People in many countries have experienced decades or even centuries of oppression, whether of domestic or foreign origin. Frequently, unquestioning submission to authority figures and rulers has been long inculcated. In extreme cases, the social, political, economic, and even religious institutions of the society – outside of state control – have been deliberately weakened, subordinated, or even replaced by new regimented institutions used by the state or ruling party to control the society. The population has often been atomized (turned into a mass of isolated individuals) unable to work together to achieve freedom, to confide in each other, or even to do much of anything at their own initiative.
The result is predictable: the population becomes weak, lacks self-confidence, and is incapable of resistance. People often are too frightened to share their hatred of the dictatorship and their hunger for freedom even with family and friends. People are often too terrified to think seriously of public resistance. In any case, what would be the use? Instead, they face suffering without purpose and a future without hope.
Gene Sharp (2012) “From Dictatorship to Democracy: A conceptual framework for liberation.” London: Serpent’s Tail, p.5. (First published in 1993)