Every Dictator's Nightmare, by Wole Soyinka

1270 Words3 Pages
Wole Soyinka's essay "Every Dictator's Nightmare" in the April 18, 1999 edition of the New York Times magazine seems almost prescient in light of the events currently occurring geopolitically. The recent events occurred in Egypt are certainly representative of the themes present in Soyinka's essay; “the idea that certain fundamental rights are inherent to all humanity" (476). Soyinka, the 1986 noble peace prizewinner for literature, portrays not only his well-formed persona in his essay, but also his well formed thoughts, devoid of literary naiveté common in so many of today’s writers. The essay portrays societies as corrupted, but with some elements of innate nobility. The existence of societies is guaranteed by the realization that every individual has undeniable basic rights. Soyinka also presents an overview of the enslavement of individual cultures; to the forces of religion, dictatorship, economic pressures, forced labor, and ideology; presenting the reader strong examples of the world's failure to respect individual human rights throughout history. In his essay, Soyinka’s explores the employment of irony and contradiction, in explaining the paradoxes that have riddled the historical search for just societies.

Soyinka suggests that one of the most important ideas in history is the belief that every individual is born with certain fundamental human rights. His essay does not specifically delineate what those rights are; but one can judge from examination of the essay that they include freedom from slavery, freedom to live without anxiety or fear, and the right to knowledge. He postulates that throughout history, the primary struggles have been between those who wish to suppress the rights of others, and those who desire free...

... middle of paper ...

...xplained in details the role of Martin Luther King Jr. in the American civil rights movement. Despite this, the essay is still very useful in highlighting the need to respect basic human rights. The recent events in Egypt are indicative of what happens when individuals gain the political and social will to stand up against oppression. The people of Egypt staged protests in order to overturn the established, 30-year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. This is the foundation of uprisings in the 21st century; the desire for fundamental human rights and dignity. Soyinka's essay predicted these 12 years ago; the world is watching; and dictator's and the politically powerful know it.

Works Cited

Soyinka, Wole. “Every Dictator’s Nightmare.” The Arlington Reader: Contexts and Connections. 2nd ed. Ed. Lynn Z. Bloom and Louise Z. Smith. Boston: Bedford, 2008. 475-80. Print.
Open Document