Kapuściński: On Revolution V

From Ryszard Kapuscinski’s book Shah of Shahs (about the last Shah of Iran):

It is authority that provokes revolution. Certainly, it does not do so consciously. Yet its style of life and way of ruling finally becomes a provocation. This occurs when a feeling of impunity takes root among the elite: We are allowed anything, we can do anything. This is a delusion but it rests on a certain rational foundation. For a while it does indeed look as if they can do whatever they want. Scandal after scandal and illegality after illegality go unpunished. The people remain silent, patient, wary. They are afraid and do not yet feel their own strength. At the same time, they keep a detailed account of the wrongs, which at one particular moment are to be added up.

The choice of that moment is the greatest riddle known to history.

Why did it happen on that day, and not on another? Why did this event, and not some other, bring it about? After all, the government was indulging in even worse excesses only yesterday, and there was nor eaction at all.

“What have I done?” asks the ruler, at a loss. “What has possessed them all of a sudden?”

This is what he has done: He has abused the patience of the people.

But where is the limit of that patience? How can it be defined? If the answer can be determined at all, it will be different in each case. The only certain thing is that rulers who know that such a limit exists and know how to respect it can count on holding power for a long time. But there are few such rulers.

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