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Big Ideas That Changed The World : Democracy – Tony Benn

Posted by theonlinecitizen on July 16, 2007

Tony Benn is a former Labour MP and cabinet minister in Britain.

In this BBC film, Tony Benn looks at how the concept of democracy developed and spread across the world over the centuries from its beginnings in Ancient Greece. Particularly considers the impact of extending the vote to more people in 19th century Britain and the state of democracy in 20th century Britain.

“There is never a final victory for democracy. It’s always a struggle – in every generation. And you have to take up the cause time and time and time again. And we also learned that those rights can only be won collectively. But in the attempts to win those rights, many people have been imprisoned and tortured by those who have power and were determined to retain it.”

Tony Benn’s website is here.

Read more about him here.

The other parts of this film can be viewed on the right sidebar of theonlinecitizen – under TOC Video Collection.

*Special thanks to at82 for recommending this video to theonlinecitizen.


8 Responses to “Big Ideas That Changed The World : Democracy – Tony Benn”

  1. at82 said

    There is a total of 5 parts for this documentary. U can check them out at the side bar or at my blog here.

  2. LCC said

    A most insightful documentary. Thanks for the recommendation.

    However, perhaps it is just me but I thought that I detect a sense of bias in that the narrator of the documentary (i.e. Tony Benn) seems to be advocating for a form of democratic socialism and not democracy per se.

    And though I am entirely familiar with the events of the 1980s, it would seem to me that Mr. Benn’s description of what happened in the U.K. and the U.S during that period is a rather partial one; he seems to be suggesting that no good came out of the reforms implemented by the Thatcher administration in the U.K. and the Reagan administration in the U.S. during the 1980s.

    Also, I find his statement of “those in power do not want democracy” rather strange if we think about it. I mean, he himself was also in power when he served as a Cabinet minister so is he suggesting that when he was a minister, he did not want democracy?

    Okay, that’s all I have to say for now…

    “A democracy in which the majority exercises its powers without restraint may be almost as tyrannical as a dictatorship. Toleration of minorities is an essential part of wise democracy, but a part which is not always sufficiently remembered.” – Bertrand Russell (excerpted from “Freedom And The Colleges” in “Why I Am Not A Christian”)

    “Democracy is not worth a brass farthing if it is being installed by bayonets.” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

  3. at82 said

    I agree with you lcc. However with democracy always had an egalitarian streak in it.

    Most, if not all, democratic industrialized countries eventually introduce some form of welfare measures to help its citizens whom are poor. Even in USA, the supposed capitalist country, there is unemployment benefits for its citizens, which are undoubtedly socialistic in nature.

  4. The world should experiment with my Confucianism, see .

    I advocate a figure head president or king, without political power. His main duty is to meditate and eat vegetarian food daily.

    This is a cure all system. What has democracy achieved so far ? More miseries ? Those in power make use of democracy to extend their power. This is total abuse of democracy. Who to blame ? The people who elected them ?

  5. I wrote before to WP about the woman chairman but was given a negative reply.

    I want to say this again, with a woman chairman, WP will face problem. This is my Confucianism explaination.

    India has just elected their first woman president. So the next 5 years will not be so good for them. America might elect their first woman president next year. If Nature wants to punish them, IT will make the Americans crazy to elect the woman president.

    My Confucianism is the savior of the world.

  6. scb said

    The Truth is there are no perfect political system and worse is there are no perfect man. A government is likely a body with many politicians in it. Within every government there will be power crazy, money crazy and fame crazy leaders, even if there are some respectable ones, they will only form the minority. Man is by nature vain and history has proven it time and again and dare I say it is a perpetual problem. However, having said the aforementioned, comparatively there are better managed and mismanaged governments from time to time even in one(same) country. Regards scb.

  7. Learn from the bible !
    Without asking for a king, the Jews will be still intact in their homeland. After asking for a king, they are condemned !

    The king should be a spiritual man doing meditation and eat vegetarian food. He should not have political power so to increase his sins.

    Thai king has been in the throne for over 60 years. See how Thailand is faring now. He should abdicate and let his son or other people to be president. The misery of Thailand is in the hands of the king.

  8. Just look at Philippines and Indonesia. The latter had a woman president not long ago.
    They will suffer if they don’t change their political system to one parliamentary system of the British.

    Zimbabwe had a parliamentary system which was later changed to a presidential system. See how Zimbabwe declines into today’s chaos.

    Pakistan is another example of people amending constitution to have presidential rule. This will only increase their misery and suffering.

    Sri Lanka is another example.

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