The Birth of Political Rhetoric in an Ancient Democracy
Demosthenes was the greatest orator in classical history. He also stoked the flames of the Greek pride that persists to this day.
Athens, Greece—The big winners of Greece’s election this week were parties far removed from the political center. From the leftist SYRIZA, which came in second place with 17 percent of the vote, to the far-right Independent Greeks, who ended up with 11 percent, and the racist extremists of Golden Dawn, who gained 7 percent, the non-mainstream parties received an alarmingly large share of the total vote. What’s less clear, however, is what the vote tallies mean. Were they simply a reflection of anger against the ruling parties that have presided over the country’s current economic freefall?
In a recent article published in Sight & Sound just days after the death of Theo Angelopoulos, the director is quoted: “The only place I really feel at home is in a car next to a driver. I don’t drive myself, but I find the simple act of passing through landscapes very moving. The way I look at the world on my various travels is what essentially defines my filmmaking.” Sometimes artists die in what might be incidents from their own work.
Another month, another EU Summit. And once again, markets are judging the compromise as, at best, incomplete—at worst, disastrously insufficient. On top of everything else, the new agreement has managed to formally isolate Britain from the other 26 EU member states. (British euroskeptics are applauding their country's newfound estrangement, but more considered commentators realize the situation is fraught.) So is Europe ultimately doomed to all that jazz about euro breakup and financial apocalypse? Not quite.
In calling for a referendum on Greece’s bailout plan, Prime Minister George Papandreou has, it could be said, embraced one of his country’s oldest political traditions: direct democracy. The idea that the citizens of a state should all cast votes to decide matters of common interest was arguably born within an easy walk of his Athens office, some two and a half millennia ago. Of course, referendums have remained a part of democratic politics into the modern era, with a formal place in the constitutions of many countries and regions, from France to Australia.
Berlin, Germany—Germany is at the center of the European financial crisis that is threatening to sink Europe, and much of the rest of the world, into a double-dip recession, but you would hardly know it in Berlin.
This one goes out to the one I love. Yesterday R.E.M. broke up. What the pilgrims were to Plymouth Rock, R.E.M. was to college rock. The band formed in 1980 and outlasted its competition with astounding longevity (31 years) and productivity (15 albums). As the news of the band’s break-up trickles down, a nation of Gen-Xers will be crushed, hurt, and in danger of losing its religion. But while a rock music landscape without the Athens, Georgia four may seem like the end of the world as we know it, I for one, feel fine.
Charles Krauthammer expresses indignation that President Obama would suggest that Republicans in Congress would rather defeat Obama than compromise: In Obama’s recounting, however, luck is only half the story. His economic recovery was ruined not just by acts of God and (foreign) men, but by Americans who care nothing for their country. These people, who inhabit Congress (guess which party?), refuse to set aside “politics” for the good of the nation. They serve special interests and lobbyists, care only about the next election, place party ahead of country.