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2020-10-11

From the Greek: Demos (the people) and Kratos (rule, power).

From the ancient Athenians down to the present day, this idea of democracy has been kept alive down the ages despite the autocratic (autos: self) rule of emperors kings and tyrants.

As the old saying goes, two heads are better than one, but how about 60 million heads? How does that work? In ancient Athens they had but one city to worry about (and only the free-born men-folk at that), so to take a vote it sufficed to give each man the right to place a white or a black pebble into the bucket on the way out of the agora (field) after considering the preceding oratory. Clearly something more sophisticated is required in the modern nation.

In the UK our democratic tradition evolved over centuries, spurred on by the religious schism between our monarchy and the Holy Father in Rome (kicked out by King Henry VIII for all the wrong reasons in an early example of UDI). The Holy Father, being not about to relinquish his right to appoint the rulers of Europe, then supported numerous attempts to put the rebellious English back into his box, notably including the ill-fated Spanish Armada despatched by king Philip II of Spain against Queen Elizabeth I. The English being a pragmatic people may have been none too exercised about King Henry's original break with Rome, but we don't like being bullied and king Philip's mission certainly did nothing to endear Rome to the English. So began the popular support for spiritual and temporal independence. Later, King Charles I married a Bourbon Catholic princess Henriette Marie, who bore the princes who later became Kings Charles II and subsequently James II.

Doubtless suspicions about his Catholic wife's religious influence did nothing to calm the events that led to the Civil War, a bloody struggle that pitted one half of the nation against the other, resulting in possibly more deaths per capita than any war before or since. The same religious factors later led directly to the Glorious Revolution: the deposing of Catholic King James II and the subsequent crowning of James' daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange as joint monarchs of England, following their agreement with Parliament on the new Bill of Rights, upon which our present traditional (and religious) freedoms are based.

Following the coronation of William and Mary, the Scots then became the standard bearers for Catholicism in our isles, a rumbling disputation that culminated in the battle of Culloden in 1746, after which "Bonnie Prince Charlie" (Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart) was relentlessly hunted across Scotland before escaping to France. Today we count ourselves indebted to the bonnie prince, as the English army had such trouble in its pursuit due to the inhospitable and largely unknown terrain, that the Board of Ordnance was commissioned to map the country so that the army might better navigate it - and so began our Ordnance Survey, that still produces arguably the finest maps in the world!

Parliament and Monarchy then ruled what eventually became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (space prohibits a proper examination of the history of Ireland here). After the First World War the vote was extended to include women (who had proved their worth in farms and factories throughout the realm).

So democracy has been on a slow and sporadic advance over centuries, and we now have a system where we elect our MPs to represent us in the expectation that they will rule the land to our benefit - yet today in October 2020 we have a Prime Minister who rules by diktat over a parliament that mounts no effective challenge.

How come?

The other primary democratic country is the USA, which has the benefit of a more clearly defined Constitution than the UK. Their Bill of Rights is also admirably clear and concise, which makes it difficult to circumvent.

Nonetheless the USA is having as much difficulty with its democracy as any country in the world right now, with consequences that may not be apparent any time soon.

How come?

Into this mix we must throw powerful supranational agencies such as the World Economic Forum, the world banking network (including the Bank for International Settlements, World Bank, national central banks and the "too-big-to-fail" banks), the United Nations and its multiplicitous agencies including the WHO and IPCC, the major NGOs and Philanthropic Foundations (Clinton Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Open Society Foundations etc), and Charities (Oxfam, Red Cross and other medical charities to numerous to enumerate), all of which control vast wealth but none of which recognise any democratic oversight.

Mention should also be made of global big businesses (prominent among them "Big Pharma" and "Big Military") that some think may work a cosy crony capitalistic relationship with governments around the world to relieve them of taxpayer funding by one means or another. Indeed "conspiracy theories" around such as the 9/11 attacks in Manhattan have only grown in support in recent years.

Clearly there is still work to be done if democracy is not to be subsumed by a tsunami of vested interests of the rich and powerful - so where do we start?

Perhaps on one level the much maligned Donald Trump has shown the way - we could reclaim power for the democratic nation state by defunding these "advisory" global agencies that would be used to dictate to us.

On the financial level we might set up a replacement for the world banking network (me neither ... but it's all over the internet and YouTube are censoring like mad) that would render it obsolete (and tear up a great many current assumptions about money and finance in the process).

At the other end of the power pyramid, can "we the people" foster the power of free citizens to replace the two-party system, that controls our parliaments (in the UK and the USA) and answers to its paymasters rather than its citizens. Indeed there are those who suspect that the current outrages in the USA may be designed to wake the citizenry up to the true situation in which we find ourselves.

"Something must be done" - can we do it?