Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Sticks and Carrots

There’s no such thing as a good dictator. Some would go so far as saying the only good dictator is a dead dictator, but if I were to say that, I’m sure I’d get at least one e-mail correcting me and insisting that the only good dictator is a saved one. Then again, if a dictator got saved could he still be a dictator?

That said, subjectively speaking, there have been successful dictators throughout history, if the only metric one might use to gauge said success was longevity. Some despots come and go faster than you can learn their names. In contrast, others seem to cling to power decade after decade, even though they’ve got younger, hungrier, more ruthless competitors chomping at their heels, waiting for them to slip up, so they can expedite their retirement with a hollow point or a noose.

Although he didn’t have Fidel Castro type staying power, for a cobbler who had difficulty stringing a sentence together, Nicolae Ceausescu held his own. He was clumsy, awkward, and although his wife had a vicious streak a country mile wide, by all accounts, he didn’t.

There was a reason he was able to maintain control over the whole of Romania for the better part of fifteen years, and it wasn’t his leadership skills. Nicolae Ceausescu understood intuitively, what some of the governors who are having a hard time imposing their will fail to understand. You can’t give the people all stick, and expect them to comply indefinitely. If there is no balance between the carrot and the stick, if you take away people’s hope altogether, then they feel like they have nothing left to lose.

Even the most mild-mannered of men will bristle when all they get is subjugation without reprieve, or a glimmer of future hope to get them through the day. No matter how far off into the future that hope might be, as long as it’s there, there is a goal, a purpose, a promissory oasis.

Even though most Romanians lived lives of abject poverty and quiet desperation under authoritarian rule, Ceausescu was willy enough to offer things like May Day parades, national holidays, and other trifle things that were just enough to keep them subservient for years on end.

It was a playbook that worked until it didn’t, the final straw being an offer of a 5% increase in pay for everyone if they’d just stop protesting and go back home. That time it didn’t work, and we all know what happened from there.

I mention this not because I’m trying to give unsolicited advice to tyrannical governors, or show them a blueprint for success, but to contextualize why we are seeing an uptick in civil disobedience, and people no longer willing to follow the mandates of the power-drunk.

Rather than ease off the throttle, most of them seem to be doubling down, and eventually, sooner rather than later, it will come to a head. There will be a proverbial straw, and it will be enough to snap the camel’s back. 

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

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