Funny authority

Posted on January 10, 2011 | View 529

The absurd legacy of dictators.

Often, dictators and authoritarian characters, downright nasty as they may have been, are dealt a severe blow by posterity. This often happens in the form of being subjected to laughter and ridicule. And all too often it's the antics of the dictators which show up their absurd egos.


Witness, for example, the recent story about how the Nazis were thinking of targeting the Finnish owner of a dog that could, apparently, imitate with a raised paw the Nazi salute.


It isn't known whether Hitler, known to have other idiocies, himself was aware of the anti-canine plot. But other dictators readily come to mind when thinking of the grandly idiotic.


Take Uganda's Idi Amin. What more does one need to say about a man who styled himself "His Excellency, President for Life Field Marshall Al Hadj Doctor Idi Amin Dada, 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".


Add to that modestly short list of embellishments the title of "King of Scotland", and we are just about done.Of the modern day ones, Saparmurat Niyazov, who took over Turkmenistan after the collapse of the Soviet Union, is perhaps the best of the lot.


First among his acts was to christen himself "Turkmenbashi or "Father of all ethnic Turkmen". Then, everything from the airport, a meteorite, the main national port, and even the very months were re-named after him and his family. Since watermelons happened to be a favourite, a national holiday in honour of the fruit ensued.

He also wrote a book, which you needed to memorise in order to be eligible to graduate from school, get a state job or even a driver's license.


He also ordered a giant ice palace to be built in the Karakum desert, the hottest place in Central Asia. At which point, one knows time will melt the mirage of such a legacy as quickly as the ice.

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