25th of August 2015
Gene Sharp said in his book “From dictatorship to democracy” that overcoming the people’s fear and habit of obedience is a necessary prerequisite to destroy the dictatorship.Which brings us to the question…
Why do people obey dictators?
“With an understanding why people obey, we can more effectively promote collective disobedience to unjust laws. Also, understanding why people obey provides a powerful rebuttal to the belief that “obedience is natural.” Human beings are not genetically predisposed to obedience, but rather to living in communities, in a society in which good reasons are available for voluntary compliance with laws and conventions. But when compliance is forced and obedience is demanded by a government through threats and sanctions rather than by popular consent, obedience becomes less stable.“ – Non-violent struggle – 50 crucial points, pg36.
There is no one reason why people obey dictatorships rather a complex mixture of reasons. Make no mistake, the dictator knows all of them intimately and apply or make use of them religiously. His very survival depends on them. Habbit
To obey is not natural. As children we get taught and conditioned to obey those bigger than us, older than us and those having more authority than us. We obey our parents, our teachers, our lecturers, road signs, the police, etc. and so we also learn to obey the government, even when it turns bad.
A few years ago I wrote an article on the famous Zimbardo prison experiment and how people fall into and adapt to their roles in society. Those who were the “prison guards” became increasingly brutal and those who were the “prisoners” more subservient.
This leads to a condition called ”Learned helplessness” where people simply accept their fate, because they see no way out even when one is staring them straight in the face. I called it a “resistance to resistance”.
Just following orders
In 1961Prof Stanley Milgram of Yale University started a series of experimenets that became known collectively as The Milgram experiment
He later published his findings in a book called, Obedience to authority: An experimental view,1974
The Milgram experiment showed the surprising ease with which ordinary persons can be commanded to act destructively against an innocent individual by a legitimate authority. People feel absolved from guilt when ordered by an authority.
The instinct to bond with a strong leader
Dictators exploit a well-known instinct for most people to seek protection from a strong leader, according to Alice LoCicero, a Cambridge, Mass.-based clinical psychologist and researcher on leadership and terrorism.
"Our behavior is still affected by what went on thousands of years ago," LoCicero said. "It's easier to understand why it's adaptive and common for people to bond to powerful leaders. In Darwinian evolution, the people who bonded with the leader survived. That instinct got passed along."
LoCicero has studied terrorist leadership and victims of terrorism from all five continents. She says that in some cultures, it's important to show respect to leaders, whether it's North Korea's Kim family of dictators or just the local schoolteacher.
We also saw this phenomonen in Serbia during the Kosovo war where Nato rained down bombs from March 24, 1999 to June 10, 1999 trying to destroy the Serbian military machine. All it achieved in doing was strengthening support for Serbian dictator Milosevic. It reached an all time high.
Sedja Popovic mentions how it was the worst time for the Otpor! resistance movement who were about to depose Milosevic in a non-violent revolution. Even some of Otpor’s own members started instinctively cheering for Milosevic.
The “Personality Cult”
Most of the time the dictator is actually not strong at all, but will try to “appear strong” and will create a “Cult of personality” through careful control of information and propaganda.
Most dictators are actually insecure, paranoid and manipulating bullies and in fact weaklings.
This becomes very clear once they lose their power and are dethroned. Suddenly they break down and appear extremely weak. Examples are dictators Ferdinand Marcos, Erich Honecker and the former red terror Stasi Chief Erich Mielke who turned into bumbling idiot and were laughed out in the “Volkskamer” (people’s chamber) when he insisted “…But, but I love you. I love all people…” when it came out how they built the Berlin Wall and slaughtered people who tried to escape it.
More recently the ridiculous 5ft3 Kim Jong Il, who was a pudgy, vain, top nerd who bouffed up his hair to gain another inch or two built his cult of personality to create an idealized, heroic, and at times, worshipful image who, amongst other things, claimed to be a brilliant inventor as well as a super golfer who shot 38 under par his first time playing golf. His biggest legacy was the 1-2 million people he starved to death whilst enjoying a lavish lifestyle.
