Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
In his response to Roger Pulver’s July 22 Counterpoint article “Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto: ‘What Japan needs now is dictatorship’” Ian Gould wrote that “Dictators exist only to climb to the top of the rest of humanity” (“Mayor’s kind needs pruning,” July 26). But I am confident that for the most part dictators see themselves in an opposite light and are convinced of their own virtue and legitimacy. The likes of Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan and Napoleon Bonaparte pursued conquest as a strategy to pacify the world, to extend civilization and for the good of their own people at least and by extension the good of the rest of humanity.
Dictators’legitimacy stems from their ascendance through the various native political systems by which they gained their position. Each comes to power for a reason. Dozens that I could name in the contemporary world mostly rose through a culturally established process. Adolf Hitler is always a convenient example of malice because his regime was so extreme and retarded. Remember that Hitler did not “seize”power. He was democratically elected. Therefore if we want to rid the world of dictators it is not enough to advocate the virtues of democracy, which is sometimes part of the problem. It requires a certain set of values and cultural preparation. It requires a rule of law adequately protected from corruption. It requires hope and trust. It requires .... well, it requires a lot of things, most all a certain je ne sais quoi. Dictators are popular enough among their own people, at least at the start of their regimes, that seeking their ouster is a tricky business. Even if they are removed the cultural values and the processes that installed them in the first place largely remain. So the absence of dictators by itself is not necessarily a marked improvement. It is impractical to expect that it would be.
Published on Sunday, July 29, 2012 as “Ridding the world of dictators.”
I ought to have written “Dictators’ supposed authority stems from their ascendance through the various native political systems by which they gained their position.” Without that modification I worry that this letter makes me sound pro-dictator, or pro-authoritarian, when in fact the opposite is true. Most of all I oppose one country interfering in another on the principle of higher moral principles, or a superior knowledge of impending risk. Most of all I resist criticizing others without turning a critical eye on oneself as well. Most of all I rue people’s mis-taking reality. I hate it when democracies easily over-estimate their virtue, which they seem prone to do.
Ian Gould’s obvious first rebuttal of me is that I did not live through the Second World War and experience the oppressions of dictatorship the way he did. Therefore my comments lack credibility because I don’t know what I am talking about, or else I am unqualified to say anything.
But I think that kind of rebuttal goes nowhere.