For most people alive today, and for the vast majority of people who have ever lived in a society, life on Earth has been a gigantic fiasco involving the extreme centralization of power; but the benefits of civil rights, economic opportunity, and religious freedom can no longer be kept secret from suffering populations. Dictatorships will fall to internal revolutions. They cannot be sustained in the face of diminished incentives to work for them. Much of the change will be prompted by non-violent disobedience and withheld economic participation. Grand plans for world dominance will crumble as they are exposed. Psychological, cultural, and technological changes are responsible for our current ability to acquire freedom from dictatorships.
The time table is for us to choose.
Here is a review of some historical characteristics of governments that I feel should be considered:
From the Sed festival, during which the king was ritually transformed into a god, it's pretty clear that Egyptian Pharaohs like Ramesses II were regarded as deities of some kind. This surely tended to give them the credibility and authority they needed to organize military campaigns and order executions. The structure of the society was the hierarchical. Belief in an afterlife seems to have fostered obedience to deities, especially those who commanded armies. I identify this paradigm as a kind of oppression, although many would understand it as spirituality or religiosity.
The Alpha Male
However, this was a more sophisticated type of oppression than the apparent starting point of leadership. Small groups of men often discovered who among them was the strongest or most determined. This would decide which of them would dominate the others. This was much like the process of deciding which male ape would become the most dominant male (also called the alpha male). Personal dominance is still part of the culture in some small groups such as gangs. Ruffians like these are not completely absent from governments today.
There certainly was a personal dominance component to the authority of Roman Emperors. To look at such a ruler in the eye at the wrong time or in the wrong way was to risk severe punishment or even death. Some of their deeds are mentioned here.
King Henry VIII of England was an absolute monarch. The law was what the king said it was. Investigations produced testimony by means of torture. Occasionally, innocent people were put to death, some on trumped up charges. Information about this is available here.
In this very informative site, in addition to expounding on many other aspects of American History, The Bill of Rights is discussed within the context of representative democracy.
Hitler and World War II
The absolute dictatorship of Adolf Hitler was the primary cause of World War II. It was characterized by massive atrocities and ended in the middle of the twentieth century. Its recency is a grievous reminder of what evils might still be possible. World War II was a global war. This site and its references illustrate in many ways how effective and dangerous centralization of power can be.
Our current ability to acquire freedom is facilitated in part by the fact that we have changed. Christians were eaten alive by lions for the entertainment of Roman audiences whereas Hitler's holocaust needed to be a secret from the general population. Although some are a bloodthirsty as ever, the vast majority are now intolerant of murder and mayhem forced upon the innocent.
Similarly, the neighborhood pecking order isn't quite as well defined as it once was. Even in the military and other hierarchical organizations, compliance with authority is based on the credentials and skill sets of the people who have been granted the authority, rather than based on alpha male characteristics. Brutish behavior is more often associated with gangs and criminality than with constituted authority.
These psychological and cultural changes have brought about constitutions and laws that protect the rights of minority groups and creative individuals from simply being outvoted by people of prejudice. A pure democracy today would not bring as much tyranny of the majority as in earlier times. Constitutions and courts prevail against the wishes of the executive much more often today than was the case in the time of Henry VIII.
Also, our communication technology has made it all but impossible to keep injustices secret from the world. Likewise, the benefits of economic and religious freedom can no longer be hidden.
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
See A Gift of Love
“By placing confidence in violent means, one has chosen the very type of struggle with which the oppressors nearly always have superiority.” - Gene Sharp, From Dictatorship to Democracy. See also How to Start a Revolution.
"Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding." - Mahatma Gandhi.
"It was, in fact, wealthy businessmen in Western industrial and banking circles who guaranteed Hitler's success." - Jim Marrs, The Rise of the Fourth Reich.
“The fact is, television doesn't simply reflect society's values. In important ways, it also legitimizes them. And more and more in recent decades it has made even the most dubious "values" and behaviors seem normal and routine.” - Bernard Goldberg
See Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News.
See The Fourth Turning.
The evolution of culture and new mechanisms for disclosure are creating an environment in which dictatorships can no longer endure.