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THERE are two types of governance – the dictatorial type that is based on suppressing and starving people, and the democratic type that works on human development and progress. Regarding the first type, the late Soviet President Stalin had once decided to demonstrate before his aides about how dictatorship works. He requested for a live chicken, grabbed it tightly with one hand and started plucking its feathers with the other hand. The chicken tried to free itself from this torment but to no avail. Stalin plucked its feathers completely, and said to his aides, “Now wait and see what will happen.” He put the chicken on the ground and moved away from it with some barley in his hand. Everyone was surprised when they saw the terrified chicken running towards him and hanging around him.
The Soviet ruler said, “This is how you can rule the people. Have you seen how this chicken follows me despite the pain I caused it.” What Stalin did is a model for the oppressed people who endure humiliation and oppression for the sake of their livelihood, and hope that a dictator who is less cruel than the oppressor will come to their rescue. Although the Soviet Union was able to create industries and agriculture during and after Stalin’s era, it did not lead to the prosperity of the Soviets; instead, they became oppressed and starved.
On the other hand, not far from the Soviet Union, the Scandinavian countries were keen about the well-being of their people. At the same time, they urged them to work and produce. When the Soviet Union collapsed and the socialist countries emerged poor such that they are suffering to this day from crises, these countries followed the path of development until they today became the first in the world in terms of the well-being of their people and the quality of education, health and industry.
At a time when Stalin was committing massacres, killing more than two million Soviets, and sending tens of millions to labor camps in Siberia, Switzerland for example was turning into a destination for foreign investments, and Sweden, Denmark and Finland had turned into important industrial bases at that time.
There are those in the Arab world who consider the model of Stalin involving the chicken as the right example of governance. They hence practice it in the most horrible ways. Some of them ruled for 30 – 40 years, but their end was bad, and they left behind a flabby and poor state. At one stage, these formed the majority of the rulers of the Arab world.
On the other hand, a few rulers realized from the beginning that countries do not settle through oppression, and they hence worked to mobilize their people. They were able to achieve their prosperity and the stability of the political system, but that does not mean the absence of cruelty so that things do not turn into chaos. It is clear from experience that people do not accept either harsh rule or soft rule, but a mix of the two. What is most important is the serious endeavor to build a correct educational system because it is the basis for building nations.
When the Chinese built the Great Wall, they believed that they were safe from enemy attacks, but in the first 100 years after that, the country was subjected to three invasions, and the attacking armies did not need to climb the wall or demolish it. Rather, they simply bribed the guards of the gates and entered the country with ease, because the human beings were not built before the wall was built. Therefore, if any ruler wants history to mention his exploits, he must work on building the human beings, and not suppressing and ignoring them.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times