…Remember the good old days when things would just kind of work? when the violins would play, when the bureaucracy would get crushed under its own weight, when people would just nod and bow and nod and kneel?
I remember the good old days when I was a dictator. Some Frenchiphied country in the middle of the African continent, sometime in the seventies or eighties, sometime when the cars were still big and sucked down so much fuel that you damn well needed a six-figure income from your Swiss bank accounts to keep the Concorde prepped with fuel and flight attendants. Those were the days, heady for sure, back when the whole notion of “democracy” was something fancified that the Yankees would push upon the warm parts of the world once in awhile, but then quickly forget about their promises once the newest tour of Journey and Yes began filling their stadiums again.
Yes, you may think I’m full of shit, and that’s fine – every dictator needs to be full of shit to one extent or the other. The fact is that no one really knows, as a dictator, who you are or what you do – or where you came from . You think they want some kind of qualified well-spoken individual to lead them? Hell no – you’re the sacrificial goat, the iconic Jésus to their crucifix of a broken economy. This stuff doesn’t just happen because of your own volition – it happens because there’s that need from a society, that cruel need to push their urges onto someone other-worldly and expect them to solve it all.
Excuse me, let me mix together another gin and tonic. Yes, I sit here in the annals of my abandoned beach house in the Phillipines waxing poetic about those days in the African armpit, but they taught me a great lesson about expectations and the need to “go with the flow” per se – when the revolution’s happenin’, don’t chicken out. Let the wired young folk shoot themselves silly, and if you’re the last man standing, you’re likely to get the majority of the pie.
So it all rolls down like this. You side with the rebels, against some idiot who thinks he has the authority to run this country because of some stupid ritual called an “election’ – and in the jungle, drunk on stale beer and hocked-up Ouzo smuggled in from across the Mediterranean, you laugh in his general direction. The nerve! You know you can do better, people’s will be damned, once you’re in the driver’s seat this backwater of a country can get where it’s supposed to go.
So, you do the frontal assault. The rear assault. It all rolls down together, a big attack on the capital into the president’s palace, into the Presidential office and you end up pulling the trigger on the poor fool and leaving him gasping in a pool of blood on his own finely tiled floors. Hey, I never said this was easy or romantic – I just said you could do it.
Then there will be countless other young men (or women) of your age angling for the Presidency. You would do well to have already killed most of the most eager before you arrived at this crossroads, watching the former ” democratic president” breathe his last breath at your smelly sandals crafted from cast-off tires. You should have waxed a few of the smarter boys, and kept a few of the stupider ones as good cohorts with a solid strategy for when this moment actually arrived.
Then, upon the chaos of entering the capital and storming the Presidential Palace you can finally get those boys at your side and declare yourself “interim” president – which, in the grand scheme of things, usually means permanent. Hey, it’s usually that easy, but if it isn’t, remember the golden rule: surround yourself with stupid people.
Yes – that’s probably counter-intuitive if you’ve read too many management strategy books – but Hell if you’re going to run a country the way you want it run you gotta make sure the people who surround you aren’t smart enough to take you down. Lenin did it , Stalin did it, Clinton did it – those damned “intellectuals” get in the way of anything gainful from an average opportunist such as yourself. Off the useless smart people in universities, but keep the doctors – with the clear understanding that their intellectual pursuits should not delve into the realms of localized insurgency – and keep on keepin’ on getting this new nation of yours dragged up into the new echelons of public acceptance.
You, then, you smashing rebel leader you, should prepare yourself for the new role as Glorious Leader of the Great Nation of Whatever For Life, and the first thing to do is get a damned new wardrobe. Get shit that the other boys can’t – fine military uniforms tailored in Paris and Geneva, fine female bodyguards, strange automobiles from the collections of Saudi princes. Hell, this is your moment to shine and all that gold bullion in the former Democratic People’s Popular Bank of Fairness isn’t going to get spread around to your unelected cronies by itself, now is it? You emerge from a Éuropéan trip of “diplomatic peacebuilding” with a few million worth of great threads from the likes of the Champs Elysées and Old Bond Street and you’ll be damned if some peon (who fought beside you during the rebellion) is ever going to question you.
Sure, it’s all well and good, and for the first ten years I’d advise you to have an “election” of some sort. Keep it simple – one of your close rebel buddies gets to be the “opposition” but is getting so much graft on the side from your oil refineries that he will be happy to know that he’s scheduled to get banished to exile in Brunei the day after the votes are cast. Hey, hell, it happens – he’ll never be allowed to set foot in his homeland again, but a few dozen mercedes should shut him up well.
And then, here is your time to shine – you get the bodyguards, you get the queer military uniforms, the palaces, the splashy vacations in foreign locales and the fancy dinners for invited foreign guests. Hey, it all looks good in the press, the life is good, all Cuban Cigars and Ukrainian women. And McDonald’s burgers as well in my case, even though the closest burger joint was a thousand miles away. Hey, what do you think I kept the Concorde around for anyway?
Throughout the subsequent years and decades of your rule you should promote your most loyal lackeys and have anyone who even questions your choice of color in socks succumb to a painful death via a “fishing accident”, “poorly cooked fish”, “intimate encounter with a fish”, or essentially any excuse involving fish. This will help extend your time at the top – and oh what a time it will be! Wine and dine, languish and splash, these will be the golden years.
But, indeed, this shit usually ends up ending badly. Some other young upstart on the edge of the country will grab a gun and get a group together, and suddenly another revolution is brewing in the hills. Sure, you’ll fight, you’ll propagandize, you’ll threaten and you’ll sack your senior staff. Hey, we’ve all been there, we all did that – but the tides of time grind as they do, and eventually those rebels find their way into the city and into your Presidential Palace.
And that’s where you need to check your ego at the last minute, grab a metric tonne of that stashed gold bullion and fuck off to another locale, such as the Phillipines – those young rebel boys will kick down your Presidential office doors looking for blood and boy, if you’re there, you’ll be spitting up a gallon of it on those finely manicured tile floors of yours you had crafted some decades ago. These dictatorial jobs have a time limit, sister, and your exit strategy is the most important part of the plan altogether.
So I said take me on a trip, I’d like to go someday, I’d love to see L.A. again. Walking that walk, talking that slick talk – the long journey of being deposed begins with a single helicopter flight out. As for me – I found a cave nearby, then I found a fine thatch hut, and wound my way out of the African desert and across the Indian Ocean in whatever Junk I could find. I watch the world roll by these days; the military suit and the lapels are in the closet, however, just in case one day I do it all over again, in a pinch.