Every dictator has enablers. In my opinion, the following enablers, and many others unlisted here, allow the dictator to remain powerful:
Divided Opposition Groups
Opposition movements that lack a common purpose to stand up together as one voice against any form of injustice are pointless and useless. They actually benefit the dictatorship by providing it with an excuse or a legitimacy to be in power for as long as it takes. Such oppositions force the public to lose hope and to believe that ‘a devil you know is better than an angel you don’t know’; they facilitate the culture of submissiveness and dormancy. They are as responsible as the dictatorial regime they oppose for sustaining dictatorship and for creating a docile generation.
Dictators also make sure that their opponents remain divided because they know if there is unity among these challengers, the days of the dictatorship are numbered.
In addition, oppositions that want a big prize overnight, and are unwilling to start small, can rarely succeed, unless they are fully certain that they can achieve all their demands—by behaving unrealistic, they let the dictatorship outsmart them; and because of their visible hunger for power, they make the dictatorial regime look good.
Mindset (of the rebel)
If you want to win the trust of the population, you must play the chess better than your opponent, i.e., come up with better and achievable solutions than remind the population the problems it already knows exist. Talking about problems does not make you a better candidate, but doing something realistic, something that the dictatorship finds difficult to counter attack, that will definitely get you the support of the population, which can speed up the process of regime change.
You demand democracy, but when you fail to even act like a democrat and can’t embrace democratic principles in your personal life and organization, you lose legitimacy to challenge the dictatorship. You can’t beat a dictator with a dictatorial mindset.
If your aim is only to gain power, but not to recognize power belongs to the people and that you are there to serve them humbly, you are wasting your time and energy—the existing dictatorship could do better on that, no one wants to welcome another dictator disguised as a change maker!
Don’t play with fire you can’t extinguish; don’t also encourage others to play with that fire while you keep yourself at a safe distance! If you want to change a system, be on the front line and face the consequences!
Don’t start something as dangerous as political activism under a dictatorship if you are not determined to push it until the end even at the cost of your life—that shows your determination for your cause and can inspire million others to follow your footsteps. If you are just in for a momentary fame or out of an emotional outburst, then you may commit grave mistakes, which will disappoint your supporters and will give more physical strength and moral boost to the dictatorship.
If you believe that you can’t trust or can’t work with individuals that now support the dictatorship or that used to be part of it, then yours is a lost cause. One of the best ways to fight against dictatorship is to weaken it from within, not only from outside. You need to devise a strategy that attracts those moderate voices that are or were loyal to (or supportive of) the status quo. You have no choice, but to advocate for inclusiveness in order to disintegrate the central nervous system of the dictatorship. You have to get over with paranoia and have to start trusting others that agree to disagree with you!
Differences (within the rebels camp)
Regardless of political differences, there has to be a common goal, mission, vision, strategy and ACTION among those that desire change and that dream a better system than what already exists. When you have no common purpose and you speak languages with which you can’t understand each other, your fate will be like the Babylonians:
… Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
… the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. — Genesis 11:1-9
The Absence of Democratic and Professional Institutions
For example, in the absence of independent and professional court or military, it is almost, but never, impossible to bring down a dictatorship that uses those institutions as its savage dogs that systemically or blindly attack anyone that is a threat to the regime’s existence.
For someone that demands change, let’s say a non-violent movement advocate, to deal with such a system can be a deadly gamble; during the time of resistance, as seen in North Africa recently, one must be very well determined, prepared, and principled to win the battle with little or no bloodshed; otherwise, a disaster can ensue—look at Libya!
The dictatorship, cognizant of the benefit, will surely do its best to keep democratic institutions weak and unprofessional because it knows the moment they escape from its jaw, the game is over.
The Silent Majority
Sometimes silence is not a good thing. It is difficult to make some sense out it. The silent majority is one of the worst enablers of dictatorship.
You do not know whether the silent majority supports or opposes the dictatorship. But you know something is brewing slowly. When that something erupts like a volcano, it may destroy almost everything around it, including the dictatorship!
Dictators are happy with the silent majority. They count on it for their longevity; as long as it remains silent, they fear not the few vocal oppositions; they would do everything under the sun to silence those few agitators that urge the silent majority to wake up!
Poverty enables dictatorship; that is an obvious fact. Poverty breeds ignorance, pigs, traitors, opportunists, cowards, greedy ones, and brutes—these can enable tyrants to remain powerful, to run a mafia state.
No question that almost every human being wants to be wealthy and powerful; and in a country where wealth is disproportionately distributed and poverty is rampant, the average citizen may only want a way to get a piece of the pie. Because survival comes first, the citizen may give up challenging a dictatorship that gives it opportunity.
The presence of absolute poverty almost everywhere, in an environment with very scarce resources, encourages ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality.
Dictators directly or indirectly declare that in order to fight poverty they must rule with an iron fist. Economic development first and democracy must come second, they preach. They argue the abuse of human rights and the stagnation of democratization can be justified since their primary goal is to ‘make poverty history,’ which may remain just a slogan.
Poverty breeds ignorance, ignorance breeds poverty, which sustains dictatorship.
Dictators prefer to keep their population in darkness: cripple the education system, censor books or the media, ban or limit the free press, block the internet or satellite channels, and step by step make alternative ideas and independent thinkers disappear from the public domain.
Dictators do not want a smart population that questions them day in, day out, a population that demands transparency and accountability, fairness, freedom, freedom of expression, end of corruption, etc.
Powerful foreign governments, since themselves are dictators in their own ways, have vested interest in shaping the politics and economics of other countries, especially poor ones. Thus, they have always been more than willing to enable a dictatorship that acts as a stooge and to dismantle a democratically elected government that resists servitude.
Foreign powers want to continuously dictate the world by any means necessary, and that includes supporting dictatorships that help them achieve such ambitions.
To be continued …(first written in 2011)