Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The King's Diary: No Revolution Here

Dear Me,

The uprising in the Arab countries keeps hounding me. Even the opposition is inspired by them, threatens me with popular protest and calls for change. I am not worried. Things are firmly under control. Except that … isn’t this what Arab King colleagues thought as well?

What might my people be upset about? Recently,

  1. my police killed peaceful protesters,
  2. power rationing was stepped up,
  3. an army base exploded,
  4. and we started harassing street vendors in earnest.
  5. Meanwhile it turned out that kids in secondary school don’t learn a thing,
  6. student loan corruption was exposed and
  7. we sold our pride by begging the Great Nations for more free money.

Then there are the usual irritations of economic hardship, rising inequality, unavailability of clean water, traffic jams, rising food prices, no jobs, my buddies benefiting big time from mining contracts, huge tax exemptions for my supporters, a failed rail network, delays at the port, an exploding budget deficit and of course the never ending electricity arbitration saga.

But I also have things going for me. Let’s see:

  1. the Kingdom is stable,
  2. my efforts to distribute bed nets and to fight malaria work.

Hmmmm…, a bit unbalanced. Still I am convinced my approach to power will keep the lid on the situation. The TKP’s approach is so much more subtle and effective when it comes to repression than the overt repression the Arab Nations relied on. First we restrict economic opportunities such that the middle class remains small. Then the TKP uses violence only occasionally. And if we do, we announce it ahead of time giving the disloyal time to flee.

Instead of using violence, the TKP has perfected the art of creating fear. Announcing someone’s imminent death helps spread fear about how ruthless the TKP can be. And then there is the fear of poverty. TKP members know it is dead easy to get kicked out of the party and lose one’s benefits. It is simple for us to finish off a successful business by sending the Kingdom’s Revenue Authority (KRA), to ruin an obstinate peasant with a court case, to blacklist recalcitrant consultants and NGOs, to make sure the children of vocal citizens are denied access to school and to send the career of a civil servant into a nosedive by spreading rumors.

As long as the TKP uses these approaches sporadically but to great effect, it creates huge uncertainty. This combination of fear and uncertainty is really effective. It makes my subjects so unclear about my real powers that they prefer to swallow their pride and instead of speaking out they choose to self-censor and behave themselves.

Once the Arab disaster has settled I am sure other Kings would like to study the TKPs approach to staying in power. Till that time, I’ll keep quiet thus adding to the myth of being in control. Meanwhile I hope the Bedouin King holds out and throws his country into civil war. It will do wonders for my credibility when warning my subjects not to protest or face instability. Not that the latter is likely. My Kingdom does not have oil or diamonds worth fighting over and I don’t believe my army will support me when forced to choose between supporting me or the people. Hmmmm… maybe this is the right time to take some of my subjects’ grievances serious.

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