The disease of the quasi-dictators

January 02, 2020 12:57
Carrie Lam and her master in Beijing, Xi Jinping, have been unmoved by months of protests by Hong Kong people demanding greater democracy, among other things. Photo: Reuters

The world is dancing to the tune of a handful of psychologically flawed men and women.

As George Woodcock, biographer of George Orwell wrote, 'love of power is a sickness that shapes and corrupts not only individuals but societies as a whole.'

One significant facet of this sickness is the propensity to lie about acts and intentions, knowing that this can be done with the total impunity that power invests.

History is redolent of examples of these sick tyrants whose grip on power is sustained by an immediate coterie of supporters who, like saprophytes, feed on their leader's illness.

How else can we explain the inexorable rise and rule of the current disease of quasi-dictators?

Whether they accede to power by way of internal power-engineering or demagogic mesmerizing of susceptible electorates, the end result is the same.

In an ideal society, wise and rational cabinets of advisors would organize their downfall but such societies only seem to exist as ideals.

The 20th Century’s crop of psychopaths, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Franco, to name but a few, were maintained by their self-serving acolytes.

The 21st Century’s Putin, Trump, Kim Jong Un, Xi, Modi, Erdogan, Netanyahu, are all subject to the same sickness and kept in power by lesser figures clinging to their coat-tails, inhaling the same toxic gas.

What is deeply troubling is that their ranks demonstrate that democracy is no safeguard against the emergence and apparent indestructability of these megalomaniacs.

We have moved from tolerating the mere economy of truth and mild exaggeration of the politicians of yesteryear to accepting insouciant bare faced lies as the norm.

Yet I refuse to believe that this institutionalized mendacity is what children are being taught in schools around the world.

Too many of the world’s leaders are not just poodle-fakers but downright liars whose fabrications are peddled by mainstream media which no longer acts as the fourth estate to hold governments to account.

Compounding this appalling state of affairs, the quality of this puke-inducing propaganda would not even pass muster in a journalism kindergarten.

Despite the advances in and spread of education across the board vast swathes of populations accept unquestioningly whatever rubbish they are fed.

Increasing concern is voiced about the increasing role of artificial intelligence in our lives but we ought to be far more worried about the decreasing exercise of human intelligence.

How, for example, can one reconcile the presidency of George Washington, the boy who never told a lie with that of Donald Trump who can only tell lies?

Which American soldier would risk sharing a trench with Trump, a man who abandons his allies for personal political gain?

Or how accommodate Sir Francis Bond Head’s description in 1846 that “The British people, whose word everywhere is as good as their bond” with electing a proven liar and political chancer as Prime Minister?

There may well be other lesser known heads of government with comparable standards but to my mind New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern seems to be a lonely standard bearer for truth and integrity.

Australians must envy their Kiwi neighbors for their rugby and leadership prowess.

We used to say ‘cometh the time cometh the man’ but then came Modi and Mohamed Bin Salman. Like Godot, there is no end to the waiting.

A major symptom of the love of power is the unwillingness to relinquish it. The sickness is so deep rooted that it becomes all consuming, to wit Robert Mugabe, Vladimir Putin and those who restructure constitutions to enable tenure for life.

With length of tenure comes the delusion of infallibility.

Unlike we ordinary mortals, conscious of our proclivity to err, the megalomaniac becomes incapable of recognizing his or her mistake but puts the blame on everyone else.

Which brings me to Hong Kong’s resident psychopathic Chief Executive. Despite a half-baked excuse for a poor decision, in truth she really believes that she is right and the people are wrong.

Her refusal to acknowledge that an Independent Commission of Inquiry into every aspect of the protests is essential to draw the poison out of the system can only be attributable to her clinging to the belief that she is right.

Only someone sufficiently diseased by love of power would refuse to listen to wise, independent counsel.

And now we know that she regards her ExCo colleagues as merely peripheral.

Those who maintain that Beijing will not permit her to accede to this request ignore the fact that it is entirely within her remit as Chief Executive and that there is an Ordinance which provides the mechanism to do so.

Short of physically removing her from office, there is nothing to prevent her from implementing such a Commission.

The sad but equally disturbing reality is that what prevents her from doing what good sense, reason and the circumstances demand, is the sickness of her love of power.

If it was a psychiatric illness recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5) the essential characteristics would all be present.

Regrettably, her cabinet of misfits who owe their positions to the patient lacked the moral integrity to resign en masse, thereby isolating the cause of the disease for all to see. Truly, the lunatic has taken over the asylum.

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RC

Queen's Counsel