Have your friends become closet despots?

Make sure you read this first –> (Leah McLaren, Saturday’s Globe and MailPublished on Friday, Jul. 23, 2010 2:10PM EDTLast updated on Friday, Jul. 23, 2010 3:10PM EDT)

No matter how you decide to run your newly liberated country, someone will end up calling you a tyrant. Or worse, a hypocrite.

Stalin was fond of saying that you’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelette. But only the most brazen (and bone-headed) tyrant would explicitly speak of spilt blood instead of euphemistic egg-yolk.

Researchers at the University of Leicester recently examined the stated values of the world’s 38 current dictators (see planetrulers.com). The more dim-witted despots explicitly stated their divine right to rule (although few matched the poetic flair of Idi Amin’s self-proclaimed title of: “His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.“) On the other hand, the more educated respondents described themselves as just and popular even though their unflinching use of state violence and disregard for human rights have firmly placed them in the tyrant weight division.

Conclusion: The more brains you have, the less likely you are to admit to being a despot while privately availing yourself of your divine right to rule.

It’s not going to get the rapid international press off your case, but it does mean that you can spend relief money on your wife’s New York shopping sprees, scapegoat the West for systemically exploiting your people and not feel like a total jerk for burying your political opponents and their tribal relations in an unused mine shaft. For some, that’s a huge relief.

Sure, the idealistic freedom-fighter, still sporting his dusty combat fatigues, may wag his finger at you and call you corrupt. The words of C.S. Lewis might set the upstart straight: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. Those who torment the people for their own good torment without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” As flavors of tyranny go, simple greed is often more palatable for the common man.

That’s the trouble with dictatorships: running a country is much more complicated than moralists would have us believe. Military coups would be much more enjoyable if they were like fairy tales. The brave prince rescues his voluptuous homeland from the exploitative clutches of colonialist rule, is betrothed to her for life, and the rest is as simple as “Happily ever after.” By comparison, dictating in the real world is difficult. Make changes too slow, and your hungry militia will turn against you. Make them too efficiently and a pedantic human rights activist will berate you for crimes against humanity. If you don’t nationalize farms for your lieutenants (who unfortunately have little interest in agricultural pursuits), they will question your loyalty. If you cut a few corners and break a few limbs in order to speed up an election (that you are going to win anyways, so why go about all the fuss?), a stern UN election monitor is there to give you a slap on the wrist and vituperate about you in the world press.

So what’s a reasonable, educated, conflict-adverse leader to do? The way to approach dictating is to take a stand you believe in and stick to it, whether it makes you popular or not. If you are smart, you will read all sorts of books and magazines and newspapers and blogs that reinforce your particular point of view so that, if anyone disagrees with it, you can shoot them down (if you don’t decide to just shoot them) with pre-prepared diatribes on why, say, naked women cause earthquakes or how AIDs is a Western conspiracy to decrease reproduction in your country.

But let’s face it; most western politicians never bothered to try and understand you. They haven’t read the Koran or the Communist Manifesto. They blame you for all the repercussions of colonialism. Not to mention that they’re no fun! Who wants to listen to Hilary Clinton rant about the rights of women when you go to the Opera with Kim-Jong Il or play a round of golf with al-Gadaffi?

So here’s what many tyrants do: they subconsciously gravitate toward other dictators who happen to rail against the same Western powers that we do. This is convenient on all sorts of levels. For one thing, it makes dinner party conversations much more pleasant. For another, it means you and your friends can be hypocritical together without it being pointed out or, better yet, even noticed. For example, you can promote Coca-farming and all your friends will say “How cultural!” instead of implicating you in the War on Drugs. Or you can spend international aid on constructing an indoor waterslide in your palace on the grounds that everyone else you know does it too. Or you sit around smoking cigars sent to you by Fidel and warmly agree that your people follow you in their own interest, because human nature demands and, indeed, cannot live without leadership.

More than anything, though, having like-minded friends means that you can sit in your fortified palace wearing a panoply of medals and watch Friends with your retinue of terrified young jezebels and know there is someone out there who approves of you. Someone else who doesn’t question the mysterious forces of fate that have crowned you king. So kindly show Hans Blix to the door, delete all those unread human rights watch emails, and call up Bob Mugabe to see if he wants to play Farmville.

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One Response to Have your friends become closet despots?

  1. Great one AJ!
    Did this come to you after Loco Loco’s?

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