconds.

Have we, as J. L. Mencken  laughingly put it, been presented a magic trick, a sleight of hand that we believe in, as in a sacred cow, without knowing whether it actually works toward attaining those markers that we attribute to it? Is it supplying us with benefits that no other known or yet unknown system can provide? Does it fulfill the desire that we project as necessary to having a satisfactory life – that is, the existence that we attained when we each achieved original consciousness?

The History of Popular Rebellions

BC

1–999 AD

1000–1499

1500–1699

1700–1799

–  Wikipedia

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