I'm a great fan of This American Life and listen religiously to their weekly podcasts over iTunes. This week's episode "Know When To Fold 'Em" producer Nancy Updike observed the recent uprisings in the Middle East which resulted in the toppling of dictators in Egypt and Tunisia, and came up with a list of 12 steps that dictators take on the path to losing power.
- Shut down the Internet
- Send thugs (on foot or horseback)
- Attack and arrest journalists
- Shoot people
- Promise to investigate who shot people
- Do a meaningless political reshuffle
- Blame Al Jazeera
- Organise paid demonstrations in favor of your regime
- Make a condescending speech about how much you love the youth
- Threaten that the country will fall into chaos without you
- Blame foreign agitators
- Leave - get out
She further points out that even though Mubarak and Ben Ali have been overthrown by their people, other dictators in the region are still following the same 12-step script which would likely lead them down the same path (see Syria, Libya and Yemen).
Why? Because being dictators, they have been in power for so long - 20 to 30 years - that they are so accustomed to ignoring their people all these years that they've developed a "tin ear", and simply are unable to listen to what their people are saying when large scale dissent occurs. Hence, they continue to repeat past rhetoric and babble on, oblivious to the momentum developing from the people's unrest that may eventually become their undoing.
Faced with unprecedented criticism over their policies and choice of new candidates for the coming election, the PAP, while not a dictatorship (though it feels a tad like one), is starting to sound like a broken record, replaying tired party rhetoric and putting up a weak and unconvincing defense in response to the opposition.
Is this the beginning of the end of the lightning party? Probably not in this election, but if the grand old party does not wake up and smell the scent of heartlander discontent, then perhaps they too are beginning their own 12-step process to their downfall.