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Letter to Dictators

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Letter to Dictators

Chioma Phillips


Dear Dictators,

So, you want to rule forever? Here’s your handy, “How to be a dictator-for-life” guide.
Tales are told of those, such as yourself, into whose hands, once power is given, want to hold onto it for a mythical period of human time known as “FOREVER”. Let us imagine that was even possible i.e… to hold on to power “FOREVER”, without dying, obviously the way most dictators go about it is not sustainable at all:

  1. They put any and all resources under their control, including people;
  2. They kill or oppress those who are opposed to their ideas;
  3. They steal willy-nilly from public coffers – which they consider to be their personal stockpiles;
  4. They squeeze their populations dry to exact taxes from them;
  5. They allow their lands and people to be pillaged by their cronies and imperialistic outside forces, all the while taking a cut in order to turn a blind eye; and
  6. They use the police and armed forces to try to protect themselves against possible retaliation (meaning that they know that they are not well-loved and so they feel the need to fortify their positions) etc.
  7. They don’t do much by way of offering basic services to their people such as garbage collection, the building of roads or health facilities etc.
    The list goes on.

At some point, or another, as you may already be aware, someone in the rank and file is likely to get upset and stage a coup and if they are successful, they will turn to their predecessor’s methods (this may be you) and only tweak them slightly to suit their style and ambitions. Meanwhile, the people are broke, starving, dying, fleeing the country to seek asylum elsewhere, plotting the ruler’s downfall or praying for them to take the natural exit route from this world. In other words, there is no joy for dictators. In this life or the next.
Madam or Sir Dictator, it is evident that the above strategy is not a sustainable one. The dictator will, more than likely, end up either dead, in exile or prison. Those who support him or her? The same. The amassed wealth? Redirected to someone else’s coffers. Their family members? Depends on what the people decide. This type of cycle is likely to go on and on, over and over, until something changes. The only forever they may end up with following this type of scenario is living in infamy in the memories of the oppressed and the unkind annals of history.

But if, Dear Dictator, you really do want to rule “forever”, how about trying this instead? (*I’m not saying you won’t die, I’m simply working with the fantasy that is in your head.)

  1. Always, always keep at the forefront of your waking and sleeping moments the fact that you do not own the land, the people or the resources. This may be a disappointing and bitter pill for you to swallow, but it will come in handy for the long road ahead of ‘ruling forever’ as it will allow you to remain nimble and light on your feet;
  2. Understand that you need people who genuinely like and support you as citizens in your land as opposed to those who spend all their time plotting to oust you, so be good to the people, take care of them and some of the needs to prove that you’re worth keeping around because you know how to get things done;
  3. Provide your people with land, resources, tools and space to allow them to innovate and grow. Yes, even cash. Remember, as per item one, you do not own anything, therefore it doesn’t harm you to have them work the land. It gives the impression that you care about them and – besides – it’s not like you’re planning to till the land yourself anyway, and you do need to eat;
  4. Understand that when they prosper, the land prospers and, therefore, do all to support them to attain their highest potential;
  5. Do not let neocolonialist or other imperialistic forces come in and take over the land and other resources that you need to keep your people contented and productive. Resist every urge to take bribes and instead have those corrupting influences arrested and/or thrown out of the land. That will convince the people that you actually have their interests at heart;
  6. Try not to kill your people, or imprison them left, right and center simply because they didn’t like your last speech, your suit or the color of your tie. People tend not to like that. It can make them angry and want to turn against you. Besides, it’s hard to be a dictator of an empty country or a country filled with prisoners. After all, you do need people around to dictate to in order to be called a dictator and if people flee in droves, this could be hard to accomplish;
  7. This next one requires that you remain calm after you read it. Take a pay cut and encourage your fellow leaders to do the same. (Deep breaths) This will help ease the financial burden placed on the population and will be the clearest indication of the benevolent nature of your leadership. If you are concerned that your fellow leaders will want to do away with you for making this suggestion, you are right, they may want to, therefore you will have to be strategic about how you explain things to them… and book your next flight to a non-extradition treaty country, just in case!

I hope this input is well-received.

Most sincerely,
Your conscience

*Please note that this list, while focusing on political dictators, can also be applied – in some respects – to other government rank and file dictators, corporate dictators, church dictators, school dictators, family dictators and all dictators alike.

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