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Dictatorship and Democracy (x Cecilia Bustamante)

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Dictatorship and Democracy (x Cecilia Bustamante)
Cecilia Bustamante

Dictatorship and Democracy

I was born and raised in Perú, “the saddest of homelands” according to the late poet and novelist Manuel Scorza; "the harsh stepmother of her own children," (Garcilaso); land of poverty and injustice that breeds, nevertheless, those mestizo leaders who flag the banner of the Tahuantisuyo; who are admired for a time by their people, then pass apparently unobserved into history.

I am often driven to compare the ways in which those deprived of their place in the sun, and their human rights, can still challenge authority, obliquely or face‑on, here in the United States and elsewhere.In many countries, those who are dissatisfied with the state of affairs still keep their fingers on the trigger, and if their complaints remain unheeded for too long, the result will be violence, abuse, and death in varying degrees.

I grew up under dictatorships ‑ and all authoritarian regimes are anathema to me, no matter what cloak they choose to hide beneath.Separatist movements, military authoritarianism, populist rebel groups all threaten democratic stability.Each plays a seminal role in establishing that might‑is‑right, and they can open the path that will lead to the implantation of rule by fear: State TerrorismEach have the unintended but logical property to reveal the social and economic injustice present in the social structure, but inevitably those who will suffer the most in a process of change will be the poor,the least privileged segment of society.

The seeds of social rebellion lie buriedin all political systems. Usually they take the form of intellectual dissidence and the voice of subsequent marginalized voices attempting to legitimize or de‑legitimize institutions through their criticism of the status quo.Non‑conformity, criticism by a country’s intelligentzia first made manifest through artistic and cultural expression, eventually leads to a discernable Zeitgeist; unexpected tremors from the far right or far left (or north and south as the case may be), discernable at first only from the fringe, will lead to the erosion of the status quo and the planning of new, quasi utopian foundations.Human reflection and beliefs in one’s destiny cannot be banished,no matter what the system.

As I have adapted to living in this country, I have noted similarities and differences in the direction that discontent takes in the U.S. as opposed to other societies.It might be directed, or strategically re‑directed towards institutionalized entities, with a view to their eventual restructuration. Pressure might be brought to bear via legislative investigation, the judicial process intelligence agencies or the system of federal justice that oversees that of the courts.Whatever the means, the result is a blow to the solar plexus of rival political entities.

Such activity competes in political importance with the electoral process and often starts to be visible at times when political conflict between institutions completely overshadows any activity on the part of the electorate. It is routine for the media to undertake such offensives.No matter which party is in power, that media will be accused of excessively“liberal” tendencies (in the U.S. sense of that word).In its analysis of current events, U.S. journalism maintains as objective a standard as possible, in keeping with its purported role of keeping the general public informed by impartial means.It has truly earned its position as the “fourth power” and a love/hate relationship exists between the media and the public. But, finally their role develops within a Capitalist system. Blood‑letting and overt repression are categorized as directly opposed to democracy, and consequently play no part in the dynamics of this process.

Such political tight rope waling within the established democracies is seductive to spectators raised under repressive regimes.Recent Peruvian “democracy”, of our last two governments for example, came into being through a self-coup that becamea corrupted dictatorship. Along its rule, authority with no democratic participation has created fit corrupted institutions, intolerance to criticism, has become increasingly belligerantin its threats to the free press. All of that was willingly inherited by the next government through negotiaitions to silence human rights abuses and not investigating the looting of the national treasure.

State power once more silences all opposition and dictates or recrates the nature of the institutions. It then it can even consume its own institutions, cannibalistically, when they oppose it, as happened when the Constitutional Tribunal in Peru was dissolved for declaring President Fujimori’s standing for a third term as going against Article 112 of the country’s Constitution!

In the U.S., in spite ofthe public’s apathy when voting time comes round,elections and finally the Supreme Court have their own place in 'legitimizing' the elected government, which, once in power, goes about its main business of solving the problem of how to achieve its national objectives.At this point the tension and dynamics in the interaction between the institutions,the state, the media, and the voting public become evident (in that order).

The extreme right and extreme left can almost be seen to touch its extremes as regards modus operandi and the unintended revelation of state repression (when it exists).From their reach, the situation regarding human rights within a given country can be inferred. Rebellion and stability feed equally on the current reality, i.e.the social and economic situation of the people.Attempts to changeinhuman practices and level of life involve a deconstruction of institutionalized autocracy,a type of government that has, little by little, or over a long period of time in power, corrupted itself and assumed an ever less democratic stance.

In Perú a self‑implanted coup is the origin of the present government. Similar mean wasalso adopted later by Yeltsin in Russia, and the meansis viewed favorably by other governments and men unable to be weaned from the might‑is‑right mentality in societies informed by inequality.Dictators’ power is thus seductive, but aforce that demands subjection ofhuman dignity darened and eroded and the very integrity of the nation is threatened.

When the voice of the people goes unheeded, systematically, current hegemony must needs juggle with an unexpected countereffect that is both integrative and cohesive. An apathetic opposition could awaken and organizeat last, and as history has revealed, autocracy sees then the birth of its anathem in new leaders. Extramares@aol.com 2000

Cecilia Bustamante.  "Dictatorship and Democracy (x Cecilia Bustamante) ."  Extramares.  Ed.  Cecilia Bustamante.  Austin: Editorial Poetas Antiimperialistas de América.  18 de Septiembre de 2005.
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