Second Meditation on Dictatorship [written March 1, 2008] REPUBLISHED

https _s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com_736x_ee_59_33_ee593300e425c02784549e0228c025e1In the begin­ning years of this blog, I pub­lished a series of arti­cles called “Med­i­ta­tions on Democ­racy and Dic­ta­tor­ship” which are still reg­u­larly read today, and have had some influ­ence. They still elic­it inquiries from remote cor­ners of the globe. They are now buried in the back pages of the blog, so I’m mov­ing them up the chrono­log­i­cal counter so they can have anoth­er round of vis­i­bil­ity, espe­cially (I hope) with younger read­ers. I am re-post­ing them in their orig­i­nal sequence over part of 2018. Some ref­er­ences in these “med­i­ta­tions” will date them to 2007–2008, when they were writ­ten. But I will leave them un-retouched, though I may occa­sion­ally append some ret­ro­spec­tive notes. Most­ly, they deal with abstract issues that do not need updat­ing.


The argu­ment behind this series of med­i­ta­tions is that aris­to­crat­ic elites, whether they are dressed up in mil­i­tary uni­forms, busi­ness suits, or the regalia of roy­al­ty, are iden­ti­cal in pur­pose and func­tion. Dif­fer­ences between them are triv­ial and cos­met­ic, not struc­tur­al. The term “dic­ta­tor­ship” applies equal­ly to all places where an unelect­ed gang of hood­lums rules over peo­ple and ter­ri­to­ry, what­ev­er their sup­posed ide­ol­o­gy or what­ev­er style they chose to prance around in. I fur­ther con­tend that they are nei­ther moral­ly legit­i­mate, nor “gov­ern­ment” in the sense that demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed admin­is­tra­tions are. Dic­ta­tors are mere­ly crim­i­nals, no dif­fer­ent from the crim­i­nals that rob con­ve­nience stores or attack women in dark­ened car parks. The only dif­fer­ence is the amount of mon­ey they steal and the num­ber of peo­ple they mur­der or maim.

Next, I have argued that rule by aris­toc­ra­cies is a con­stant dan­ger to human soci­ety in any time and any place, inde­pen­dent of a society’s lev­el of wealth, or avail­able tech­nol­o­gy. I argue that there are no nec­es­sary or pre­des­tined “stages” in the orga­ni­za­tion of human soci­ety. Moral­ly good and ben­e­fi­cial demo­c­ra­t­ic social arrange­ments can be made at any time and in any place, by any group of peo­ple, large or small. Lan­guage, eth­nic­i­ty, loca­tion, and degree of wealth are not struc­tural­ly rel­e­vant to demo­c­ra­t­ic prac­tice, and demo­c­ra­t­ic prac­tice does not orig­i­nate with, or “belong to” any par­tic­u­lar cul­tur­al group. Sim­i­lar­ly, dic­ta­tor­ship can occur in any human group. Immoral, dis­eased soci­eties can be made at any time, in any place, by any group of peo­ple, large or small. Both pos­si­bil­i­ties always co-exist.

I then pro­posed that the actions of aris­to­crat­ic elites are mere­ly the exten­sion of tech­niques employed by psy­cho­log­i­cal bul­lies and con-artists on the per­son­al scale of human inter­ac­tion. In oth­er words, bul­lies, frauds, swindlers and manip­u­la­tors oper­ate as a patho­log­i­cal minor­i­ty in all human groups. The meth­ods and motives of dic­ta­tors and rul­ing aris­toc­ra­cies, oper­at­ing on the lev­el of nations, are not dif­fer­ent, in any mean­ing­ful way, from those prac­ticed on a small scale among pet­ty crim­i­nals. In all cas­es, the rulers are com­plete­ly aware of what they are doing. They are not the prod­ucts of col­lec­tive or “his­tor­i­cal” process­es. They are not arriv­ing at dom­i­nance uncon­scious­ly. None of the “ide­olo­gies” or “philoso­phies” attrib­uted to such patho­log­i­cal per­son­al­i­ties actu­al­ly have any sig­nif­i­cance. They are mere­ly plau­si­ble-sound­ing “scripts” that rul­ing elites pro­fess to believe, in order to con­fuse and manip­u­late their vic­tims. Rul­ing elites do not believe in any such sys­tems or philoso­phies. They are mere­ly tools for achiev­ing their goals, and can be con­tra­dict­ed or dis­card­ed at any time. The basic manip­u­la­tive tech­niques of dic­ta­tor­ship are sim­ple: the man­u­fac­tured image of charis­ma, the lie, the car­rot, and the stick.

