"A good ayatollah is a dead ayatollah" is an old saying among Iranians. The older version is something like "a good mullah is a dead mullah". These two phrases basically mean the same thing and mean mullahs, ayatollahs, clerics are good when they are dead, otherwise they are up to no good. These phrases derived from historical interaction of people and clerics.
Ayatollah is a high ranking title given to a Islamic Shia mullah (cleric). Ayatollahs have followers and followers comply with anything that following ayatollah wishes them to do. These followers usually pay cash or whatever they would be able to do to satisfy ayatollahs. Merchants (Bazari people) used to financially support ayatollahs all the way and equally, ayatollahs would issue a decree in favour of a specific product or brand to benefit their merchant followers or simply ask their followers to shop from those merchants. Or whenever merchants get on the wrong side of the law, ayatollah would intervene on their behalf.
Since Khamenei became Supreme Leader in Iran, he has fed ayatollahs and seminary schools with money and by doing so he basically changed the traditional relationship between ayatollahs and their followers, and specially merchants to a great extent. I do not want to go off topic so let me get back to the point that I started.
Recently, an ayatollah died in Lebanon, couple of months ago another one in Qom, Iran. If you happen to have seen any of the ceremonies that thousands of their followers gather and mourn, you might have get this impression that "wow! what a pity, he definitely have been good to people". This is the kind of impression usually every average clueless person might make. If you have been one of these people, change and think again!
By the way I am not a pessimist.