The dangers of embracing a ʽbenevolent’ dictatorship
I have heard it said that the more things change, the more they remain the same. The French writer Jean-Baptist Alphonse Karr also said: “Turbulent changes do not affect reality on a deeper level other than to cement the status quo.” That is because on a deeper level, life is coded.
Philosophers of antiquity recognised that human society behaves in patterns that, like an algorithm, are predictable and consistent. The ancients wrote these patterns in stories which were relatable and passed down through generations as character types and scenarios. Later these tales, which were meant to be instructive, became known as the Bible or Scriptures — some assuming they were actual history, but in reality were only similitudes.
There are two polarities in this world — they are represented as truth or falsehood, light or darkness, good or evil. There is no in between. Life is systemic and therefore structures are either servicing and advancing the cause of good or advancing evil — there is no quasi good. There can be the appearance of good, which is deceit, or actual good, which is truth.
Everyone in some capacity is a leader and is either motivated by good, which comes with such things as humility, self-sacrifice, compassion and the love of others. To the contrary is the motivation for self-grandeur, vain possession, power and control, which is usually accompanied by lack of compassion.
Distinguishing between who is good and who is evil has been a historical challenge when you consider that question for context. Historically, some who are revered today as being good or even holy were considered and often treated in their contemporary setting as evil. In our Judaeo-Christian and even Islamic worlds, we don’t have to look no farther than Jesus of Nazareth.
That point being taken, we then consider the likes of Adolf Hitler and now the horrible example of Vladimir Putin, of Russia. These men rose through the ranks of causes that were presumed causes of benefit to people. They were not causes driven from their inception to inflict harm, but they evolved to be an atrocity. Did they build vast empires and enjoy technological success? Yes, they did, but for whom? If it was for humanity or for everyone, they would have been considered good or, even, messiahs.
Owning a leader is at times like owning a pet dog. One can own a pitbull who to the owner is like a teddy bear but to anyone else is a vicious brute. In such cases, we have to call the pet what it is in a social context — a vicious brute. Unfortunately, these brutes grow. They all look cute in their infancy while showing a tendency to be nasty. But they are forgiven because they are cute. “He tears up a doll, look at him just having fun.” Until later he actually tears up a child.
Political dictators and leaders are similar: little tendencies forgiven and overlooked as being just a little overzealous or unthoughtful until they get real power and those little tendencies become monstrous. No one and no country is spared this phenomenon. I travelled to an island to the south and visited the site where government forces had murdered protesters and buried some alive — the moans of the suffering were heard while tractors buried them. This was not Tiananmen Square; it was the Caribbean.
We are all humans and it is an inescapable reality that we bear the typical characteristics of any and all human society.
Bermuda has its own human experience and we are facing the same issues of human character that all countries and societies have faced and will continue to face. Maybe it is a structural reality that for Bermuda to achieve human success, it must break with the status quo and embrace a benevolent dictatorship. The litmus test would then rest around the character traits of the leaders and the question of who benefits. Would it be society as a whole or just a few? Would the rational world with human sensibility agree? Who gets rewarded? Will it be crooks and sleazy parasites standing in line for handouts? Or will hard-working, creditable effort be rewarded?
The answers are very simple; it’s just having the fortitude to be truthful that is difficult. If the man on the street and about the world sees it as corrupt, then it is probably corrupt. If they see it as warranted, then, again, it probably is.
I don’t think I should finish this story because the episode has been played so many times. Sufficient to say that if it’s a Messiah, we should all say “hosannah”.
But if not ...