What is it? You know, that democracy lark is all very well, but wouldn't it be nicer if your writ could run without any tedious checks and balances - indeed, without any restraints at all? That is what dictatorship means: the ability to declare that something must be done, and it is done. No comebacks. No whingeing (at least to your face). Dictators leave all others cowering and grovelling. For some, such as the late Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania, even wild animals will be drugged to give you a better chance of bagging a few while hunting.
Where did it come from? Most so-called civilisations have in fact been dictatorships. The Pharaohs dominated ancient Egypt, just as Caesar ruled Rome and Alexander the Great ruled everywhere else. Until England's Glorious Revolution of 1688, its monarchs had enjoyed more or less absolute power. And even with the advent of that terribly modern concept of allowing most citizens - even, God forbid, women - to vote, dictators still found it easy to overturn the democratic process and seize complete power for themselves: Hitler and Mussolini proved that. And Uncle Joe Stalin never even bothered with an election at all.
Where is it going? It's over. Or very nearly. During the last few extraordinary weeks, one dictator after another has been challenged and often toppled. The people are mad as hell and they are not going to take it any more. And they don't have to. Social media networks defeat the clunky and slow-moving secret police. The desire for freedom and dignity is strong and impossible to resist. Brave people stand up and tell dictators that it is time to go. In the business world, one or two tyrants cling on. But their days are numbered, too. Corporate dictators - whether benign or psychopathic - think on.
Gradient: Downhill fast.