Category: democracy

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.‘

Austria built a fully-functioning nuclear power plant for about 650 million euros, 1978. It was never turned on.

A public movement against the nuclear power plant started, culminating in a national referendum in which 50.47% of the country voted against keeping the plant. It was dismantled in 1985, and in the end, it cost Austrians about 1 billion euros for a power plant that never produced any power.


ATHENS in the 5th to 4th century BCE had an extraordinary system of government: democracy. Under this system, all male citizens had equal political rights, freedom of speech, and the opportunity to participate directly in the political arena. Further, not only did citizens participate in a direct democracy whereby they themselves made the decisions by which they lived, but they also actively served in the institutions that governed them, and so they directly controlled all parts of the political process.

Other city-states had, at one time or another, systems of democracy, notably Argos, Syracuse, Rhodes, and Erythrai. In addition, sometimes even oligarchic systems could involve a high degree of political equality, but the Athenian version, starting from c. 460 BCE and ending c. 320 BCE and involving all male citizens, was certainly the most developed.

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The Journal News, White Plains, New York, July 30, 1948

In the waning days of the Algerian Revolution, the French National Police attacked Algerians in response to increased bombings in France by the Algerian pro-National Liberation Front (FLN). These attacks were carried out against anyone that looked like they might be from the Magreb – Algerians, but also Tunisians and Libyans and sometimes Italians and Spaniards. Algerians were arrested at work or in the streets. They were beaten, and were thrown into the Seine with their hands tied in order to drown them.

Soon, the head of the French National Police was all but encouraging killings. “For one hit taken we shall give back ten!…You also must be subversive in the war that sets you against others. You will be covered, I give you my word on that.” It was widely understood to be allowing police to murder Algerian immigrants, and the killings increased.

A peaceful demonstration against the repressive measures was organized for October 5th, 1961. The police opened fire on the crowd and charged, leading to several deaths. The raids, violence and drownings would be continued over the following days. Unidentified bodies continued to be discovered along the Seine for several weeks. How many were shot at the demonstration, and how many were killed in the ongoing repression, is still disputed through today. Possibly because many of the records were destroyed. And there was no media coverage at the time. In addition, besides a trial for the head of the French National Police thirty years later, no one was ever formally charged for attacking or murdering Algerians. It was a massacre, carried out in the heart of a modern democracy, and no one knows about it.

From 1987 to 1991, the people of Estonia fought for their freedom. By singing. Yes, you read that right: crowds of people, hundreds of thousands large, would gather and sing patriotic songs to show their desire for independence. Even the Soviets couldn’t figure out how to arrest them for just…singing. It started spontaneously. Five patriotic Estonian songs were played during the Tartu Pop Music Festival in May 1988, and people linked their hands and started singing along.  In June another music festival decided to play patriotic songs after the official part of the festival. And a movement slowly began to gain momentum.

Unarmed people facing down tanks; people singing forbidden songs under the eyes of Soviet authorities; incredibly clever parliamentary and street theater maneuvers that vexed Moscow at every turn. By the way, one of those parliamentary maneuvers included working within the Soviet system to officially make the hammer and sickle an illegal symbol in Estonia, implemented while still occupied by the Soviet Union! In 1991, Estonia’s legislatures declared a legally an independent country and a last-ditch coup attempt by Soviet hardliners was stopped. The singers had freed themselves.