Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Charisma and Megalomania

AustinBay has a long essay on megalomanics in politics

He makes several points.

One, if the megalomanic dictator is anti American, he will get a pass from the press (mainly in Europe but also in much of the US) for his atrocities and hijinks.

This of course applies to Mugabe, and is because of the Marxist bias in much of the press and the intelligencia, who have a soft spot in their heart for communists and those inspired by the communist propaganda of brotherhood and equality, never mind that it is a potemkin village that is based more on fantasy than reality.

He then goes on to discuss Mugabe and his ilk. How do you take over a country and keep in power?

People shape events, not vague historical forces or deterministic theories, and people who seek to successfully transition their society from a dictatorship to a democracy need reliable institutions that promote consensus, compromise and the pursuit of power by legal means.

Gadafi, Mugabe, and Chavez have systematically destroyed or attempted to destroy the institutions in their nations capable of promoting compromise. These thugs seek to turn such institutions into ideological instruments –not for an ism, but for the perpetuation of their own power.

Mugabe has yet to destroy the Catholic and Anglican churches, and they underpin the various factions of the anti-Mugabe opposition.

The Catholic Church still wields influence in Venezuela; when Chavez goes, and he will, eventually, perhaps the church will play a significant role in resurrecting that beggared nation.

Mugabe stands in stark contrast to his next door neighbor, Nelson Mandela.

Mandela –personally and institutionally– fostered consensus, compromise and the pursuit of power by legal means. (Kemal Ataturk did it in Turkey.) South Africa could fall into tribal anarchy, but it will not be because of Mandela. Mugabe’s personal jealousy of Mandela may well be a factor in his desire to cling to power no matter the long-term cost to Zimbabwe. Apres moi le deluge.

Bay quotes from two famous essays on politics, that of Jean Kirkpatrick and of Hofstatter. Both are classics and should be read to understand Mugabe and the world's interpretation of Mugabe's actions.

From Hofstatter:

“As a member of the avant-garde who is capable of perceiving the conspiracy before it is fully obvious to an as yet unaroused public, the paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician.

Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish.

Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated—if not from the world, at least from the theatre of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention.

This demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s sense of frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes.”

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