Zachary Antoyan is a political science senior and Mustang News liberal columnist. These views do not necessarily reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.
Suppose you find yourself acting as the dictator of a small country. Either you’re no good at ruling with an iron fist or your citizens are just bored from the lack of jobs (probably both), because now, in your Republic Square, there is a massive group of people shouting mean things. Nothing justifies the existence of a Republic Square more than thousands of protestors demanding the ousting of you specifically. But no matter how accurate their accusations of your corruption are, you want to do everything you can to keep your job. Because the perks are pretty nice, especially the solid gold toilet.
If your first reaction to these protestors is to bring out the tear gas, fire hoses and riot squads, hold off for a moment; this is for you. Rejection is hard, I understand that, and no ruler wants to be forced out of their position. Good heavens, what will the other dictators think? They’ll probably make fun of you or call you soft. Don’t give in to the peer pressure — you can indeed quell the protests, prevent them from turning into revolts, keep your job and even make some civilians happy. And no, the answer is not tear gas, fire hoses and riot squads.
Here is the key idea: The excessive force you exert on your citizens will turn them from protestors to freedom fighters. If you call in the military to respond to the increasing size of the throng of people on your doorstep, you turn them into enemies. And if you want to see what happens when your citizens become enemies, Google the recent political histories of Egypt, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Turkey, Venezuela and Tunisia.
Nobody wants to end up like Muammar Gaddafi, and in order to ensure that you don’t, some concessions are going to have to be made. Those people are out there for a reason. Generally, protests start because of a disconnect between the will of the people and the actions of the government. As dictator, you probably feel entitled to make policy decisions that positively impact the health of the state. Unfortunately, the health of the state in no way equates to the health of the people living within the state, and you must realize this before it’s too late. When you call in the military to deal with your “unruly” citizens, you sever the connection between the government and the people. A quote from “Battlestar Galactica” is extremely relevant here: “There’s a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people.”
Why should you care about the people, you ask? Of course, for the last quarter-century you’ve been able to subvert their control over the direction of the country and live lavishly as a result, so why should this change now? Well, thanks to the spread of liberal (in the international relations sense, not the political spectrum kind of liberal) ideologies and the whole “freedom and liberty” thing the United States has touted for so long, your people are now more aware of the fact that you are screwing them over. All the little abuses of power you have committed over the years have resulted in one very unhappy citizenry.
This is OK, because you still have a chance to change things for the better. This is going to require you to fulfill your role as the head of government and/or state. Again, no, it’s not to use tear gas, fire hoses and riot squads. The protests are the expression of the people that you are not aligning with their interests. For instance, that fleet of really expensive cars that sits in your private garage on your yacht doesn’t show your responsiveness to their needs. Take in the demands of the protestors and attempt to make changes in those areas of discontent. As difficult as it may be to give up your daily hour of massages for a meeting with the opposition, you will at least be seeking non-violent means of quelling protests. In this case, violence on your part incites violence on theirs. Living and governing in an adversary democracy, where there are multiple political wills within the country, is no easy task, but if you only serve your own interest, you bring the violence upon yourself.
Chances are, you have some sort of republican system of representatives to be the voice of the people; most countries do. No matter how effective they are at representing the interests of their constituents, you ostensibly have pledged to be accountable to the people in some way. If you didn’t want them to expect to have their rights and freedoms respected, you should have established your monarchy a long time ago, not masked your autocracy under the semblance of a democracy. If you want an example of that total control, look to North Korea. I’ve heard that Kim Jong-Un has it pretty nice over there.
This is Zachary Antoyan, thinking that you can have your cake and eat it, too. Mmmmm, cake. Have a fantastic week, everyone.