Final­ly, I have explained what every expe­ri­enced con-artist or swindler knows, that the key to exer­cis­ing con­trol over peo­ple, and get­ting what you want from them, is secur­ing their belief and col­lab­o­ra­tion. It is our col­lab­o­ra­tion ― in the form of accept­ing their claims to be “sov­er­eign gov­ern­ments”, or “lead­ers”, and accord­ing them for­mal and cer­e­mo­ni­al legit­i­ma­cy — that is at the heart of their pow­er. Because we accept their claims to pow­er and author­i­ty, their author­i­ty becomes real. Psy­cho­log­i­cal col­lab­o­ra­tion gives them pow­er, and eco­nom­ic col­lab­o­ra­tion makes their crimes prof­itable.

Imag­ine that if every time a cor­ner store was robbed, the rob­ber could sim­ply walk across the street and deposit the stolen mon­ey in a bank, and then the neigh­bour­hood busi­ness asso­ci­a­tion agreed that now the rob­ber was the legit­i­mate “own­er” of the store, and should be auto­mat­i­cal­ly enrolled in the asso­ci­a­tion as a respectable local busi­ness­man. Sup­pose that the police agreed that any­one who suc­cess­ful­ly robbed a store should not be pur­sued and pros­e­cut­ed, because they were now a “sov­er­eign body”. It is self-evi­dent that such a pol­i­cy would lead to unlim­it­ed armed rob­bery and vio­lence. We would think peo­ple insane if they held such val­ues. Yet that is exact­ly what we have cho­sen to do with tyran­nies and dic­ta­tor­ships.

Any­one who man­ages to mur­der, rape, and pil­lage on a large enough scale is auto­mat­i­cal­ly rec­og­nized as a “sov­er­eign gov­ern­ment”, accord­ed a seat in the Unit­ed Nations, and allowed to deposit the mon­ey they steal into Swiss bank accounts. We then allow them to spend that mon­ey on Fifth Avenue, the Gin­za, or the Champs-Élysées. Their legit­i­ma­cy is rec­og­nized by all, their secu­ri­ty is assured. Arms deal­ers and gov­ern­ments line up to sup­ply them with the weapons which keep them in pow­er. Only the occa­sion­al one is deposed if he steps on too many toes, or mis­cal­cu­lates a bid for hege­mo­ny. The major­i­ty can count on accep­tance and secu­ri­ty.

Yet peo­ple seem to see noth­ing wrong with this arrange­ment, and grow very hos­tile if one even sug­gests alter­ing it. Even the direct vic­tims of dic­ta­tor­ship will often find them­selves unable to renounce their dic­ta­tors, and will still see them as legit­i­mate. The rela­tion­ship of peo­ple to dic­ta­tor­ships strong­ly resem­bles that of delu­sion­al cult mem­bers or of abused wives who refuse to leave a vio­lent hus­band. In both cas­es, psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly dom­i­nant con-artists have skill­ful­ly manip­u­lat­ed the inse­cu­ri­ty and creduli­ty of their vic­tims in order to sep­a­rate them from the world of rea­son, and iso­late them in a world of delu­sion, unrea­son­ing faith and loy­al­ty. The abus­ing hus­band alter­nates vio­lent beat­ings with tears and asser­tions of devo­tion, and plays on the des­per­ate need of his vic­tim to be loved, even if the “love” con­sists of bro­ken bones and humil­i­a­tion. The abused wife refus­es to have him charged, and goes back for more abuse. The reli­gious cult leader skill­ful­ly plays on the emo­tion­al needs of his fol­low­ers to manip­u­late them into mak­ing him rich, or sat­is­fy­ing his sex­u­al crav­ings. Even after leav­ing the cult, for­mer mem­bers still see the cult leader as a charis­mat­ic father fig­ure, and yearn to find a sub­sti­tute. In both cas­es, it is the will­ing co-oper­a­tion of the vic­tims, and the col­lat­er­al co-oper­a­tion of third par­ties, that makes the crime pos­si­ble. The abus­ing hus­band is accept­ed by oth­er hus­bands as “one of the boys”. The cult leader is accept­ed as a respectable reli­gious leader in the com­mu­ni­ty.

