Sic semper tyrannis

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(Thus, to all tyrants)

History is replete with examples of high and mighty men who fell from their lofty perches into its dustbin. The record reflects that tyrants usually come to an inglorious end, and they are seldom mourned except by a handful of twisted loyalists. According to HISTORY EXTRA, [December 2017]: “Strongmen who seize power rarely end their days lying peacefully in their beds surrounded by family and friends. Even the likes of Stalin and Mao, who met their deaths through natural causes, were lonely figures plagued by paranoia, especially near the end. History shows that dictators who seize power through violence invariably have to maintain power through even more violence – which in turn creates yet more enemies who must be eliminated. And if a dictator can take power, others can too, raising the prospect of a stab in the back. There are always rivals, often just as ruthless, waiting to step up. Since a competitor can appear from a dictator’s own entourage, a dictator must constantly purge the ranks.”

In his great piece, WHY BULLIES MAKE BAD LEADERS, Chris Meyers, writing in FORBES, declares, There is a dangerous and destructive idea fomenting in American society today, and it permeates almost every aspect of modern life. From politics to business, our society is increasingly mistaking aggression for strength, and bullying for leadership. One need only look at the nature of Donald Trump’s bombastic, aggressive, and wildly popular Presidential campaign for proof of this disturbing trend. In times of difficulty, the allure of a bully is seductive, yet ultimately disappointing. Bullies might be good at gaining power, but they make for terrible leaders.”

Of course, part of the problem with leaders who bully and denigrate their colleagues and subordinates, is that those colleagues and subordinates are afraid to speak truth to power. They are afraid to tell him to his face that he has made a mistake, or that he is on the wrong path. They are afraid that they might become the object of his ridicule or wrath. Many times, they are content, never mind that they can no longer look at themselves in the mirror, to go along with the leader’s actions that are really quite indefensible and odious. They are willing to . . .uh . . . play footsie, if it means maintaining their cushy positions of power and privilege.

So who are some of the world’s bullies who have had their comeuppance?  President Suharto of Indonesia had to resign after 32 years in office, a despised and rejected leader. The bullet-riddled body of Benito Mussolini was dragged through the streets of Italy by the people that once revered him. Stalin, Hitler and Mao all met their end in bitter disgrace. As did Robert Mugabe, who at the time of his forced resignation, was the world’s oldest leader. And how can we forget the infamous Vladimir Lenin, he whose statue was dragged through the streets of Moscow? Or Julius Caesar, who was assassinated by forty Roman senators led by Marcus Brutus? The Romans were fed-up with his authoritarian leadership. Or Jean-Bedel Bokassa of the Central African Republic? And on and on the list goes. Seems, the rogues’ gallery of tyrannical leaders is as long as it is wretched.

To be sure, they had many things in common – the disdain for their people, their brutish, hoggish ways, their mean-spiritedness, their penchant for ‘cussin’-off’ those who disagreed with them, their incredible greed and selfishness. Their conceit and megalomania. Consider King Sparrow’s haunting number entitled: WANTED, DEAD OR ALIVE, in which he called the names and cited the transgressions of some despotic leaders of his era. Sang the Birdie, The rule of the tyrants decline / The year, 1979 / From Uganda to Nicaragua, it’s bombs and bullets all the time / So they corrupt, so they vile / So it’s coup after coup all the while / Human rights they violate / They thought they were so great / So in disgrace now they live in exile / Gairy is a wanted man / Idi Amin is a wanted man /Shah of Iran tried so hard to survive / He, too, is wanted dead or alive / Strikes, demonstrations and wars / Injustice is always the cause / Politicians turn too soon from poor people into tycoons / Corruption must bring horrors . . .” Clearly, it is an immutable law of nature, that tyrant leaders may strut across the stage, much like the Colossus of Rhodes, but their awful end will eventually come. Think, “How are the mighty fallen!”

King Macbeth, he of the Shakespearean tragedy by the same name, rues his insatiable greed, and his ‘o’er weaning ambition,’ when it appears to him that his end is near. Says he, “Stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires. . .”  Later, he says, rather sadly, “Life … is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” These will be the piteous words of regret by those of our leaders who allow greed and lust for power to cloud their judgment and their better instincts. These will be the sad words of those who purge their consciences and turn a blind eye to injustice and corruption, those who stay on the dastardly gravy train, because it suits their selfish desires. They will never take a stand for the people. They will never be a voice for that which is right. Nay, they will apologise for the leader’s bad behavior, and they will attempt to rationalise and justify it. They become complicit.

Not surprisingly, we are witnessing the decline, and eventual fall of an autocratic leader who countenanced no dissenting opinion, and was quite adept at neutralizing and disposing of those who opposed him. He ruled his country with an iron fist for a number of years, but he has recently been exposed as an emperor with no clothes. Events are overtaking him, and we suspect that it will not be long before he is forced to exeunt stage left.

As is the case with many tyrant leaders, there will be few people to ask for mercy on his behalf. Few people will shed a tear to see him depart. They kissed-up to him in his hey-day, because they derived some material benefit from their proximity to him. But those days could soon be gone.

In Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR, Marcus Brutus, who was once quite close to Caesar, coldly declares when the knife is plunged into Caesar’s back, “Sic semper tyrannis” (Latin) – “Thus, to all tyrants.”

May the Lord have mercy on their souls.

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