One of the things that I have been most worried about is the rise of authoritarian leaders and governments around the world. I’ve been reading about authoritarian leaders in Turkey, Syria, Poland, and especially the Philippines. As a Filipino American cartoonist, I have been increasingly horrified with Duterte’s extrajudicial killings, his attacks on journalists and on dissenting views, his attempts to weaken the checks and balances to his power. And yet his popularity right now is in the high 70s.
In these past couple of months, I’ve been reading a lot of books and articles about the history of authoritarianism. What are the conditions that can make people turn to authoritarianism? What are ways in which we can resist? One of the things that I’ve read is that nonviolent strategies tend to work better than violent strategies. Nonviolent strategies involve more people, especially the middle class, who tend to shirk away from violent strategies.
In many countries, the initial opposition to authoritarian governments tend to be leftists, journalists, the Church, students, intellectuals and artists, and human rights activists. This early opposition at first seems small, but eventually the authoritarian government’s repressive measures begins negatively affecting more and more of the populace. An opposition movement only become effective once the middle class participates in opposing an authoritarian regime.
There are left wing as well as right wing authoritarian governments. Stalin, Mao, Castro, Chavez, Ortega. Today, the problems that we face are mostly with right wing nationalist authoritarianism. The rise of the Alt Right and white nationalism in the U.S. is especially troubling to me.
In the Philippines, Duterte is taking advantage of very legitimate fears of crime and a drug problem to scapegoat the poor and to attack leftists, journalists, the Church, students, intellectuals and artists, and human rights activists. Duterte is attacking these groups that would historically make up the opposition to authoritarian regimes so that they will not coalesce and make up a larger opposition movement.