basic goal of Dictator Watch is education: to help people understand things
in a new way (to view everything as the interaction and transformation of forms),
as a means to rectify and escape from the problems of the past. We also apply
this methodology to many specific problems - instances of dictatorship - in
the manner of a research institution, and then where possible engage in activist
efforts to end them. However, we want to be more than just thinkers, letter
writers, lobbyists, and demonstrators. We, and everyone else, are on the front
line in the struggle to make a better world, and we all must act accordingly.
In particular we want to save lives. One of our governing philosophies is the
idea from the Talmud that to save a life saves the universe.
We want to save nature, the lives of all the species that inhabit it and which
are being killed by humans, and we want to save human lives as well, particularly
of individuals in indigenous communities that are being trampled by both modern
dictatorship and old world tyranny.
To-date our efforts have focused on the Karen people, who have as their homeland, which is known as Kawthoolei, or the Land of Light, a six hundred kilometer stretch of the mountains that border Thailand and Burma. The Karen are the subject of a campaign of genocide by the Burmese military dictatorship. They have suffered unspeakable horrors at the hands of the Burma Army.
In our interactions with soldiers in the Karen National Liberation Army, we have stressed the need to incorporate the idea of fighting for the natural beauty of Kawthoolei as an integral part of their struggle. We have made the point that if they are not fighting to preserve what is beautiful in their world, then why fight at all.
We are also working to provide medical and other humanitarian assistance, e.g., food, for Karen people who are in dire straits.
The issue of assistance raises the question of its legitimacy. Dictator Watch's position on foreign aid is that, with rare exceptions, we are opposed to it. Another of the organization's governing philosophies is a belief in personal responsibility. We - humans - are responsible for ourselves, for making the most of our lives, for making the most of our one chance to be alive, beginning with satisfying our basic needs and extending all the way through to our efforts to fulfill our highest needs, for love, creative expression, and wisdom. In all but the worst circumstances, where we truly do require help, to survive, if we accept outside assistance we are essentially abdicating this responsibility.
The consequences of this are wide-ranging. By accepting aid societies are basically saying that they are incapable of satisfying their own needs, even that they are inferior. (This has drastic psychological effects.) Also, substantial portions of foreign aid are usually stolen. The aid has to be distributed, and the aid sources typically depend on those individuals in the society who have the most prominence. Such individuals, however, inevitably succumb to the temptation to take some of the aid for themselves, and they also use their privileged positions to increase their own power. In this way aid programs fuel corruption, and dictatorial political structures, thus undermining the society's traditional values and its ability to develop democratic institutions.
In addition, foreign aid almost always has strings attached, including that the recipient societies must accept and implement the values and social development model favored by the sources of the aid. Dictator Watch rejects this. We believe that all societies can and should make their own determinations about how they would like to develop, including, if they so choose, to reject the western consumerism/industrialism paradigm that is now being imposed all around the world. The only needs for which societies may require outside assistance include: humanitarian, in response to crisis situations, such as those caused by natural catastrophes and dictatorial governments (e.g., for refugees and internally displaced persons); and to construct a fundamental social infrastructure - one able to provide clean water, nutritious food, medical care, and education. Everything else, including roads, dams, power plants, electrical grids, and communication utilities, should be left up to the societies themselves, to decide via consensus, not through top down dictates by the social elite, if they truly want and need such things. (Then, if and where they do, the societies themselves should build them.)
Note: the above comments apply specifically to financial assistance. One might also take the position that other forms of assistance, from diplomatic pressure to economic sanctions and even the efforts of organizations such as Dictator Watch, are inappropriate. To this we respond that dictatorial social situations regularly take the form where the power imbalance in the society in question is so great that it cannot be ended without assistance from the outside. It is true that people get the government that they deserve, but in such situations the people subject to the dictatorship - who may be generations beyond the initial public that allowed the autocrats to first obtain power - are unable to put an end to it on their own.
With this as background, Dictator Watch's own aid programs are focused on: (1) front line and behind the lines humanitarian assistance efforts, to actually save lives; and (2) the provision of advice to traditional cultures that wish to avoid the modern development model and its pitfalls.
addition to the programs described in the links below (for which we have photo
documentation, and also for others that are in progress), Dictator Watch has
provided direct financial assistance to a number of individuals whose lives
have been destroyed by the Burmese dictatorship, and food and/or medicine for
four Burma border clinics and IDP camps.
- Karen medical clinic
- IDP food relief program
- Landmine victim
- Karen child soldiers
- Burma Army child soldiers