jueves, 24 de noviembre de 2016

MercatorNet: Lessons from democratic Athens: the art of exiling your enemies

MercatorNet: Lessons from democratic Athens: the art of exiling your enemies
Lessons from democratic Athens: the art of exiling your enemies

Lessons from democratic Athens: the art of exiling your enemies

The ancient Greeks had a unique way of dealing with disruptive politicians.
Chris Mackie | Nov 24 2016 | comment 

Ostraka from classical Athens nominating the persons of Kallias and Megakles. Cycladic Art Museum, Athens, Greece/Wikimedia Commons
Throwing one’s political opponent in jail has a long history to it, especially in countries where democratic principles struggle to take hold. The fate of Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi, who went from directly elected president to now languish in jail, is one high-profile contemporary example. But there are plenty of others, often in countries that are notional democracies.
One of the striking things about the recent US election was all the talk from the Trump camp about imprisoning Hillary Clinton. It is the first time that I remember such a dark threat being thrown around in the discourse of a modern western election. Trump has now said that he won’t pursue Clinton over handling of her email – despite the campaign-trail chant to “lock her up”. Still, there has also been speculation as to whether Trump himself will have to endure an impeachment process conducted by his political opponents, who are desperate to limit his time in office. Talk of getting rid of one’s political enemies is in vogue, it seems.
There are some interesting parallels to all of this in the political landscape of ancient Athens. It was here that the institution of ostracism was enacted in the 5th century BC – a word which we often use in a broad sense today, but not usually in formal political discourse. To be “ostracised” in classical Athens was to be exiled from the city for a period of 10 years. It was a part of the annual democratic processes of Athens, and therefore not as capricious as it tends to be in most other political contexts.
Ostracism worked like this. Each year the assembly of citizens (“ekklesia”) decided whether to hold an ostracism or not. If they agreed to do so, the process would commence shortly afterwards. It was like an election in reverse, a contest in unpopularity that no one really wanted to win.
If the decision was made to conduct an ostracism, citizens had the opportunity to write the name of the person they wanted to ostracise on an ostrakon (that is, a fragment of pottery suitable for writing on). The ancient evidence is somewhat contradictory, but it seems that if there were 6,000 votes cast in the ballot, then the person with the highest number of votes was exiled from Athens for ten years. They had ten days to pack their bags and go.
One such unlucky winner was Aristides the Just, an aristocratic statesman and renowned general. The biographer Plutarch recounts a story of his ostracism (which is probably fanciful, but a good yarn nonetheless):
Now at the time of which I was speaking, as the voters were inscribing their ostraka, it is said that an unlettered and utterly boorish fellow handed his ostrakon to Aristides, and asked him to write ‘Aristides’ on it. He, astonished, asked the man what possible wrong Aristides had done him.
‘None whatever,’ was the answer, ‘I don’t even know the fellow, but I am tired of hearing him everywhere called 'The Just.“ On hearing this, Aristides made no answer, but wrote his name on the ostrakon and handed it back.
All of this this might sound rather harsh on individuals who had decided to offer themselves for public service for the benefit of the city. A contemporary Athenian, however, would probably have found it very responsible and civilised. After all, an ostracised leader was allowed to keep his citizenship and property. And at the end of the ten years he could return and live in Athens again, much as he might have done if he had never been ostracised in the first place.
Moreover, the city could recall someone from exile prior to the end of the ten years, if they felt the need to do so. This actually happened in some renowned cases, as in the case of Aristides during the Persian wars.
Ostracon bearing the name of Aristides, 483-482 BC. Ancient Agora Museum in Athens.CC BY-SA    
More importantly, ostracism was established as part of the annual fabric of Athenian political life, not a ferocious descent into violent party politics. Nonetheless, it could be brutal, and all sorts of skulduggery probably took place to get rid of particular individuals.
One modern archaeological encounter was 190 ostraka found in a well at Athens with the name "Themistocles” written on them. These were probably a version of modern how-to-vote cards, written by a small number of people, and presumably organised by the enemies of Themistocles. An illiterate citizen would not even have had to trouble himself with scrawling the name himself. Just take an ostrakon and move on.
Themistocles, as it happens, was eventually ostracised at the end of the 470s BC, although he probably survived earlier attempts to get rid of him. When one bears in mind that Themistocles was the great champion of Athens (and Greece) in the sea-battle of Salamis against the Persians a short time beforehand (480BC), it is an indication that anyone could really fall victim to ostracism.
Others included Xanthippus, the father of Pericles, also Kimon, the prominent and wealthy political leader, and Thucydides the historian. And there were many others. Exile was a fundamental part of political life, and it was used by the people both as a rejection of particular policy positions, or for more specifically vindictive personal reasons. There was no single reason why Athenian citizens were ostracised.
Odd though it seems to us today, ostracism might be seen as a rather inspired way for a democratic polis (“city-state”) to keep tyranny at bay. In that sense it was successful at Athens, although the institution of ostracism probably didn’t last much much beyond 417BC.
Apart from anything else, ostracism reminds us that intolerance and vindictiveness have an ancient history to them. The Athenian system, at least, had the virtue of recognising that exile could be a part of the normal democratic processes, and could therefore take place in a way that would not severely damage the state.
Chris Mackie, Professor of Greek Studies, La Trobe University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