So it is with dic­ta­tor­ship. Dic­ta­tors get pow­er because they are able to suc­cess­ful­ly acquire loy­al fol­low­ers who will car­ry out their will. Than Shwe doesn’t have to per­son­al­ly burn dis­si­dents alive… he has sol­diers who will do that for him, and offi­cers who will orga­nize it, and clerks who will enter the details into ledgers, and busi­ness­men who will sell him the incin­er­a­tors and accoun­tants who will add up the costs. Fidel Cas­tro did not have to per­son­al­ly round up and tor­ture the homo­sex­u­als and poets that he hat­ed. He had loy­al hench­men who would do it for him. And he had investors who would pro­vide the cap­i­tal to finance his oper­a­tions. Dic­ta­tors rely on the co-oper­a­tion of those out­side of their ter­ri­to­ry, who, by cus­tom and con­ven­tion, agree that they “own” the peo­ple and ter­ri­to­ry that they con­trol.

That insid­i­ous cus­tom and con­ven­tion pro­claims that they are immune to pun­ish­ment, and immune to the ordi­nary moral cen­sure that human beings are sup­posed to impose on wrong­do­ers. Than Shwe or Fidel Cas­tro can appear in a pub­lic place, and they will be treat­ed as respectable peo­ple. They are celebri­ties, to be fawned on and pam­pered. Diplo­mats will meet them at cock­tail par­ties, shake their hands, and tell jokes to them. Pres­i­dents and Prime Min­is­ters of democ­ra­cies will invite them to their homes for din­ner, or play golf with them. All moral­i­ty is sus­pend­ed. Dic­ta­tors inhab­it a lucra­tive and com­fort­able world, where theft, mur­der, tor­ture, and every oth­er abom­inable crime are not only tol­er­at­ed, but reward­ed. The rich and pow­er­ful agree, uni­ver­sal­ly, that no rulers should ever be pun­ished for what they do to their peo­ple, but they may poten­tial­ly be dis­ci­plined for trans­gres­sions against more pow­er­ful brethren.

So what should decent human beings do, in this bizarre, and obvi­ous­ly sick sit­u­a­tion?

The first, and most impor­tant step in oppos­ing dic­ta­tor­ship is for human beings to demand that moral­i­ty be rec­og­nized and obeyed. We must begin with a moral self-edu­ca­tion and self-dis­ci­pline that trains us to treat dic­ta­tor­ship as it should right­ful­ly be treat­ed. We must per­son­al­ly, each of us, refuse to accept the lie of dic­ta­to­r­i­al legit­i­ma­cy, in any con­text. Our own behav­iour must become moral­ly exact and con­sis­tent. And we must demand that our elect­ed offi­cials obey that moral­i­ty.

We must nev­er allow the con­cept of “legit­i­mate” dic­ta­tor­ship to be insert­ed into polit­i­cal analy­sis or dis­course, with­out expos­ing and defy­ing it. We must nev­er allow any politi­cian to engage in any action that legit­imizes dic­ta­tor­ship, with­out denounc­ing and oppos­ing it. We must use what­ev­er social and demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tions we have at our dis­pos­al to achieve the abo­li­tion of dic­ta­tor­ship.

We should denounce and shun any­one who social­izes with a dic­ta­tor, treats a dic­ta­tor as legit­i­mate, or does any kind of busi­ness with a dic­ta­tor. That shun­ning should be absolute, dra­con­ian, and irrev­o­ca­ble. The atti­tude of a decent human being should be: “Deal with a dic­ta­tor, and I will not only refuse to vote for you, or buy your prod­ucts, but I will not allow you in my home, nor will I shake your hand. Break­ing bread with you is unimag­in­able. I will not allow you any­where near my chil­dren. No one should ever speak to you, or even look at you.” One act of col­lab­o­ra­tion with any dic­ta­tor, of any kind, no mat­ter how insignif­i­cant, should auto­mat­i­cal­ly sev­er a human being from any con­nec­tion to the human race.

On the polit­i­cal lev­el, we should regard any col­lab­o­rat­ing with a dic­ta­tor­ship as an act of high trea­son. This should be the foun­da­tion stone of our moral val­ues in for­eign rela­tions. What we should be work­ing for polit­i­cal­ly, is a set of con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ments that man­date impeach­ment and trea­son charges for any politi­cian who is caught in the same room with a dic­ta­tor.

