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Dictator’s Learning Curve: Inside the Global Battle for Democracy - A book review
an article by Janet Hudgins

What the Arab Spring has revealed is something that young people, hardened activists, and outspoken critics of these regimes had long known: that in repressive countries around the world there is a battle being waged between the ruler and the ruled, a struggle between warring camps as the future of democracy and dictatorship hangs in the balance.



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In his book, Dictator’s Learning Curve: Inside the Global Battle for Democracy (Toronto, ON. Doubleday, 2012), William J. Dobson puts on the page what has been quietly going on in many parts of the world for more than twenty years, quietly because it is non-violent but earth-moving change, a phenomenon in our time and a 180 degree turnaround from the world’s history of a continuum of declared and violent war. There were a long series of government coups particularly since the dissolution of the USSR in 1989 of which Dobson chooses a few: Venezuela, Egypt, Tunisia, the valiant but failed attempt in Tienanmen Square, China. And he gives credit where it is due.

Youth, the vitally important youth, who are this generation’s social justice seekers, are taking instruction from the veterans of the last generation’s experience and success in toppling repressive regimes. It was a Tunisian, Mohamed Bouazizi, who was harassed by the police to take his fruit cart off the street, his only source of income, and he subsequently burned himself alive in the public square. With that, the ultimate sacrifice, began the Arab Spring, the successful overthrow of governments in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and attempted in Bahrain and Syria. No one saw it coming.

Country by country, Dobson relates how they are bringing democracy and attempting to bring democracy to their home. And why? Because there are no jobs, the cost of living is too high and beyond their reach, the global economy took their jobs and sent them overseas, and there is labour unrest. They are hungry, they are chronically unemployed and they have no hope for their future. And they despair of ever having a life that is any better next year than it is now. Ironically, if citizens were afforded a balanced life and their rights were recognized, the dictatorship might go on for another 30 years.

This is very recent history that Dobson is talking about, unlike most analysts, these are wars still going on, still in the making, and even some expected, namely states in the Middle East. They were ‘managing it’ with violence (at the time of writing): Libya, Yemen, Iran, Syria. Other autocrats in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Russia, Venezuela and Burma, taking note of the Arab Spring phenomenon were tightening up policies to control uprisings before they happened.

The Dictator’s Learning Curve is a journal, an easy read and sequentially written, each chapter another dictator, depravity, corruption, and greed the hallmark of these regimes. But, this account of youth striving for reform exposes previous generations as the slackers who allowed their respective countries to come to this sorry state in their history.

DISCUSSION

Question(s) related to this article:


How can youth be engaged in democratic transitions?,

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Latest reader comment:

The youth in the article Democratic Transitions and the Role of Youth: A Debate are good examples:

Hilton Nyamukapa has recently taken part on a conference on Social Media and Youth Participation located in Amman, Jordan. Fatma Wakil has been actively involved within the Afghan community in the Netherlands as the chairperson of the KEIHAN, Afghan Youth Foundation. Yassine Boussaid is interested in connecting local issues to international organisations and improving the quality of life of the Moroccan and Turkish suburbs of Amsterdam.

Hilton concluded that it is necessary to the positive engagement and subscription of youth to democracy. The youth are often manipulated for a better picture in the media. Hilton cited the memorable injunction of the former President of USA, John F. Kennedy: "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country." Hilton highlighted the urge to involve youth in the whole democratic process and give them the opportunity to participate in public life.


This report was posted on March 29, 2013.