The Soul of Adolescence Aligns with the Heart of Democracy by Alfred H. Kurland is a brilliant piece of advocacy for power in the hands of the people.

The Soul of Adolescence Aligns with the Heart of Democracy by Alfred H. Kurland is a sober and compelling meditation on the importance of youth participation in the democratic process. Written as a semi-autobiographical exultation of the author’s evolving understanding of the potential of young voters through direct engagement with youth communities, The Soul of Adolescence brilliantly paints the necessity of expanding access to the political levers of society.

Alfred H. Kurland highlights that it is only through acceptance and affirmation of youth participation that the democratic process is made more stable, more vibrant, and healthier. It is when everyone gets a say that society can truly know what democracy means.

What Democracy Means

According to its principles, democracy is a mode of governance where–in theory–everyone, from the affluent to the poor, is given access to the reins of government. This means that the ruling apparatus of the state is accountable to the people, and anyone who is considered a citizen is allowed to run for office outside of severe disqualifying circumstances like treason and malicious intent.

Democracy is the only mode of governance wherein the concepts of equality, universal suffrage, and fundamental rights are baked into the institutions. This is in stark contrast to previous and outdated political forms like monarchy, oligarchy, and theocracy, where there are specific groups of people that are given the right to rule and placed into important positions of the administrative apparatus via its institutions. 

The opposite of democracy is authoritarianism.

How Democracy Came About

While it is a popularly held belief that democracy is a fairly young and recent phenomenon in politics and general management, the truth is far from clear. There is compelling evidence that portrays that prehistoric hunter-gatherers, considered to be the oldest and most primitive form of human society, showed aspects that were similar to the democratic process.

Looking back on the historical record and literature, it is also evident that the ancient civilizations found in the Fertile Crescent, which was home to the oldest known human civilizations, also followed democratic principles, although in a more limited capacity. There is also archaeological proof that similar forms of governance existed in ancient India.

While there is no concrete evidence that can definitively say that the aforementioned examples were fully or partially democratic, the prevailing consensus is that the form of democracy that most people are familiar with began in ancient Greece, specifically in the city-state of Athens.

Athenian Politics

In the 5th century BC, a democratic government was introduced in Athens. The word democracy actually has its roots in the Greek for “rule by the people.”

The democratic government of Athens had three parts: the ekklesia, the boule, and the disasters. The ekklesia can be said to be a combination of the executive and the legislative, writing laws and determining foreign policy. The boule itself is reminiscent of the House of Congress, where elected representatives would convene and help govern the state. The disasters were a complex system of courts that resembled US circuit courts, places where the citizenry could bring charges against entities and the like.

While Ancient Athens can be said to be democratic, suffrage only extended to the male populace, excluding women, foreigners, and slaves.

Democratic Principles

While there are multiple ways to know what democracy means, these are the elements that are generally agreed upon:

Fundamental Rights – One of democracy’s greatest strengths is that it advocates that everyone, regardless of race, sex, gender, orientation, creed, etc., has fundamental inalienable rights. This means that there are certain actions they are allowed to do, and the government is prevented from impeding upon any instance outside those that are damaging to public security. An essential fundamental right is the right to vote, which is foundational to the existence of a democracy, as without a democracy is a democracy in name only.

Equal Participation – Another of democracy’s greatest strengths is that everyone is allowed access to political participation. In other forms of government, only the elite and those that are fortunate enough to be born in certain lineages are allowed to participate in government. This limits innovation because it narrows down who is allowed to do anything. Democracies are vibrant because they expand access to the majority.

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