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On Going Down with the Ship

In chapter 13 of our book, we thoroughly covered all things legacy with respect to dictators, from passing on your rule to suitable offspring to setting up monuments reflecting your glory for posterity. And much more -- including an idea that is unfortunately all too attractive to tyrants who are losing their grip on power. When that happens, tearing your world down around you as you fall, damn the collateral damage, becomes a way of spitting back at a hostile universe, one last time (for example, see the last days of Hitler as noted in Ian Kershaw's Hitler: 1936–1945: Nemesis, p. 785). Of course, this cements your legacy as a monster for the ages, but perhaps that's what many dictators aspire to in the first place. 


Are there any recent examples? Maybe; certainly Bashar Assad appears to be inching toward armageddon, as recent reports indicating the use of chemical weapons suggest. It's hard to divine his motives, beyond mere survival, but it looks as if Assad may soon enter a downward spiral that will ensure his legacy is more than simply rotten. Perhaps he thinks 'monster for the ages' has a nice ring to it.  


Final cocktails

On Inoculating Your Political Self

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.)


Here's what I can offer you ...

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Brothers in Arms

It was a photo-op that horrified some and heartened others, Yes, Mohamed Morsi had his summit with Ahmadinejad. You can imagine the reaction in the halls of power in Europe and the United States; and you can also imagine the effect it had on the Egyptians, who generally don't care much for Iran or the Iranian president. 


Kissy kissy


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A Dictator's Christmas Carol, Part 6


Glad I got this up before Christmas, 2013. Click for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.


The following manuscript was found in a cache of stolen documents, nestled between execution orders and ledgers detailing illegal funds siphoned from international aid programs.


I tried every trick I knew to get to sleep ... more port, nearly half of bottle number 2 ... sleeping pills from the State Pharmaceutical company ... they had my scowling face on the capsules, a neat marketing trick I thought would bring in more sales in 2009 ... it didn’t work, and neither did the pills. The visitations had been too disturbing ... imagine a supreme leader like me being scared by a few fanciful images, hallucinations in all likelihood, nightmares ... maybe a sign of decay ... was I getting soft, or too indulgent? 


Still under the covers, I slid my fingers over my body, taking comfort in the feel of my solid frame ... arms and legs still there, my penis was definitely still there, and sadly the belly was still there too ... I was real, palpable, and not some figment of a ghost’s imagination.


I slowly began to feel a little less afraid. Why not get out from under the sheets?


Inching my face out from under the duvet, I sniffed the air. The residue of a fire, its steaming embers, and nothing more. Perhaps it was safe.

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A Dictator's Christmas Carol, Part 5

In some cultures/traditions, the Christmas season lasts until next week. So there! The sixth and final part to be posted soon; click for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4


The following manuscript was found in a cache of stolen documents, nestled between execution orders and ledgers detailing illegal funds siphoned from international aid programs.


Good port has allowed me to let go of many things. Tonight, by the time I’d finished the bottle, I’d almost forgotten all about the ghost of Dictators Past, his spear, and the vision of my younger self. But I couldn’t let go completely because the meaning of the scene I’d witnessed troubled me. So what if I was a bit of a flip-flopper! These were serious concerns here ... did the ghost mean to imply that I was losing my touch, that the edge of my ruthlessness had been dulled (keep the edge keep the edge keep edge keep the edge)? Hard to tell. Or was it simply this -- he was try to scare me by showing me in an equivocal moment? If that was true, what was he trying to scare me into? Giving up power? Abdicating?

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A Dictator's Christmas Carol, Part 4

Sorry for the delay, but the holidays ARE the holidays. To read Part 1, click here. Parts 2 and 3 are here and here.


The following manuscript was found in a cache of stolen documents, nestled between execution orders and ledgers detailing illegal funds siphoned from international aid programs. 


The paperwork was going well, and I’d about finished half of a large stack of documents when I looked and noticed the time ... about ten in the evening, and by my reckoning a good a time as any for a well-deserved break. My butler had prepared a robe and silk pajamas, so I slipped into them and picked up a glass of port ... it burned a bit, and I coughed ... I had another, hair of the dog that bit me, as I liked to joke, and this one was better. I sat back and thought about the visitation, wondering again how much credence I could place in Joachim’s shade, before deciding once and for all time (when I make a decision, that’s pretty much it -- I don’t believe in being wrong) that it was just a bit of fog, a wisp of fancy brought on by overly ripe cheese, and those damn oysters. I cracked my knuckles and checked the time.


Curiously, the clock had not moved. It was still still 10 P.M.


