Monday, January 9, 2012

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Sadly, this hasn’t been a very good year for dictators around the world. Since January 2011, when protests broke out in Tunisia, no fewer than five of the world’s most notorious dictators have died, been killed, or have been put on trial:

January 14, 2011: Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali flees to Saudi Arabia after weeks of violent protests erupt in that country.

February 11, 2011: Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak resigns after 18 days of protest against his rule. On April 13th, he is arrested and put on trial for murder.

October 20, 2011: Lybian dictator Moammar Gadhafi is humiliated, tortured, and killed by rebels.

November 23, 2011: Yemen dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh resigns from power after being injured in an explosion in his presidential compound.

December 19, 2011: Korea’s demented dictator, Kim Jung Il, dies of natural causes (we think, anyway).

Of course, there are plenty of other nasty, vicious, pathological dictators who remain at large (Putin in Russia and Bashar al-Assad, being the most notorious). And let’s not forget Hu Jintao, President of China and head of the Chinese Communist Party, who continues to authorize acts of oppression against dissidents in his own country and genocide against the people of Tibet. But, even given the staying power of these tyrants, the trend is not good for dictatorship as a political system.

It seems that the Arab Spring that erupted last year gave oppressed peoples around the world the idea that collective action could lead to the overthrow of even those regimes that had been around for decades. In our own country, Occupy Wall Street is serving a similar role, showing how ordinary folks can resist the equally tyrannical power of multinational corporations.

Winter is here now, but my prediction is that by spring we are going to see a renewal of collective action against autocratic political and economic systems in the United States and throughout the world. Citizens have only begun to get a taste of political empowerment and they’re certainly not going to give that up—especially not when they have so many examples of success to inspire them.

Right here in our own country, for example, two very positive movements have arisen that threaten to challenge the stranglehold that corporate interests have over our political process:

Americans Elect, which I wrote a previous post about, has begun an on-line process for nominating a candidate for president. This nomination process, which is completely open and transparent, has the potential to demonstrate that alternatives are possible to the two corporate-controlled parties that exist in this country.

Even more inspiring, the activists and citizens behind Occupy Wall Street have called for a Constitutional Convention to challenge, among other things, the corrupt notion of corporate citizenship and the grossly unprogressive tax policy that exists in this country.

Movements like these alone won’t end tyranny in the United States or around the world any time soon, but they are indicative of a significant political trend taking place all around the globe: human beings, individually and collectively, are beginning to realize that the only real solution to our seemingly overwhelming human problems is for the people themselves to begin to take control of their own destinies.

This populist, international revolt against tyranny in all its subtle forms won’t happen over night, but it will inevitably happen. The technological revolution, which makes it so easy for activists to communicate and coordinate with one another, has provided the tools for collective action. The greed and stupidity of the autocrats themselves—whether these are puppet dictators in third world countries or the avaricious CEOs of multinational corporations like General Electric or Bank of America—has provoked the rage that will fuel these movements.

In 2012 revolt will be inevitable. All that remains to be seen are the specific forms that this revolt will take. Whatever happens, 2012 promises to provide even more headaches—and rolling heads—for dictators, tyrants, and autocrats of all types than even 2011 did.


  1. I hope you're right about 2012. Last year was phenomenal thanks to the energy created by Occupy Wall Street. Its' not the same this winter, and I'm afraid that the movement might have burnt itself out. I hope not, but that's how it seems right now.

    1. Hey, Alex. I just noticed that Blogger has added this new feature that enables you to comment on a comment. How cool is that!

      Don't worry about Occupy Wall Street. It's not going anywhere. I was just at a protest led by Occupy Wall Street Activists, and they are more energized and committed than ever!

      - Keith

    2. Yr wrong. Occupy is already dead in the water. Once they got run out of Zuccotti Park it spelled the end of the movement.

  2. There are tryants who need to be overthrown everywhere. Why, I even know of a certain college on Long Island that is being run by the worst sort of petty tyrants. But you're right -their days are numbered.