His son 32yo Kim Jong Un was described by his Swiss classmates as a shy child who was awkward with girls and indifferent to political issues. He likese basketball, computer games and during NBA star Dennis Rodman’s visit to the dictator Ryan Duffy of Vice Media observed that "the leader was 'socially awkward' and didn't make eye contact when shaking hands".
The 5ft 6in Nicolae Ceausescu gave himself such titles as "Conducător" ("Leader") and "Geniul din Carpați" ("The Genius of the Carpathians") and had a king-like scepter made for himself. Ceausescu’s birthday (26th of January) was the most important day of the year and everyone had to put up a happy face or be punished.
For years, nearly all official photographs of him showed him in his late 40s. Romanian state television was under strict orders to portray him in the best possible light, but who can forget his pathetic looking face at the attempted speeches on the eve of his overthrow when the crowd started booing and heckling him.
And who can forget the surprised face of Sadam Husein when he was dragged from the hole in the ground where he was hiding…His mug said, “Game Over”.
The last moments of strongman Muamar Al Gaddafi crying like a baby when he was dragged from the filthy drain pipe he was hiding in is another example of how truly weak these dictators really are.
In reality the dictator is not strong. He only looks strong until the last ten minutes. He is not installed by God. He might think he is a god but in fact he is Odin’s Mickey Mouse and Allah’s Daffy Duck.
“You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police ... yet in their hearts there is unspoken fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts: words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home, all the more powerful because forbidden, terrify them. A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic.” ― Winston S. Churchill, Blood, Sweat and Tears
Distractions - Bread and circus
Since the times of the Romans, dictators have used this technique.
Panem et Circenses comes from Roman poet Juvenal's metaphor for people voluntarily (or democratically) giving up civic responsibility for a reasonably stable status quo.
When the people are well-fed and having fun, they will be too contented or lazy to protest against those in charge (they may even start to thank, adore, and praise those in charge), turning them into gullible lemmings and apathetic citizens who will leave the “Powers That Be” free to do as they please.
Sports such as football, Rugby, Olympic Games, etc serve as distractions to lead people away from political realities, misrule and corruption.
The GDR used the so called FKK (Freikörperkultur) or nudism as bread and circus. Drugs and alcohol can also be used like in USSR, GDR and China.
When a brave leader stands up to tell or show the people what is really going on, he is branded as a troublemaker out to ruin their (relatively) happy life — or worse, submerge them in fire and brimstone. When you are the only sane person, to others, you look like the only insane person.
Lies, propaganda and the blurring of the distinctions between Dystopia and Utopia
Reality is turned upside down. The regime will tell lies and half truths to create the impression that the current status quo they created is the best the country has ever seen or will ever see. The dictator is God and the totalitarian state is heaven. Successful countries in Europe or the West are made out as “corrupt”, “materialistic” or “rotten”.
This form of indoctrination usually starts early from kindergarten age and carried out throughout school and university so that sheeple genuinely believes this junk.
The regime also makes use of “Brown envelope journalism” where reporters are paid to sing praises of the dictatorship. In South Africa 2010, journalists Ashley Smith and Joseph Aranes of the Cape Argus were implicated in a scandal to further ANC Premier Ebrahim Rasool’s agenda, but the rabbit hole went deeper when in 2012, ANC spindoctor Chris Vick a former journalist who writes a column in Business Day – has riled editors with his accusations of widespread unethical behaviour by South African journalists. These include that some reporters have their stories written for them by public relations practitioners like him.
SA journalism plagued by payola
|Jacob Zuma: "You have less rights, |
because you are a minority"
“For the minority, what else is democracy than dictatorship?” – Anna Jae
The minority trapped in a “democracy” has no voice and is forced to accept whatever the majority decides no matter how bad those decisions are.
The minority then feels that the dictatorship is justified, because the majority supports it. So they just go along with the flow and accept the status quo.
The dictatorship’s friendship with big powers
The people feel that the dictatorship should be tolerated, because of the support from foreign nations or corporations.
In the case of South Africa you have BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA) in a partnership of emerging economies representing over three billion people. Almost half of the world’s population. No wonder South Africans feel powerless.