More time for a break, then. I poured another glass, downed it, and rubbed my eyes. The chair was very comfortable, the leather supple and yielding against my bulk, and the fire warm, inviting. I yawned. Perhaps a small nap before finishing the paperwork? Usually I delegate as much as I can to my underlings, but there are some things that just need a dictatorial review before affixing the supreme signature, and I was determined to finish tonight.


I was about to ring for my butler when a sound pierced the quiet of the den ... a scraping sound of something metallic being dragged over a threshold, something metallic scraping and ruining my marble floors ....

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A Dictator's Christmas Carol, Part 3

To read Part 1, click here. Part 2 is here.

The following manuscript was found in a cache of stolen documents, nestled between execution orders and ledgers detailing illegal funds siphoned from international aid programs.



A hot bath and a tumbler of scotch will do wonders for generalized anxiety; I recommend a gold-plated tub, if you have the cash.


In any case, the warm water and alcohol soothed my nerves, and soon I forgot about the image of Joachim over the door knocker. That’s the trouble with martinis and driving, I said to myself, they don’t mix, whether you happen to be behind the wheel or not. I laughed the apparition off, laughed until i was stopped by a rumbling stomach. Of course ... I was hungry, practically at the edge of starvation ... low blood sugar, my doctor always told me, was a leading cause of hallucinations and anxiety. The answer for my nerves was right there. Dinner ... it was time to eat.


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A Dictator's Christmas Carol, Part 2

To read Part 1, click here.

The following manuscript was found in a cache of stolen documents, nestled between execution orders and ledgers detailing illegal funds siphoned from international aid programs.


I can always tell when Pauline is distracted. There is no “I love you, Great Leader,” or “What wonderful spread, your Excellency,” and a playful belly-pat afterwards. No, today she morosely smoked a cigarette after I’d climaxed, and was silent, mostly, except to complain about an insufficient number of shoes. Women are a mystery to me too, I freely admit, but then I have the luxury of not having to care. Perhaps she was upset about having to work on Christmas Eve too.


Well, let her be upset, like Bob. In the end what they think doesn’t matter very much.


She sighed loudly. “Are we finished here, Dicky?”


“Dicky?”


She sighed again. “I mean, Your Grace.”


I thought it best to let that slip go. She was still fine to look at, or rather the curves of her buttocks and large nipples were, and so while I could stare fighting seemed superfluous. Read history, I felt like telling her, and you’ll find that no one is usually more linked to a dictator’s fate than his mistresses -- for better and worse.


That axiom is not mine, though I am credited with it in all the official state history books (you can also find in in the Big Book of State Aphorisms). No, it was my friend Joachim who said it. But he’s no longer my number 2. He’s passed on.

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A Dictator's Christmas Carol, Part 1

(Apologies to Charles Dickens, James Ellroy, and Louis-Ferdinand Celine)


The following manuscript was found in a cache
of stolen documents, nestled between execution orders and ledgers detailing illegal funds siphoned from international aid programs.


The holiday  inches closer and the masses prepare for it, and they seem happy, or at least content with their lot, living under a dictatorship.


I make that last observation every year and it puzzles me. But I let it go. No need to obsess over it, even if I cannot understand how anyone could be content being ruled by another. This is no ordinary tin-pot autocracy; the peoples' means of earning a livelihood, their media access, travel, ability to express ideas, all of it controlled and restricted. Yet I see them even now, hanging wreaths, setting mangers, trimming trees … pouring rum in their egg nog, casual and distracted, as if secret police are not sharing their good will toast.


(My country is mostly Christian, nominally, and so even I am ‘officially,’ or at least when it’s prudent to appear so. But I have no use for turning the other cheek.)


I find all this holiday cheer strange … I’d never show my face at a party if someone held the power of life and death over me. But then I don’t have that problem because I’m THE DICTATOR. Richard M. Tater, at your service (but not really).

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You Have No Friends

The great American poet Charles Bukowski once wrote, "If you want to find out who your friends are, you can do two things: throw a party or go to jail. You will soon find that you have no friends." To that pithy bit of advice you could add, "Or become a dictator and lose power," and it's likely the result would not change. Certainly one could say, "Well, any dictator is bound to be surrounded by unscrupulous, amoral types, and it's to be expected that they won't be there when the capo falls."


While that is true, it's also true that for legacy purposes a really successful dictator will make sure that his inner circle -- his friends, wife, and family -- remain loyal and supportive as he rides off into a hopefully uneventful retirement. (See chapter 13 of our book for more on legacy issues.) The last thing a retired dictator needs, after all, is an outspoken media magnet as a friend. 

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