Ideas are rarely rapidly accept. They often have to stew in the minds of society until people are ready to attempt their application. Even when an idea or ideal is applied it may still never come to be accepted among those in power. Democracy is an example of this. Democracy not only had to fight for its existence in the Ancient Rome, but every alteration of the concept led to new struggles and obstacles to overcome. Hobsbawn discusses how mass mobilization for public action was “large ill defined coalition” which lacked the unification and strength for impact at its beginning. When democracy finally replaced “politics of notables”, it was due to the “constituent organizations which formed its base”, ideological maturation of democracy, and a global mass mobilization.
Once established an idea can be replaced by the same methods. According to Hobsbawn, for an ideology or concept to survive unity, continuity, efficiency, and centrality of the masses are crucial. What I like about Hobsbawn is that he attempts to define and categorize what democracy was and became within that time period, but he makes it quite clear that it is a concept that has developed beyond what was perceived at that time. And the democracy we know today could potential be re-categorized as a completely different term. Do we cling to a term because it is what it always has been, because it is easier to convince people that the changes being made are less substantial because it is still democracy, or is it because democracy has become a symbol? Symbols are so important in our society. From an early age we are able to identify with things and support and protect symbols whether we know why or not. My four year old niece broke into hysterical tears at our Fourth of July picnic when my dad threw away the napkins. The napkins had the flag printed on them. She said to him with such gumption “You NEVER EVER EVER throw a flag away with the trash. No Grandpa Gene. That makes you anti- American.” We still aren’t quite sure how she learned patriotism. Not that my family are “anti-Americans,” but it was not an ideal we were pressing her to learn. Symbols are unifying. A flag, a pin, a pink ribbon, a cross, a Star of David, are all symbols that give individuals something tangible to represent the intangible.
Without symbols do you think as many people would be unified?