The Gift of the Greeks

I walked to my polling station. It is in a scruffy church hall. Outside the station are a number of people seated wearing rosettes sporting the colours of those whom they support. I wish them good morning, but they do not answer me; they simply smile. Inside the polling station are tables behind which are seated more people. I approach one and ask for my voting paper. I state  my name and address. They check my name off a list and give me the ballot form. I walk across to a small half open booth which has a small built in table and a scruffy thick pencil hanging from a scruffy string.

I mark my “X” against the name of the candidate I least despise, and walk across to a scruffy ballot box. I place my marked ballot paper in the box and walk out of the church hall. The seated rosetted folk are now willing to talk to me. They ask my name, but this time I smile and wish them good morning again and walk off.

This is democracy; I have voted in every general election since I was first able to vote in 1970. Democracy is a gift, a gift of a concept originating with the Greeks at a time when people throughout the world preferred Monarchs, despots and tyrants to an government chosen by the people. The Monarch protected you, but at a high price. Democratic governments also protect you; the price is less because of democracy, which exercisable only every few years. The price for protection is still nevertheless expensive.

Democracy is a gift of the Greeks. We are warned to beware of Greeks bearing gifts, but the warning is an inaccurate translation of the old words of Virgil who wrote “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes”  which really means “I fear the Greeks, even those bearing gifts” attributed to a Trojan priest when he saw a wooden horse outside the gates of Troy. We should always fear democracy, but fear other forms of government more. Governments, of course, should always fear democracy, which for them may well be another wooden horse.

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