The Portuguese Republic reached her first century today. There have been good times and bad times during these past 100 years, but the principle is still the same. There are no special instituted privileges attached to your family name. Everyone is born equal under the law.
Of course that doesn’t mean that we all have equal opportunities automatically, or that money or connections don’t make a difference to where we’ll end up in life. However, there’s a stated hope that it will be possible for everyone to start in the same place and get ahead through their own merit alone. It’s huge collective breakthrough in any society, when it stops being normal that a small group of people get a set of special rights and immunities simply for the sake of tradition. It makes a world of difference when we stop accepting the division between first and second class citizens within a nation.
To me, it’s not enough to be a Republic. To reach the full merit of hope in a better nation, that Republic has to be a Democracy also. People need to have a say in how they’re governed and by whom. They’ll choose wrong sometimes, but that’s their privilege. Having a choice is more important than choosing right. And if we are true democrats, that is the only thing we don’t question. Right or wrong is a relative position. Choice is absolute. The price to pay is to accept that our choices won’t always be in line with the majority ruling. But you can’t always get what you want.
The first republicans believed in this also. In many ways they were dramatically ahead of their times and let enthusiasm curb their rationality. It led to the downfall of Democracy. But they sowed those first seeds and made it almost impossible to return to a regime where your future was more dependent on a genetic lottery than on anything else. My homage to them for that. May the Republic last forever.