Many countries emerged from struggles with colonial oppression, only to have their once heroes turn into the oppressors. Now this disease is spreading to middle-class democracies.
One just has to look at the Russian revolution, Robert Mugabe and other times when the heroes went from being revered as the nation's saviours to being dictators who sacrificed their nation's citizens' freedom and prosperity to their own aggrandisement and fortune. How does one go from being a hero to being worshipped as the nation's saviour, to being the reviled dictator? Well, self-deception and greed go a long way.
A central part of the hero's success is being identified as a victim who has become victorious, thus implying that anyone who has been downtrodden can be as successful.
For a time, the hero may believe that hype, but the realities of government and its complexities can be difficult, especially if the nation is emerging from an oppressive regime. Former monarchies and colonies have typically been havens for corruption and oppression of the nation's peoples, crushing their hopes for a better life. Then along comes a hero who liberates them from that, and their hopes rise again, along with expectations of a better life for themselves. The people are then ready to trust in their hero, and are willing to give them the time to change things for the better.
Unfortunately, the realities of being an leader of an armed insurgency is that democracy generally forms no part of the daily operation of their resistance movement. They are usually run as a military dictatorship, with centralised authoritarian rule required to maintain the discipline to stay effective. That autocracy typically relies upon political favours and compromises of all kinds, as they edge their way towards building support for their revolution by corrupting the existing dictatorship's officials.
So the heros are already corrupted well before reaching success, but they are now the hope of their nations, so how will they mangage the transition to some form of equality for their peoples?
Well, they don't. While presenting themselves as the hero and primal victim who is now their nation's hope, their method of running their countries is still that corruption rules, greasing the wheels of government. Hope only lasts so long before people start seeing that their lot is not generally changing for the better, and that corruption is still rampant. To counter this, the government propaganda machine ramps up, often decreeing that their revolution is still ongoing, and that vigilance is required to ensure that the country does not fall back to the former oppression.
Of course, the old oppressive regime's means of subduing the population, such as torture and summary executions, are still alive and well and operating to full capacity in the new oppression. Political opponents are marginalised as counter-revolutionary and neutralised in an effort to stop another hero from usurping the new dictator.
Years of corruption and oppression make it difficult for peoples to really see themselves as being able to have a society where they are valued, so they remain easy prey for the aspiring dictators, even if they have managed to gain some measure of economic security and self-determination.
The middle-class is characterised by an aspiration to wealth, but that can often be harnessed by those who seek the means to their own extreme wealth.
The middle class forms the most powerful voting sector in many democracies, as they have obtained some measure of personal financial success, but don't tend to see themselves as wealthy, so can always be open for ways to get more. This makes them open to manipulation by politicians making promises of improved wealth for them. Unfortunately, most politicians are open to the influence of the really wealthy, typically through their party's efforts at funding, which tends to bias them towards policies that, while appealing to the middle class, really benefit the wealthy.
However, for those not really in a position to take advantage of the incentive being promised to the middle class, especially if they were working in industries that have been deprecated by the changing domestic and world economic climates, life is not getting better. These economically marginalised peoples have sort of lost hope, much like their much poorer cousins in dictatorships, making them ripe for manipulation by those rallying votes for their own and their sponsors' agendas.
Democracies rely on votes, so to get the middle and typically white working class voters to support policies and laws that give free reign to the wealthy, parties appeal to their self-interest, and highlight perceived threats to their interests by marginalising those who want more equity. Sound familiar? While a full-on dictatorship sounds pretty bad, and their peoples' prosperity is being syphoned by their oppressors, much the same process is going on in so-called prosperous democracies, though the violence is not as pronounced, but still there.
We are seeing a world-wide emphasis on indulging our personalities, and achieving personal wealth, while casting fairness and concern for the planet as the enemies of achieving that wealth.
Of course, the minor gains in personal wealth are accompanied by massive gains in wealth by the really wealthy, as more impediments to their selfishness are removed by appealing to voters' selfishness. This whole process distorts the reality that the middle class and much of the employed are very well off compared to the really poor in the world and many in their own countries. Self-interest is being bypassed by aggressive selfishness, as the reality of wealth inequality is brushed aside, and the catastrophic effects of excessive mass self-indulgence make the planet more uninhabitable.
We are entitled to look after our own interests, but by allowing ourselves to be seduced to be blind to the consequences of excessive self-indulgence, we are robbing many others of the chance to be able to even lift themselves out of poverty, and giving legitimacy to those whose self-indulgence is robbing us of being truly able to be prosperous.
Fairness and equity does not mean that we cannot better ourselves, but we have to be aware of whether that supposed betterment is really making us better.
Some say that government should be small and business will save us, but governments have a duty of care for us, while businesses don't generally have that obligation. History has shown us that unbridled business creates economic and ecological disasters, from the British East India Company on. Governments are the only institution tasked with looking after our best interests, so we need to protect them against those who would seek to subvert them for ideologies that favour self-interests.
To some, this may sound like a rant about supposedly dissipated class wars, but wealth inequality is growing larger in affluent societies, despite an expanded middle class. Moderation of self-interest, and a substantial lowering of the emphasis on aggressive selfishness will go a long way to tempering the oppression of people in our own and other countries, and avert detrimental effects upon the environment.
We have a choice as to what type of societies we want to live in, and we don't need to create oppression and artificial barriers to protect ourselves. We can choose to share enough that all can benefit, but without having to lose out. However some will lose a lot if we all do that, and they perhaps have a big lesson in humility to learn, but their loss will still not make them worse off than the rest of us, just in their expectations.