Freedom and Friendship: Some Thoughts on the Renewal of Our Democracy
This chapter analyses the relevance of the Ancient Greek experience to the troubles and challenges which our democracies face in our present times. It is argued that, historically speaking, it was the rule of the people that brought forth and nourished the idea of the free individual, rather than vice versa. Laying aside the everyday struggle of political interests and ideologies, a bond of friendship and fraternity between the democrats is essential for the survival of democracy. The rule of the people is not tantamount to an absolutistic rule of the majority in which the winner takes it all. Whilst the populist demagogue appeals to the lowest instincts of the masses, the ethos of the democratic politician wants him to appeal to the virtues of the people. The elites must not pretend that whatever politics benefits them is also good for the people. The elites should recognise their intrinsic interest in the rule of the law and the democratic form of government, which again requires a high degree of social cohesion. The new “social media” and the digital capitalism which is their driving force are a serious threat to the foundations of democracy. The European Union will not solve its problems unless it self-critically faces up to its ethical and democratic deficits.