And for that purpose, we assert ourselves — relentlessly, unwittingly, savagely — against others: We push them aside, overstep them, overthrow them, even crush them if necessary.
Behind the smiling facade of human civilization, there is at work the same blind drive toward self-assertion that we find in the animal realm.
To be a true democrat, in other words, is to understand that when it comes to the business of living together, you are no better than the others, and to act accordingly.
To live democratically is, mainly, to deal in failure and imperfection, and to entertain few illusions about human society.
Just scratch the surface of the human community and soon you will find the horde.
It is the “unreasoning and unreasonable human nature,” writes the zoologist Konrad Lorenz in his book “On Aggression,” that pushes “two political parties or religions with amazingly similar programs of salvation to fight each other bitterly,” just as it compels “an Alexander or a Napoleon to sacrifice millions of lives in his attempt to unite the world under his scepter.” World history, for the most part, is the story of excessively self-assertive individuals in search of various scepters.It flares up almost mysteriously in some fortunate place or another, and then fades out, it seems, just as mysteriously.Genuine democracy is difficult to achieve and once achieved, fragile.“In democracy as it ought to be,” writes Paul Woodruff in his 2006 book “First Democracy: The Challenge of an Ancient Idea,” “all adults are free to chime in, to join the conversation on how they should arrange their life together.And no one is left free to enjoy the unchecked power that leads to arrogance and abuse.” Have you ever heard of anything more reasonable? Fundamentally, humans are not predisposed to living democratically. The information you 're looking for is not available. ” We’ve heard that question a lot in the past few years, in books, on opinion pages and cable news shows, and in an increasingly anxious public debate.When one of the citizens was becoming a bit too popular — too much of a charmer — Athenians would vote him out of the city for ten years by inscribing his name on bits of pottery.It was not punishment for something the charmer may have done, but a pre-emptive measure against what he might do if left unchecked.First, sortition: the appointment of public officials by lot.Given the fundamental equality of rights that all Athenian citizens — that is, free male adults — enjoyed, the most logical means of access to positions of leadership was random selection.