“No one man should have all that power” – Kanye West.
Tyranny. Tyranny most foul and spectacular. It stinks to high heaven, yet intermingled in its stench is a piquant aroma that is undeniably intriguing. Despotic rule has always been a subject of great fascination and distress. One can easily rattle off names of men who have set themselves as judge, jury and executioner. This list of names transcends, culture, religion, geography and race and is far more extensive than many would know. Few would understand these individuals’ rise to prominence or their affinity with total control. Even fewer would have studied these creatures, not merely to cast aspersions and attribute blame for their many atrocities but to explore their minds to gain insight to their ideologies which led to their, for lack of a better word, success.
At this point it is important to note that I am not about to simply list as many despots as I can and speak of their deeds and misdeeds, but I aim to make an observation, which we may heed or disregard as we see fit. With that being said, on to our first contestant.
Adolf Hitler is often credited as an incredibly charismatic speaker. It is said that his speeches would electrify audiences as they saw and heard him blaze with passion. On April 1st 1924, he was sent to Landsberg jail after being convicted of high treason. Not once did Hitler deny the charges but he boldly admitted that he sought to overthrow the government. He declared that there can be no high treason against the traitors of 1918, displaying his disgust for the republican government. He saw these statesmen as the cause for the suffering that plagued Germany after the war and sought as best as he knew to undo this wrong. It was on this premise that Mein Kampf was born after six months of labour in the halls of prison. More than a man with a desire for domination, here was an individual, appalled by the plight of his people, dare I say, compassionate, and influenced by extreme nationalist views. Though many regard him as the anti-Christ in true form, and while there is no excuse, and some may even say “forgiveness”, for the reprehensible horrors committed, it is arguable, that his road to hell was paved with good intentions.
Now we turn to a man greatly beloved, despised and frequently misunderstood. A firm believer in social justice, it can be said that Fidel Castro’s rise to power began when he sought to overturn the dictatorial rule of Batista. However, when we look at his life we see that not only was he integral in Cuba’s great revolution but he also of his own volition gave aid to the expedition in the Dominican Republic that sought to overthrow Rafael Trujillo, and even travelled to Colombia to participate in anti-government rioting. Now either this man simply hated all forms of government and had a personal vendetta to destroy it, or he despised injustice and in his unique way attempted to combat it on whatever front he could. It was only in January 1959, after years of guerrilla warfare, that Batista finally fled Cuba and in that self-same year, Castro was sworn in as Prime Minister. He later became President, with his entire span of leadership lasting almost half a century. Whilst his socialist views, repugnance for capitalism and questionable practices have earned him a villainous title the world over, many still see him as Benjai would put it, “the people’s champion”. An excellent speaker and motivator, Castro brought hope, even when all around him was collapsing. Never once did he doubt himself and vehemently stated, “Condemn me, it does not matter: history will absolve me”.
Now, this exposition seems a lot more like a history lesson and I apologise if it has become a bore. However you may notice that I have not at all touched on the actual leadership or acts of any of these men. This is because I seek to expand on the “why” of dictatorship. While the likes of Charles Taylor, Joseph Stalin and Augusto Pinochet are no strangers to totalitarian regimes, the above mentioned men will suffice for today’s exercise.
We have often viewed tyrants as we would Thanos; mad titans infatuated with death and thirsty for unimaginable heights of universal power. However, what is often overlooked is the fact that some of these men were initially concerned with solving a problem, that their hearts were for the people and while there was no obvious personal gain in the original plan, we may attribute their moral downfall to the old adage that “absolute power corrupts.” Therefore, in legal terms, I put it to you that within each of us, there lies latent not just a spirit of rebellion, but a desire to sit on a throne exalted above God himself. So blasphemous is the heart of man that we often point to the evil we see, yet dare not safeguard ourselves against its enticing appeal.
Today, as men are granted more and more autonomy through relativist and liberalist movements and perspectives, and as kindred souls are joined together championing diverse causes, are we creating a society with collective groups of dictatorship? In essence, do we today have not just individuals, but sanctioned groups, who much like Hitler, are disgruntled. Are they discontent not just with systems of governance but also other groups and willing to risk life and limb to eradicate them? This goes beyond human rights and translates into the realm of hegemony. On this premise, forms of religious movements like Christianity and Islam may be regarded as totalitarian where they sought to exercise total control over conflicting cultures and people.
The heart of the tyrant is not as black as we once thought. This piece serves as a warning to the individual, that we all take heed lest we fall. At no time should we seek the subjugation of a people, regardless of our motives. As we await this iconic leader (see previous article) we pray he echoes the words of the French Revolution in true form; liberty, equality and fraternity.
“The most successful form of a tyrant is the tyrant that puts into your head that he is not a tyrant” – Joseph Julius Bonkowski Jr