That should be the atti­tude of any moral­ly respon­si­ble human being, and that atti­tude should be com­mu­ni­cat­ed loud­ly, and repeat­ed­ly, to any­one in busi­ness or gov­ern­ment. Con­trary to what we usu­al­ly imag­ine, politi­cians do respond to being “trained” in this man­ner. There is noth­ing inevitable or nec­es­sary about their col­lab­o­ra­tion with evil. It only occurs because we allow it, because we let them get away with it unpun­ished. We should be pun­ish­ing them for it, pun­ish­ing them hard, pun­ish­ing them as angri­ly and vig­or­ous­ly as we can. Pun­ish­ing them on elec­tion day, pun­ish­ing them in the opin­ion polls, and pun­ish­ing them by turn­ing our backs on them, spit­ting on them, any­thing that gets the mes­sage across. We are not in a posi­tion to direct­ly pun­ish the dic­ta­tors, at this stage, but we are in a posi­tion to pun­ish our own offi­cials when they col­lab­o­rate with them. That should be the pol­i­cy and prac­tice of any pro­gres­sive per­son or insti­tu­tion in our soci­ety. It should be the moral behav­iour that is taught in schools. It should be the moral stan­dard acknowl­edged and prac­ticed by all peo­ple in the arts, in sci­ence, in edu­ca­tion, and in schol­ar­ship. A sense of moral out­rage should become the norm in this regard.

This moral cen­sure should not be con­fined to politi­cians alone. If a movie star or rock star pub­licly hangs out with a dic­ta­tor, or sup­ports a non-demo­c­ra­t­ic regime, then the pub­lic should turn against them, and his or her career should quite right­ly face ruin. If a busi­ness­man buys or sells from a dic­ta­tor, we should deploy what­ev­er pub­lic social sanc­tions we can man­age. Boy­cotts and protests are effec­tive in such cas­es, far more than peo­ple gen­er­al­ly imag­ine. Even the loss of five per­cent of a mar­ket can destroy the careers of hot shot CEOs and cause turnovers in board­rooms. Civ­i­lized peo­ple should exer­cise those sanc­tions at every oppor­tu­ni­ty.

It is pre­cise­ly this kind of moral force that drove the anti-slav­ery move­ment in the 19th cen­tu­ry, and that, in the Unit­ed States, put an end to racial seg­re­ga­tion in the 1960s. It was not politi­cians or the wealthy who ini­ti­at­ed these reforms. It was ordi­nary peo­ple, at first only a very few, who made these things hap­pen. In the begin­ning, only a hand­ful of com­mit­ted indi­vid­u­als act­ed on their con­sciences. Their con­sis­ten­cy and courage made the lines of choice clear. Slow­ly, oth­ers were either inspired by their exam­ple, or shamed by it. Grad­u­al­ly, a new moral norm was estab­lished, and soci­ety mutat­ed to the point where trans­gres­sors could not show their face in respectable com­pa­ny. Polit­i­cal changes fol­lowed. But the polit­i­cal changes would nev­er have been pos­si­ble with­out the under­ly­ing force of indi­vid­ual human beings exer­cis­ing moral choice and con­vic­tion.

That is what we should be doing when con­front­ed with the fact of dic­ta­tor­ship. Dic­ta­tor­ship is respon­si­ble for the largest por­tion of suf­fer­ing and injus­tice in the world. Pover­ty, dis­ease, famine, social injus­tices of all kind are most­ly the bi-prod­ucts of dic­ta­tor­ship. If any­one aspires to oppose social injus­tice, or wish­es to do some­thing con­crete about pover­ty and dis­ease, it should be their first pri­or­i­ty to destroy dic­ta­tor­ship. To accom­plish this, it is nec­es­sary to embrace, pro­claim, prac­tice and pro­mote the moral stan­dards nec­es­sary to oppose dic­ta­tor­ship effec­tive­ly. These val­ues must be con­sis­tent and prac­ticed with­out capri­cious excep­tions. It is not per­mis­si­ble to protest one dic­ta­tor and cod­dle anoth­er. No strate­gic align­ment with any dic­ta­tor is moral­ly per­mis­si­ble, in pur­suit of any objec­tive. That goes for both gov­ern­ment poli­cies and the actions of indi­vid­u­als. A human being ― any human being ― can only be rec­og­nized as hon­est and moral if he or she oppos­es all dic­ta­tor­ship, every­where, with­out excep­tion.

If politi­cians begin to feel the heat of this moral force, if they are called to account by jour­nal­ists when they vio­late fun­da­men­tal moral­i­ty, and if they find them­selves shunned and denounced at every turn, they will even­tu­al­ly be forced to change their behav­iour. The process may be a slow and dif­fi­cult one, but what right thing has ever been easy to do?

