In his response to Roger Pulvers’ July 22 Counterpoint article “Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto: ‘What Japan needs now is dictatorship,” Ian Gould writes that “Dictators exist only to climb to the top of the rest of humanity” (“Mayor’s kind needs pruning,” July 26 letter). But I am confident that, for the most part, dictators see themselves in an opposite light and are convinced of their own virtue and legitimacy.
The likes of Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan and Napoleon Bonaparte pursued conquest as a strategy to pacify the world and to extend civilization — for the good of their own people at least and, by extension, for the good of the rest of humanity.
Dictators’ legitimacy stems from their ascendance through the various native political systems by which they gained their position. Each comes to power for a reason. Dozens that I could name in the contemporary world mostly rose through a culturally established process. Adolf Hitler is always a convenient example of malice because his regime was so extreme and retarded. Remember that Hitler did not “seize” power. He was democratically elected.
Therefore, if we want to rid the world of dictators, it is not enough to advocate the virtues of democracy, which is sometimes part of the problem. It requires a certain set of values and cultural preparation. It requires a rule of law adequately protected from corruption. It requires hope and trust. It requires a lot of things, most all a certain je ne sais quoi.
Dictators are popular enough among their own people, at least at the start of their regimes, that seeking their ouster is a tricky business. Even if they are removed, the cultural values and the processes that installed them in the first place largely remain. So, the absence of dictators by itself is not necessarily a marked improvement. It is impractical to expect that it would be.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.