It’s Thanksgiving Day in the United States and time for the rest of us to say thank you to the US for being the world leader in gratitude. Is there any other nation that sets aside a day of national Thanksgiving? Could any country, including America, agree today on what to give thanks for, let alone whom to thank?
So, thank God for a tradition that goes back more than 200 years, when the answer to those questions was obvious. Thus George Washington, at the behest of Congress, proclaimed the 26th of November 1789
A day of public thanksgiving and prayer devoted to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be,  including the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness,and for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed.
(BTW Shannon Roberts has posted George Washington’s “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation” – all 110 of them – to enhance your Thanksgiving experience.)
Even more famously, Abraham Lincoln on October 3, 1863, listed everything from fruitful fields and healthful skies, through the orderly conduct of the civil war and the growth of production and population, to the nation’s augmented strength and vigoramong the bounties of divine providence:
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.
Lincoln's acknowledgement of civil strife and prayer for healing the wounds of the nation will strike a chord with many today:
And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
President Obama's 2016 proclamation, though quite nice, never achieves the resonance of his predecessors' proclamations, perhaps  because he never manages to mention God, without whom a national act of thanksgiving loses its point somewhat:
On this holiday, we count our blessings and renew our commitment to giving back. We give thanks for our troops and our veterans -- and their families -- who give of themselves to protect the values we cherish; for the first responders, teachers, and engaged Americans who serve their communities; and for the chance to live in a country founded on the belief that all of us are created equal. But on this day of gratitude, we are also reminded that securing these freedoms and opportunities for all our people is an unfinished task. We must reflect on all we have been afforded while continuing the work of ensuring no one is left out or left behind because of who they are or where they come from.
We know some Americans are not feeling very grateful about the election results. That’s tough for the unbelievers among them. The rest, though, can be thankful that what the Lord has given, he can also take away.
Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers!

Carolyn Moynihan
Deputy Editor,

The alt right, Donald Trump, and - oddly enough - Darwin
By Denyse O'Leary
Anyone not committed to Darwinian survival of the fittest cannot be 'alt right'.
Read the full article
Lessons from democratic Athens: the art of exiling your enemies
By Chris Mackie
The ancient Greeks had a unique way of dealing with disruptive politicians.
Read the full article
George Washington’s rules of civility
By Shannon Roberts
How do you measure up?
Read the full article
Is domestic violence all about gender inequality?
By David Quinn
If we are really concerned about violence against women and children we cannot be silent about family structure.
Read the full article
American democracy is still an example for Africa
By Mathew Otieno
Free and fair elections are still a rarity in most of Africa.
Read the full article
The political power of rural USA
By Marcus Roberts
And that's the way the Constitution designed it.
Read the full article
Intolerance and discrimination against Christians in Europe and North America
By Massimo Introvigne
There is a slippery slope from intolerance, to discrimination, to hate crimes and hate speech
Read the full article
Star Wars goes Rogue – but will this risky move backfire?
By Peter Allen
The first of the Star Wars spin-off films opens next month
Read the full article
Free speech is at grave risk on university campuses
By Frank Furedi
“I believe in free speech, but…” is fast becoming the new normal in the academy
Read the full article
Should government talk more about the risks of hormonal contraception?
By Helen M. Alvaré
Depression, blood clots, disease and other harms take a back-seat to birth control.
Read the full article

MERCATORNET | New Media Foundation
Suite 12A, Level 2, 5 George Street, North Strathfied NSW 2137, Australia

Designed by elleston
New Media Foundation | Suite 12A, Level 2, 5 George St | North Strathfield NSW 2137 | AUSTRALIA | +61 2 8005 8605 

No hay comentarios: