October 1, 2011
Democracy has flourished across the world since the medieval times. Democracy, in short, is a system of political beliefs which emphasizes the rights of the individual, giving them the power and freedom to choose how they are ruled. It has various sub-definitions, extending across the range of difference ‘types’ of democracies, but fundamentally it shows the same basic concern for social and political equality.
It has become one of the cornerstone characteristics of the ‘free world’, often synonymously associated with the concept of a civilised nation. In this way, it opposes the political systems which existed during the middle ages, namely monarchical government and the feudal system. Under these systems the common people (sometimes known as the serfs or proletariat) lived a life of subservience under the ruler of the land, often someone of aristocratic blood who was born into power and wealth. Needless to say, it was felt that social equality did not exist – people were forced, particularly under monarchical constitution, to accept their ruling as divine providence.
This was particularly rampant during the middle-ages as people were far more zealous with their religious beliefs than they are today. It comes as no surprise, then, that they are retrospectively seen as the darker times in our histories.
Today, democracy exists as the core ideal of the Western world. In essence, democracy is the very air we breathe – it is a political system that safe-guards are values, though we often take it for granted. Democracy as we know it today has arisen out of a range of political movements over the past millennia. It is born from revolution, rebellion, scientific discovery and shifting philosophical belief.
Its cultural influences, however, can be traced back to the Roman era. Before it became the Roman Empire, the Roman people had existed under a republic, embracing a lot of the characteristics that we recognize in today’s democracy. Its senate was determined by the people (albeit only a very select group of privileged people). It can also be identified as far back as Ancient Greece.
These early governments certainly influenced the way that political systems, beliefs and ideals of social equality changed with time. In England, democracy arose from numerous factors. The key turning point was the English Civil War, symbolising the end to absolute monarchy and, for the first time, the creation of a parliament which had a significant degree of power. If we look further back, however, we can see that the beginnings of democracy were evident in the creation of the Magna Carta – the first document to be first forced upon a king by his disgruntled subjects. It was an attempt to limit the power of the king, proclaiming that an individual should be punished through the law of the land rather than have his fate solely subject to the will of the King.
From whichever seed it grows, democracy in all nations exists to serve the liberty of the people – it is regarded as one of humanities most progressive achievements to date.