In the mid­dle of the 18th Cen­tu­ry, a young man in New Jer­sey, John Wool­man, came to the con­clu­sion, at the age of 23, that slav­ery was immoral, and that no decent per­son should prof­it from it. It took him many years to con­vince a hand­ful of peo­ple of this posi­tion, but by the end of his life, it had been adopt­ed by the major­i­ty of Quak­ers in Amer­i­ca and many in Eng­land. From the exam­ple of the Quak­ers, this view­point grad­u­al­ly won over intel­li­gent and moral­ly sen­si­tive peo­ple, and by the end of the 18th cen­tu­ry had a wide­spread influ­ence. Ver­mont became the first gov­ern­ment to abol­ish slav­ery, fol­lowed soon after by Upper Cana­da, and then a num­ber of New Eng­land States. A court in Low­er Cana­da in 1803 ruled slav­ery incom­pat­i­ble with the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples of law. Oppo­si­tion to slav­ery spread to Scan­di­navia, then to many oth­er places in Con­ti­nen­tal Europe. In 1834, chat­tel slav­ery was abol­ished, at least legal­ly, through­out the British Empire. The Unit­ed States had to under­go a tumul­tuous and ago­niz­ing war before the Eman­ci­pa­tion Procla­ma­tion in 1863. But this titan­ic strug­gle against evil could not have suc­ceed­ed if peo­ple like John Wool­man, a sim­ple tay­lor and notary, had not pro­claimed and com­mit­ted them­selves to a clear-cut moral posi­tion. It was their moral force that ulti­mate­ly made polit­i­cal changes hap­pen.

Dic­ta­tor­ship is mere­ly a mod­ern ver­sion of the slave trade, prac­ticed by peo­ple who con­trol ter­ri­to­ry and claim to be “gov­ern­ments”. The ulti­mate elim­i­na­tion of dic­ta­tor­ship calls for the deploy­ment of the same type of moral force as that ear­li­er move­ment.

There are basi­cal­ly two sets of strate­gies nec­es­sary. Those who present­ly live under dic­ta­tor­ship need to devel­op one set of strate­gies. Those who live out­side of dic­ta­tor­ship, who can freely express their opin­ions and influ­ence elect­ed gov­ern­ments, should be pur­su­ing anoth­er set. The two sets of strate­gies are relat­ed, and should be co-ordi­nat­ed. But in this essay, I’m pri­mar­i­ly con­cerned with the sec­ond set.

The strat­e­gy of deploy­ing moral force should serve a sim­ple pur­pose: to get laws passed and poli­cies enact­ed that make dic­ta­tors suf­fer, cut them off from mon­ey, humil­i­ate them, iso­late them, and even­tu­al­ly destroy them. First, our aim should be to get our gov­ern­ments to renounce all ties and alliances with dic­ta­tors. Then it should be to repu­di­ate recog­ni­tion of dic­ta­tor­ships as legit­i­mate gov­ern­ments. Then we should get laws passed mak­ing it charge­able trea­son for any politi­cian to con­sort with, enter­tain, or com­mu­ni­cate per­son­al­ly with a dic­ta­tor. We should be demand­ing that the embassies and con­sulates of dic­ta­tor­ships be closed, and that their diplo­mats be expelled. Then we should demand the expul­sion of all dic­ta­tor­ships from inter­na­tion­al bod­ies, or that democ­ra­cies with­draw from inter­na­tion­al bod­ies that per­mit dic­ta­tor­ship to par­tic­i­pate. Then, we should push for the enact­ment of laws mak­ing it a crim­i­nal offense to engage in any eco­nom­ic exchange with a dic­ta­tor, or his hench­men. These should be fol­lowed by laws dis­solv­ing cor­po­ra­tions that do busi­ness with dic­ta­tors. All these demands should be made, one after the oth­er, with unend­ing pres­sure from the bot­tom up. No per­son should be regard­ed as fit to hold any posi­tion of respectabil­i­ty or hon­our unless they make these demands.

