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Saturday, December 3, 2022

Annals Of Absolute Rule– The Allure Of Dictatorship

“You can say one thing about dictators”, said one of Joe Biden’s White House aides, “they keep the peace”.

The aide had spent what he considered his halcyon years  in Haiti under the Duvaliers, a time of peace and quiet.  It was a romantic idyll, and he would have felt no sense of intimacy without the voodoo drums, the scent of jasmine growing in the gardens of the estates above the hotel, or without the rancid smell of the port that drifted up from the city in the early morning when the air pressure and the direction of the breeze changed.  He danced in Carrefour, spent weekends in cabanas on the beaches of Les Cayes and Macaya, and drove up north to Gonaives and Cap Haitien; but his love affair would never have happened if they had he and his lover met across the mountains in the Dominican Republic. Haiti was their go-between, their matrix, their enabler.

Image result for images macaya beach hotel haiti

They never talked about Haiti, Duvalier, the Tontons, or voodoo.  They talked only about other things, things which had varied content but were all told within the context of Haiti. Their home towns of New Brighton and Fort George would always  be remembered as not Haiti. Not hot, tropical, gingerbread, threatening, ominous, passionate, and violent.

It was not surprising that the Haitian love affair continued only as long as the lovers met in Haiti. Neither one ever suggested that they meet in Boston, New York, or Miami; and when her summer internships were over and his last contract delivered, they knew that their affair was over.  Their friendship was uniquely, irrevocably Haitian.

Papa Doc Duvalier and his son were the enablers of the affair.  They had assured that Haiti remain an idyll, an irresistible mix of voodoo, Africa, and La France d’Outre-Mer. The Tonton Macoutes, henchmen of the Duvaliers, secret police more brutal and threatening than Savak or Stasi ever were, maintained order, enforced loyalty, and kept the island a secure redoubt of Duvalierism.  The White House aide and his lover went everywhere without a second thought – dancing in Carrefour, dining at the best restaurants in Petionville and Kenscoff, spending weekends in the cabanas of Cormier Plage and Port-Salut. The anger, resentment, and civil violence which were to erupt after the Duvaliers were gone were unseen and unspoken.  There were only pleasures, the assumption of idyll, the complete exercise of romance.  For the foreigners who visited, that is, who stayed at the Oloffson, who dined at Cote Cour, Cote Jardin, who ate lambi creole and bouillabaisse by the port, and who slept with their verandah windows open.

Image result for images papa doc duvalier as baron samedi drawing

After the Duvaliers Haiti became a violent, dysfunctional, ungoverned and ungovernable place to be avoided.  Its poverty was miasmic, its civil disobedience unruly and dangerous, its prospects nil.  The idyll of the Duvaliers was gone forever.

Dictatorship is the rule in Africa.  Its ‘big men’, presidents for life, have amassed great wealth and absolute power, have welcomed billions of dollars in foreign aid from donors anxious to keep African countries friends of democracy in perpetuity, and have ruled with impunity. The guarantee of civil order, fondness for the West, and a continuing supply of energy, rare earth materials, and precious gems have been enough contractual security for the United States and the EU.

Where dictatorship has broken down, civil war has broken out.  Ethiopia and Somalia once under militant dictatorships, have been in a state of perpetual conflict for decades. 

Idi Amin - Death, Uganda & Facts - HISTORY

Africa is not alone in this phenomenon.  Thanks to Soviet support and his own bullying, intimidating character, Marshal Tito gained absolute control of Yugoslavia.  Not surprisingly when the Soviet Union disintegrated and Tito’s power was no longer absolute, civil war broke out between and among the former republics of Yugoslavia. Autocrats and dictators keep the lid on dissent and unrest until they are gone.

Modern day autocrats are many, powerful, and immovable.  Putin in Russia, Xi in China, Kim in North Korea, Erdogan in Turkey, and the imams and mullahs in Iran rule with absolute power and authority.  While recent events in both Russia and China have shown the vulnerability of autocrats – history has shown that it will take more than ill-advised military adventures or ham-handed civil rule to depose them.

Democracy is of course a recent phenomenon, often dated in 1789 and the French Revolution.  Although the subsequent Terror of Robespierre turned out to be more brutal than the rule of the monarch they deposed, it was short-lived; and although Napoleon was no democratic model, his Empire was relatively benign.  The British tried their hand at democracy under Oliver Cromwell, but monarchists returned to power shortly thereafter with the Restoration.  The rule of the public – the masses – was never popular. Even in America’s new democratic republic, there were notable dissenters.  Alexander Hamilton was opposed to Jeffersonian ideals of democratic rule and was sure that the unwashed had no place in governance.

Image result for images the french terror guillotine

Before the French Revolution since the very beginnings of Western and Eastern civilization, autocratic rule was the only rule. Roman emperors, Persian shahs, Popes, Japanese shoguns, Chinese mandarins, and European kings ruled by legacy and divine authority.  Although democrats condemn these millennia of history for their elitist, privileged, harshly authoritarian rule, it was these monarchs who were responsible for the expansion of empire and the arts, science, philosophy, social structure, and architecture that they sponsored.

China is a good example of a successful modern autocracy.  Chinese leaders since the revolutionary Deng Xiaoping in the late 70s have been unequivocal about their vision and ambitions – only with a strong central leadership, the fidelity, political support, and loyalty of citizens can poverty be eliminated and the country restored to its historic greatness.  The success of this policy has been obvious.  In a few short decades China has risen from an impoverished failed state to one of the world’s great powers with economic, political, financial, and military strength.  Dissent, American style, China’s leaders have professed, will only delay the progress of social and economic reform.  The country cannot be delayed by bickering and sniping, both of which lead to disorder and dysfunction.

Image result for images ancient chinese emperors

The Chinese look at America not as an ideal political model, but an example of the worst kind of governance.  It is a country sorely divided over nonsensical social issues.  Its previous unity, patriotism, and common ethos have been corroded by demands for gay birthday cakes, horrific surgical interventions to change sex, uncontrolled, disruptive immigration, and irresponsible government spending.  China owns America and its ownership will become more complete the more its administrations borrow to spend.

So while President Biden may whine and carp about China, it is a most worthy and threatening adversary.  In times of crisis, there is no doubt that the Chinese citizenry would rally around the government.  Such solidarity and fidelity goes beyond temporal politics.  China is on its way to restoring its past Imperial glory, its rightful place in the world.   The United States is now nothing but a hopelessly fragmented, lost, and unsure country.

There is no American president who has not bridled under the demands of democracy – the childish antics of Congress, the disputatious governors, the fickle and ignorant public all militating against what he knows is the truth and the right ways – and Joe Biden cannot be any different. While he has capitulated to the insistent demands of the progressive Left and contributed to divisiveness and public anger and distrust, he must certainly be an admirer of Xi and his presidential predecessors who built a modern empire out of relatively  nothing in less than 50 years.  How can he look at the Palace of Versailles, the ruins of Persepolis, the Taj Mahal, the conquests of Genghis Khan and Ancient Rome, the Parthenon, and the Winter Palace without some wince of envy.  Emperors and kings built civilization, and now America, in the throes of democratic excess and chaos, is doing its best to erode it.

History has also shown that while history always repeats itself thanks to human nature, its aggression, territorialism, and self-interest,, the expressions of each era are always unique.  Kings and queens come and go.  Empires grow and fade.  Social experiments, like socialism, communism, and democracy come and go, succeed and fail in spurts but never last.  The only certainty is the persistence of authoritarian rule, bred out of human nature, the legacy of history, and the increasingly intense competition among nations.

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