Lessons from Dictators

”President Mohamad Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down as president of Egypt and has assigned the Higher Council of the Armed Forces to run the affairs of the country.”

As I watched the people of Egypt celebrate this historic moment, I wanted to go into the streets to beat the drums and wave the flags. The scenes on TV brought me back to very familiar images.

I could just imagine the euphoria of the Filipino people when Marcos fled the presidency during the world renowned peaceful EDSA People Power Revolution in 1986.

It made me wish I was old enough to have been in the streets at that time.


I had been pondering why Mubarak had to wait 18 long days before finally giving in to the pleas of his people.

Jeffrey Kluger in his TIMES article What Was Mubarak Thinking? leads us inside the mind of a dictator.

”First of all, never underestimate the impenetrability of the presidential bubble. Dictators dislike dissent and they surround themselves with sycophants. It is quite common for them to have no idea about how they’re actually viewed by their people.

”We all have a more accurate impression of other people — their skills, temperaments and talents — than we do of ourselves. We’re just not good self-evaluators. Now scale that up to an aging dictator who’s been in office for decades.”

“There’s always a voice in the dictator’s brain that says you should get out now but the voices in the middle, the ones that are unsure, are the loudest, and that keeps him where he is. After a while, however, the dictator stops worrying about the longer-term future and instead worries about the near-term danger of being wrong. You saw the same thing from the Shah and Nicolae Ceausecu. They made all these speeches saying I’m never going to leave and then boom, suddenly they’re gone.”

”Think of a dog that’s snarling at you and looks like it’s ready to snap. The fact is, at the same time, he’s right at the point of running away with his tail between his legs.”

A lot of us are Marcoses and Mubaraks living inside a ”dictatorial bubble”.

It is hard for us to see the world the way everyone else does. We put ourselves in self-appointed pedestals and surround ourselves with flatterers. We have built our own regime of exaggerated self-opinion and when we fall, we point our fingers at anyone except oursleves.

I myself am guilty. I rule when service is needed. I debate when silence is required. I hold my ground even when humility is the simpliest answer. I shift the spotlight to myself when it should have been the Lord’s. With my pride I have lost a lot of opportunities for dignified exits.

I should stop insisting grass is red when all others are pointing out it’s green.

Egypt has taught me a lesson.

5 thoughts on “Lessons from Dictators

    1. SO TRUE!

      ”Historically, the months following a revolution can therefore be more dangerous than the revolution itself.

      It was like a fever.… people who join an exultant crowd feel something out of the ordinary, as if they were in a hallucination or a dream. Since the 18th century, writers and sociologists have observed that a crowd thinks and acts differently from an individual and even seems to have its own psychology.

      Coming down from the high of a crowd experience and returning to the humdrum ordinariness of an individual life can never be easy, especially if one has been part of a crowd for almost three weeks. It’s not remotely surprising that demonstrators keep returning to Tahrir Square after Mubarak’s resignation

      Disaster and dictatorship are not inevitable, but if Egypt is to avoid either a coup d’etat or a return to mob rule, the soldiers now ruling the country will have to do more than send everyone home. As Le Bon understood, the essence of crowd euphoria is the feeling that one is part of something greater than oneself. Now the country’s leaders must help channel all that enthusiasm into institutional change, not next month or next year but right now.

      By whatever means possible, the army should encourage the formation of political parties, the creation of citizens’ committees, the building of neighborhood watch groups and clean-up brigades—anything to prevent those unemployed men in Tahrir Square from going home, staring at the wall, and then slumping down again in front of Facebook or Al Jazeera. Online activism is not a substitute for real activism. The satisfaction one receives from Twitter is not the same satisfaction one receives from spending hours in a room with a group of people, planning an election campaign.”


  1. Oo nga noh, sana, may edad na tayo nung EDSA Rev. para nakita natin lahat. Grabe, iba talaga ang mga Pilipino.

    Tama, I agree with Kluger: “We’re just not good self-evaluators.” Kaya, mahalagang we always have time for self reflection. ^_^

    SELF-IDOLATRY — inevitable. very tempting.
    I’ve been praying about this. I’ve been asking God to tap me or kick me, ‘pag masminamahal ko na ang sarili ko… I just thank God that He always reminds me to be humble and true. Marami siyang pinakilala na mga taong talagang may servant heart, very simple, very humble, at very submissive… like my mom and dad, my discipler, my current boss, and my favorite HS teachers. I really want to emulate these people.

    Congratz Egypt! Ang panget ni Mubarak. Mas may itsura pa si MotMot!

    (MotMot – alagang bulldog ng ka-churhmate namin)


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