In the Catbird Seat/Joe Kirkish

Democracy – a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives

Anarchy – absence of government and absolute freedom of the individual, regarded as a political ideal

Put two or more people together and you have the makings of an argument.

Twenty-five hundred years ago, the ancient Greeks freely voiced their opinions regarding the best way to settle a political argument with a kind of democracy that seemed to work; over the years, that was followed in other nations with various modifications into the Middle Ages and then, by steps, to today as a voted representation of leaders for guidance.

We are now put to a test. The current muddle over the possession of firearms threatens to divide us as a nation and could use a breath of fresh air from the once lofty Greeks. How would those masters of good sense and logic see this recent opening of Pandora’s box?

On one hand, to return to the country’s time when in the Wild West nearly everyone packed weapons for safety’s sake; or on the other, to move forward in time, through a tangled web of trials and errors move away from a growingly uncontrollable crime-infested society and with chosen leadership eradicate the cancer rather than band-aid its effects. Which direction should be taken?

In argument, Socrates would never resort to the singling out of the most current focus for action the senseless mass shootings of innocent victims by a crazed person as an argument pro or con. He would enlarge his argument with the increasing single cases involving street deaths, in alleys, in random firings, in gang intent, robberies, for revenge or in assumed cases of self defense.

He would smile condescendingly at the idea of individuals taking the law into their own hands to do what should be the responsibility of chosen leaders. On the other hand, he might also smile at Aristophanes’ play “Lysistrata,” in which women rose quite successfully in total revolt against the political Greek wars, by resolving simply to refuse sex to their warring husbands. For Socrates – and Plato – a democratic way was best.

Their most democratic system would feature an administration in which all Greek men shared in governance for a time, then returned to to their private lives, the better to serve their society with a newly acquired savvy.

Plato first analyzed the various possible forms of government from total anarchy to dictatorship, concluding that a government of elected representatives, while still not perfect, was for the best. He called it a democracy.

Imperfect as it still is, democracy seems to be the direction in which developed and developing nations hope to resolve their ongoing political and social issues. But will it always be so for us?

Currently, in our country, the debate over arms has unquestionably arrived late; for decades, rampant shootings existed and we looked the other way. The keeping of arms for any reason has become an unwritten sign of freedom for a people that brought their country into being, and kept it there, with arms; and over time the hunting for food or sport is taken for granted as an American right.

So before it’s too late, which way are we to go, now that the misuse of weapons shows no sign of abating in fact, just the opposite?

Do we return to the old Western system of gun toting, not just in the home, but anywhere else where impending danger exists in cars, in the street, in public places like shops, churches, political gatherings and sports arenas? Or do we turn to our chosen body of representatives to find logical alternative decisions to absolve the problem for us?

Either plan involves serious consequences, which means that decisions still must be made on the basis of serving with the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Regardless how we feel about it, where the masses of citizens are concerned, there is no such thing as total freedom. Sacrifices must be made.

So which way to lean: personal license for one’s assurance or a resignation of self to representative leadership?

Doesn’t it come down to that?

Note: The Finlandia Student Nurses Assn. will host an Omega House benefit: spaghetti dinner and raffle, this Saturday – 4:00 to 7:00 p.m – at Houghton’s Saints Peter and Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Rotten Tomatoes: “Escape from Planet Earth,” C+; “Snitch,” C.