They have gone down in history as the chief architects of doom, destruction and chaos. We revile them. We hate them. We remember them. But what we don’t seem to want to remember is the love and adoration that they once garnered. We don’t remember the faith we once had in them.
We remember the tragedy, but we haven’t comprehended the abusive nature of the love, the betrayal of our trust, and the disillusionment of the shared dreams they so carelessly destroyed needlessly.
For the past few months, I’ve studied political leaders who have been vilified by their people, the media, and of course, the biggest cynics of all: the academic and artistic communities. Through these chapters, blood-infested wounds and vacuum-like voids are created within the collective psyche of a people.
To create this archetype, I specifically studied political leaders who were around during WWII up until present day. I won’t name names because I don’t wish to take an analytical stance on such a deep and painful chapter of a country’s history. Some of these villainous leaders were democratically-elected while others were not.
These leaders have been unilaterally described as the epitome of ‘evil’. But what exactly made them so evil?
When you read their early manifestos and doctrines, it all seems so ‘normal’, promising in fact. You may even find yourself swayed by the doctrine that was espoused in their manifestos. Many of the issues that they bring to light have not lost their relevance, even today.
One extremely important aspect that they all share in the common was that their manifestos, memoirs and musings were written during a period of either exile or imprisonment. They were not the thoughts of someone who was in office and in touch with reality, but someone who was reflecting on it during what must have been a deeply lonely and troubled time.
What is it about extended periods of seclusion that creates this mania? What happens to the human mind when we make people prisoners and shut them away? We think that we have done it for the good of society, when in actuality, we have created an even bigger monster than the one we started off with. When it emerges from prison, it will return with what must be an even stronger force than what it started out with.
The worst part: when they are released from prison, these thoughts, which they harboured during these extended periods of seclusion, catch on like wildfire; influencing, brainwashing and hoodwinking what is a sizeable population of people.
How did so many free-thinking people get duped?
While most political leaders leave office with a mixed legacy of successes and failures, these leaders are cast as archetypal villains, even decades after their passing. We refuse to forget them. We quite simply cannot. They have left a shadow, a dark mark and a big blot on an entire nation.
Generations have died and been born, but this painful chapter and the retelling of it as a cautionary tale in school curricula persists. We tell our young, this is bad and this is wrong, but we do not expose them to the truth. The problem was not with the doctrine, but the solution. There was never one.
The leaders who have been vilified in popular memory all have one thing in common: they destroyed. This is not uncommon for leaders who are handed the helms of office. It is not uncommon for democratically-elected leaders to dismantle the political legacy of their predecessors.
But what makes a dictator, a dictator? What makes a tyrant, a tyrant?
The destruction was carefully-crafted and swiftly carried out. I don’t want to say that they were poor at execution, because they weren’t. If they had poor execution skills, they never could have destroyed life at the scale that they did.
The biggest problem, in my eyes, is that they never had any vision for what they would create in the wake of such massive destruction. The sole purpose of their policies was to destroy what was there. They thought that by getting rid of what they considered to be the problem, the solution that they were seeking would magically manifest–but it did not.
Their solution was not a solution. They had never even thought of having a solution. All they had were doctrines and manifestos based on flimsy fantasies.
Political doctrines that I know of tend to be about the same old topics: jobs, housing, education and national pride. Nationalism, in particular, is a very strong one. In an earlier article called The Politics of Home Sweet Home, I discussed in detail how one of our deepest, most primal instincts is a need for a home. The politics of nationalism feeds off that primal instinct. It taps into and toys with this primal need we all have for a place where we can belong.
But can we achieve this simply by destroying what is currently in place? I don’t think so. So what exactly were these politicians trying to achieve?
When you destroy something, it doesn’t simply disappear. People who had nothing to do with the crime are left to deal with the chaos. There’s a trial, people are brought to account, the victims may retaliate and so on.
Many of these villains went on to commit suicide, as they couldn’t even bear the thought of answering for their crimes. They were willing to self-destruct. The purpose of their policies was to destroy. The doctrine wasn’t completely unsound, believe me. But in the end, there is very little that is redeeming about their political legacies.
These villains have taken advantage of the common dreams that tie all of humanity together; only to never fulfil it, but take it further away from its goal.
But beyond casting them as villains, I was curious to understand what events may have precipitated for there to be such a terrible hatred in their hearts.
The common factors: a humiliation that was never healed, a difficult childhood…well, you can call it the usual suspects. But beyond all of that was the sense that they were entitled to something. And not having had it, no one else was going to have it either. It was troubling–shocking, even–to arrive at this conclusion.
This is not a solitary psychopath we’re talking about, but a highly influential individual that mesmerised large segments of the population; getting them high before delivering them his chosen poison. These leaders were willing, and you could even say bent, on destroying the very thing they claimed to love and so desperately crave.
Before you dismiss what I’m saying and just outrageously brandish them as evil, history has shown us that we cannot avoid such people being born. It is an archetype that repeats itself through the annals of time. We think that by studying it and telling our young how terrible it was, that it won’t happen again. By remembering the atrocity, we can somehow memorialise it as a cautionary tale, but I’m not sure. We’re missing the point.
Some of their doctrines were very convincing, especially the early ones. If I didn’t know what was going to happen after the fact, I might have believed in their message, too. They all sounded like any old politician giving a highly impassioned speech. But their journey went on to create an unprecedented era of darkness.
The fact remains that there are leaders out there that will give weight to collective memory and there are those who won’t. The villainous leaders end up being remembered for their notoriety. But in the end, they are the ones who let their people down–not by failing to fulfil a promise–but by destroying any hopes of it ever being achieved.
There are all types of leaders out there. Some guide us towards a better path. While others lead us astray, take us to a cliff and push us down.