In SA there is also the perception that the ANC is supported by mining and industrial giants such as De Beers/Anglo American, Lonmin, Consolidated Goldfields and others.
As we will see, these associations are not guaranteed for the dictatorship to remain in power and can quickly change sides.
There are three ways the dictator uses fear. First there is the fear of him and his regime. Second there is the fear of someone or something else. Thirdly there is the fear of ourselves.
Fear as the tool of the “Saviour” dictator
All dictatorships make use of fear to rule and present themselves as the only saviours. Fear is not only the fear of “sanctions” (punishments) from the dictator but also fear from an imagined, manufactured or real “enemy”…I call it “creating and hating the scapegoat.”
Dictators long ago found that it is easier to unite people in common hatred than in common love. This fear keeps the society off balance and collectively paranoid.
People who are resisting the dictatorship are called all sorts of names and vilified. Hitler would call his opponents “Communists” and “Jews” whether they were or not.
Stalin would call opponents “Fascists” and “Anti-revolutionaries”. In general the Marxist opponents are called the “Bourgeoisie”.
In Iran the scapegoat is called the “Infidel”, “Zionists”, “Imperial war-mongers”, etc. Israel is known as “That Zionist State”.
P.W. Botha called his opponents the “Rooi gevaar” (Red Threat) and the “Swart gevaar” (Black Threat).
In South Africa under the Marxist ANC “fascists” made way for “racists” and the “Bourgeoisie” are the whites, the “Colonial Capitalists” who refuse to share.
The dictator presents himself as God or ordained by God to rule forever; His opponents are vilified as demons or the Devil. The dictator wants people to believe that he is their only salvation; The Saviour. The Messiah.
In Iraq Saddam Hussein was so convinced of his God ordained destiny to rule forever that he refused to accept that he would be overthrown in April 2003 even with American tanks rolling into Baghdad.
In South Africa the Dictator Jacob Zuma said that the ANC will rule until Jesus comes.
What is “The fear of sanctions”?
In short, “sanctions” are “punishments” and can be anything from being police beatings and torture, imprisonment, losing one’s job to losing family, friends, livelihood, etc. It can also be threats, coercion or even assassinations.
An animal normally only fears immediate threats, but people can imagine threats in the future.
Therefore, the purpose of sanctions is not so much as to punish the resisters, but to make examples of them so that the rest of the people are deterred from resisting in future as well.
The dictator uses the “carrot and stick” technique. Those who resist can expect the harshest punishment, those who obey are rewarded. We will see that this fear of sanctions is one of the most important to overcome.
Atomisation and the fear within
There is another very important fear that keep people obeying the regime and that is the fear of failure. The fear that “I am not good enough” to do anything. “I am alone.”
This “isolation of the individual is called “atomization”.
The control of information and dissent
In dictatorships like the East German GDR, Iraq and North Korea, dictators tightly control the flow of information and therefore control dissent. There's such total control that four people talking together can be seen as a conspiracy.
The media and state broadcasters are either directly controlled by the dictatorship or exercises self censorship out of fear of sanctions. Certain films are banned, certain music is banned.
Internet and social media is censored, regulated and/or spied on. Telephones tapped and books disappear from libraries.
“When governments try to tightly control the flow of information – Including information on the internet – They only show a fundamental misunderstanding of the Information Age. What governments and others who want to control information don’t understand is this – they are no longer in control of the information. Power is moving into the hands of individuals and away from the exclusive control of governments and corporations.” - Dr. Gerald L. Kovacich
The Armed forces and a climate of fear
The dictatorship uses the armed forces (police and military) to openly display weapons on street or carry out military parades in order to install a general climate of fear and hopelessness amongst the population.
The secret police creates a climate of distrust amongst the people so that even family members are too scared to voice dissenting opinions.
So we see that it is in the dictator’s best interest to keep the people atomised, keep them in fear and keep them from disobeying. He will use everything from threats, rewards, armed forces, propaganda, lies and distractions to stay in power.
He knows…If the people overcome their fear of him, unite and start disobeying him, he is in deep, deep trouble. In the next edition we will look at how to achieve that.