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domingo, 18 de junio de 2017

Democracy

by Leonardo Castellani
Translated from the Spanish and slightly adapted by Roberto Hope


It was the day when restoration of democracy had taken place in Athens, after the de facto government of Agiospotamos and Rodomorfos had ended, that the jailer came in with an urn, watched by two officers, to let Socrates cast his vote, since, despite Law N° 203.785, subindex 6, those in prison are not allowed to vote, by virtue of additional decree N°203.786 c.f., all prominent individuals in the Republic, as the great Socrates was, have the obligation to vote, under penalty of fine or prison, but he was already in gaol anyway, So, feeling blue, he asked:

— Tell me, oh Plato, what is a democracy?

— It is the government of the people.

— What does 'of the people' mean? This part is ambiguous in our language. Do the people rule? Or are they ruled?

— The people rule.

— Who do they rule?

— The people.

— Then, the people rule and at the same time are ruled?

— That's what it seems, oh master.

— Are not to rule and to be ruled opposites of each other?

— They are, Socrates, since to rule is to command and to be ruled is to obey.

— And what does axiom N° 8 say?

— It says that two opposites of the same subject are mutually destroyed.

— Consequently, with democracy, the people are destroyed.

I had no qualms to grant that this is so, since, as everyone knows, I have been quite a fascist; or, as we used to say, laconophile, but Cleon and Demolalos were with me, who had arrived that same day with fresh news from Boeotia, and Demolalos said:

— You are mistaken, oh master; because the people do not rule but through their representatives.

— And the representatives rule the people?

— Certainly: after they have been elected by us, just as you will do it in a few moments, in use of your sovereign right.

— Then, in a few moments, I will rule the people of Athens?

— Certainly, Socrates, and precisely in this consists the sovereignty of the people.

— For how long will I rule?

— For the time it takes for you to put your ballot in the urn.

— And can I in that time derogate all the taxes in Athens and replace them with the Single Tax on Financial Capital, which does not affect me?

Here, Demolalos, who owned financial capital, hesitated, and Cleon interjected saying:

— Without a doubt, Socrates, always through your representatives if they are of all the people, or of one half plus one.

— And if they are not?

— Oh, they will be, no doubt, Socrates! You are smart and have always voted for the candidate of the majority.

— But it so happens — said Socrates — that now the majority does not want the Single Tax on Financial Capital.

— Then, patience and don't give up, Socrates, the majority is never wrong, theoretically at least, and if we keep the Single Tax on the Producers, it is because that is what is more convenient for everyone.

— To the producers too?

— Of course, Socrates.

— Do the producers vote for it?

— Not directly, but they vote for Frondivoros, who is secretly committed to keeping such tax in the books; we call it the Development Promotion Program.

— And why do workers vote for Frondivoros?

— We do not let them vote for other than Frondivoros, or for Balvivoros, who is worse than Frondivoros, or at least that is what they think.

— And why do they think so?

— We have let them see it by means of Propaganda.

— But don't you see that, if the people should later become aware, they will uprise?

— That does not matter: Authority is sacred and it comes from God. So, by taking just a few and having them executed at night, fall who may fall, the rest will remain as still as a wall, in honor of the principle of authority. We have Religion on our side, and we organize a Te Deum for our sins every 25th of May.

— And who will execute them?

— The Armed Forces

— And if the Armed Forces stage an uprising?

— Impossible, the Armed Forces are there to defend the Constitution, and that's why we have kept raising their salaries, their prerogatives, and their privileges for thirty years already.

— Who raises their salaries?

— We do.

— Who is “we”?

— Of course, we the democrats.


— Then you are the true rulers of Athens.

— And that is alright — said Cleon — Our Constitution is democratic. We do nothing but defend the Constitution.

Here Demolalos interjected:

— This Holy Democracy, Humankind's true religion where all religions have a place. To this ideal state we have arrived after great efforts, bloodsheds, millions dead, millions of books written by the most enlightened skulls of the seven continents. Peoples have reached their age of majority, theoretically at least because we cannot deny that they are mistaken very often; but we are here to correct them and educate them. Educate the Sovereign!

— Not so sovereign if they need to be educated by you!  — but his words were lost because the two Boeotians had made three mazurca steps and, arm in arm, sang together vociferously the first stanzas of the Hymn of the People´s Representatives [to theTune of The Yellow Submarine]

We are all the true representatives
Representatives, repressingtatives
We are not like the old ones used to be
Old ones used to be, old ones used to be
With repressing tentatives
Representing, repressing
We're the true repressing thieves
True repressing tentatives
Bom, bom, bom, bom....

— And how do you correct the Sovereign — shouted Socrates at the moment they had began attacking the second stanza.

— Say again? — exclaimed they, stopping the frolic.

— when it so happens that the majority get it wrong — continued Socrates.

— Oh, they are wrong almost always — answered Cleon, They are immature, intellectually prepubescent, Well, let them err! We correct them with a liberating revolution.

— A what?

— An uprising, a coup d'Etat, or a fiasco, followed by a democratic dictatorship.

— But how so? Is not a dictatorship the opposite of a democracy?

— There are dictatorships and there are dictatorships, Socrates. The democratic dictatorships are very good and necessary since they are carried out to re-establish democracy.

— And how are they carried out?
— Well, nigh raid, perjury, hinder, libel, operation H, and vilifying all who oppose us. Constitutional rights are suspended, and what not, in order to defend the rule of law.

— And have you done many?

— All that become necessary we will undertake until the people get educated. That's why we count on many of our side in the Armed Forces. In the meantime, we collect and in the meantime, the world ceaselessly wanders in the immense orbit of the great void.

— This democracy — observed Socrates — looks to me more and more like a kind of a joker or a pretext.

The two Boeotians interchanged a look.

— Careful, Socrates! — said Demolalos — Insidiously and surreptitiously a backwoods, violent, decrepit ideology seems to be insinuating itself in your reactionary questions, which configures a crime of treason: delictum, delicti.

— Careful, Socrates! — stressed Cleon. I forewarn you that, in the universal and free suffrage you will have the honor of depositing in the sacred urn, you must vote for Frondivoros.

— And why?

— Since your vote will be the only one that will be deposited in that urn, who you have voted for will be known, and even if it were to be not the only one, that does not matter. We will find out.

— And if it strikes my fancy to cast a blank vote?

— That is a mortal sin, according to the bishop.

— I will exercise the sung vote — said Socrates with his characteristic stubbornness, upon seeing the jailer coming with the urn, which had the vague aspect of a sarcophagus, followed by two policemen carrying a cup of hemlock.

Socrates took a ballot form and wrote on it before the eyes of everybody:
I will kiss your tunic
of a purple lily color
I will kiss your sendal
Of a bruised skin color
I will kiss your clogs
Of a whitish lily color

and underneath wrote these mysterious letters: LPQTP

That seen, he was condemned ipso facto and némine discrepante. And, as this time the druggist had by chance prepared the hemlock well, Socrates kicked the bucket in the midst of his disciples' applause, who gave him a religious burial, planting a stake in the fresh soil with a cardboard sign reading:
AQUÍ YAZ NA NEGRA TERRA
MOITO CONTRA SUA VOLUNTADE
O VISORREY DA FILOSOFIA GRECA
SOCRATES SOCRATIDES
DEUS LLE DEALA PAIX
NO OUTRO MUNDO
XA QUE NESTE NON POUDO.

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