by Roland Watson
September 2001

There are two different types of change. The first is continuous, and this is change within a system, to a part or parts of a system. Such change is equivalent to development. The second type of change is discontinuous, and this involves the transformation of a system as a whole. Such global system change is distinct from development. It constitutes evolution.

As an illustration of the first, when a girl grows into a woman or a boy into a man, this is development. It is change within a system, indeed - in this case - to all the parts of a system, but it is not change of the system as a whole, i.e., its change to something else entirely.

In contrast to this the change of a social system, from dictatorship to democracy, can never be accomplished continuously. The reason for this is that dictatorship is too strong. Through the inheritance of political and economic power it perpetuates itself. It is a system in equilibrium. For change of such a system to be accomplished, a break is required. The equilibrium must be disrupted. Such a break is termed a phase transition, and it is characterized by chaos.

One example of discontinuous social change was East Timor. The shift there to democracy required chaos in the form of armed rebellion. However, even this was not enough. Change in East Timor only occurred through the disruption which developed in Indonesia as a whole. In effect, East Timor formed a part of a larger system, and its freedom, its break from this larger system, was dependent on events in it.

Similarly, for Burma and Tibet, it is likely that the change to democracy will require not only a local opposition which is able to generate local chaos, but also the achievement of democracy in China. And the latter, given that the Chinese dictatorship is one of the most entrenched political systems on the planet, will itself necessitate great chaos (in China). Hence, we should not be too hopeful for the near-term prospects for democracy in Burma and Tibet.

Dictator Watch intends to examine all forms of dictatorship, and the leading specific instances of such forms, and:

1. Determine the boundaries and characteristics of the overall system which is subject to the dictatorship.
2. Evaluate the strength and attributes of the various power structures which keep it in equilibrium.
3. Consider all of the ways in which such power structures are currently being opposed: all of the groups which are active and the tactics which they are using.
4. Consider what it will take to boost pressure on the power structures such that the equilibrium breaks down and chaos is created.
5. Evaluate the likelihood that these steps will occur, and the possibility that they can be orchestrated.
6. Assist in this orchestration.
7. Anticipate and plan for the consequences if change is not accomplished, in other words, if the end of the dictatorship is not achieved.
8. Anticipate and plan for the consequences if it is, beginning with ensuring that the phase transition to democracy actually occurs instead of reverting or mutating to a new form of dictatorship.


© Roland O. Watson 2001-3