Par­tic­u­lar atten­tion should be paid to the behav­iour of finan­cial insti­tu­tions. We should demand laws that severe­ly pun­ish any bank that pro­vides finan­cial ser­vices for a dic­ta­tor, or his hench­men, even by indi­rect pro­ce­dures (i.e., num­bered or secret accounts, mon­ey-laun­der­ing, dum­my cor­po­ra­tions). These laws should hold banks respon­si­ble for trans­gres­sions even if they claim to have done them unknow­ing­ly. Access to inter­na­tion­al bank­ing ser­vices is the life-blood that makes dic­ta­tor­ship func­tion prof­itably. It is the heart of the mat­ter. If banks out­side our own coun­tries do not con­form to these rules, then they should not be allowed to trans­act busi­ness in our coun­tries. Our goal should be the seizure of all assets held by dic­ta­tors or their hench­men ― so that they can be held in trust for the peo­ple who right­ful­ly own them, the vic­tims of the dic­ta­tors in their own coun­tries.

Ulti­mate­ly, our aim should be to issue war­rants for the arrest of all dic­ta­tors and their rep­re­sen­ta­tives, hench­men, and col­lab­o­ra­tors. These war­rants should man­date the arrest and tri­al of any of these peo­ple if they set foot on the soil of a democ­ra­cy. The only final result that is moral­ly accept­able to decent human beings would be a “Nurem­berg” tri­al of all the dic­ta­tors on Earth.

These are all things that can be done through the demo­c­ra­t­ic process, and through the law. And they are all things which can be done with­out mak­ing war, which invari­ably harms the vic­tims of dic­ta­tor­ship more than it harms the dic­ta­tors them­selves. We must always remem­ber the “ace in the hole” that every dic­ta­tor counts on: they hold their own peo­ple hostage, and many of those hostages are chil­dren. We should nev­er be in the busi­ness of bomb­ing chil­dren to “save” them from dic­ta­tor­ship. We should be focused on elim­i­nat­ing the dic­ta­tors. Stran­gling their blood-flow of mon­ey, and mak­ing sure that they can­not ever show their faces in the civ­i­lized world are far more effec­tive than any mil­i­tary swag­ger­ing.

But to do this requires a long, slow build-up of social pres­sure from prin­ci­pled indi­vid­u­als. Those indi­vid­u­als must be sure of them­selves, and be will­ing to stand up to the ridicule and counter-pres­sures they will be sub­ject­ed to. They will be sneered at by intel­lec­tu­als, dis­missed as cra­zies by politi­cians, and under­mined by those who gain finan­cial­ly from col­lab­o­ra­tion with dic­ta­tor­ship. They will feel the lure of con­for­mi­ty. They will grow weary of explain­ing the same obvi­ous facts over and over again, and they will become list­less and dis­con­so­late when progress fails to mate­ri­al­ize quick­ly. It will be very, very dif­fi­cult to pass the laws we need. All politi­cians will hate them. All rich peo­ple will hate them. All cor­po­rate inter­ests will hate them. Many intel­lec­tu­als will hate them with rabid fanati­cism. All these forces will fight tooth and nail to block them.

The strat­e­gy of deploy­ing moral force obvi­ous­ly requires patience, since no results can be expect­ed to come quick­ly, and it requires sac­ri­fice. It is con­ve­nient, and com­fort­able to turn a blind eye to dic­ta­tor­ship. It is con­ve­nient to buy the cheap prod­ucts that dic­ta­tor­ships sup­ply, with their mar­ket advan­tage of slave labour and envi­ron­men­tal rape. It is con­ve­nient to avoid con­fronta­tion with our own élites and big shots. It is tempt­ing to swal­low the illu­sion, ped­dled by all our politi­cians, that dic­ta­tors can be “reformed” by “engage­ment”, bribes, or polite­ness. But moral­i­ty is not a con­ve­nient or a com­fort­able thing. It requires that you stand up straight as a man or a woman, and fol­low a prin­ci­ple, rather than kiss­ing bums and col­lect­ing the cube of sug­ar. Moral­i­ty holds no appeal for most intel­lec­tu­als, who pre­fer the clev­er­ness of realpoli­tik and oppor­tunis­tic moral obfus­ca­tion. Moral­i­ty holds no appeal for “rad­i­cals” and oth­er poseurs attract­ed to the bom­bast of “rev­o­lu­tion”. But moral­i­ty is what is tru­ly rad­i­cal, tru­ly rev­o­lu­tion­ary, and, in the long run, tru­ly effec­tive. In the long run, I think that moral truth, and moral force will win.

Why do I think so? Because the world is grow­ing up. Dic­ta­tor­ship is the prod­uct of igno­rance, cow­ardice, and super­sti­tion. It will be a hor­ri­bly painful process, but we will out­grow it.

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