But the others…I saw a strange thing: they were behaving in very inhuman ways, but they were all cowards. When I shouted, “Shut up!” that deputy chief simply slipped back like a small child, afraid that the television would catch my words and me, and him with all the honors of the police on his coat, with a pistol hanging by his side. But inside there was a child, a cowardly child.
It was an experience – because democracy was born in Athens. Democracy is a Greek idea, and yet the man who created the idea of democratic values was poisoned by Athenians – that’s what history goes on saying. But that day I became suspicious of history.
Socrates was not poisoned by the people of Athens, but by the bureaucracy of Athens. And one should make a distinction, because I was mistreated on the island of Crete by the police. But the people of the village where I was staying, Saint Nicholas, were not with the bureaucracy. When one journalist asked me, “What is your message to the people of Saint Nicholas?” I said, “Just tell them to come to the airport, to show the police that they are with me and not with them.”
Three thousand people were at the airport in the middle of the night, filling the whole terrace of the airport. They had been standing there for hours. The whole village was empty; those who were left behind had to walk because they could not get any taxi, any bus – everything had moved to the airport. But people walked miles to reach the airport to demonstrate a simple fact: they are not with the brutality and the fascist behavior of the government; they are with me.
People have always been blamed for the bureaucracy and its brutality. I don’t think Socrates would have been killed by the people of Athens. He was such a loving person, and with no egoistic idea of being holier than you.
In the morning he would go to fetch some vegetable, and he would not return even by the night – because everywhere on the streets, in the vegetable shop, in the market, he was discussing with everybody things which are beyond the ordinary man. He was the teacher of the whole of Athens. A single man made Athens one of the most intelligent cities that has ever existed in the world – single-handedly, just moving, meeting anybody. To say hello to him meant you were entering into a dialogue – in spite of yourself. You may have been in a hurry – Socrates was not in a hurry.
These people could not have killed him. The bureaucracy became afraid. The Crete experience made me look again at history. The books are lying – the people have not killed the man. They could not have even imagined it. But the government…and why should the government kill the man? – because the man was making the masses so intelligent, so independent, so freedom-loving, so individualistic, that the government would soon find itself in troubled waters. It would not be able to control these people, it would not be able to enslave these people.