In chapter 2 of our book, 'Inimitable You,' we note that many dictators have taken their megalomania to its logical concluding place, and made their lives inseparable from that of their state or nation. When you and the state are one, it becomes impossible for anyone to imagine a separation (short of a violent one). In modern times, perhaps no one has embodied this axiom with as much style as Italy's Silvio Berlusconi. His relative success in the current Italian elections -- which he should be losing by a wide margin, given his terrible record -- is a prime example of what can happen if no one can imagine the existence of the country apart from you. (Read long-time Italy resident and novelist Tim Park's take on this phenomenon here.)
By insinuating yourself into the soul of your country, you may even gain protection from ... yourself! Consider: even in this age of interminable media scrutiny, your most retrograde, drunken, and crazy dictatorial ramblings will be deemed inconsequential if you are seen as necessary for the continued life of the state -- whereas in the past they may have cost you politically.
Again, the best recent illustration of this is Mr. Berlusconi. What other leader could have survived the following public exchange with a woman, just weeks before an election?
"Do you come?...only once?...how many times do you come?...with what sort of time intervals?," he asked her with a smirk on his face. At the time she went along with the banter giggling nervously as the audience roared with laughter. "It sounds altogether like a good proposal," he continued. He then asked her to turn around, took a look at her bottom and said, "Yes, it is a convincing offer", prompting a round of applause and more laughter from men and women in the audience.
For those interested, a video of the entire exchange is available.
The message for dictators here is -- make yourself indispensable and all your shameful, vulgar grunts will bounce right off the best armor ever invented rather than harm your latest electoral campaign.