He who thus domineers over you has only two eyes, only two hands, only one body, no more than is possessed by the least man among the infinite numbers dwelling in your cities; he has indeed nothing more than the power that you confer upon him to destroy you. Where has he acquired enough eyes to spy upon you, if you do not provide them yourselves? How can he have so many arms to beat you with, if he does not borrow them from you? The feet that trample down your cities, where does he get them if they are not your own? How does he have any power over you except through you?Étienne de la Boétie (1548)
This question struck me some fifteen years ago when I read it together with the rest of the Boétie's Discourse on Voluntary Servitude and realized how we had got it all wrong. At the time I was a student organizer and one of the leaders of the 1996-97 Student Protest which forced Milosevic to accept defeat at the local elections, but failed to force him out of office. This was because we focused on him - we protested every day for four months trying to persuade him to accept defeat. And he did finally give in, because this was a defeat he was willing to accept, municipal power in some twenty or so towns was not so important for running a country. And later that year we learned that this had been in fact just a tactical retreat because he stroke back, stronger than ever, winning parliamentary elections against a divided opposition.