Umbrellas and Tyrants in the Arab World


 I came across an interesting manifesto against Arab tyrants. It was mentioned by The Guardian journalist of the Middle East Robert Fisk who, in an end of year article, asks why middle eastern tyrants lasted so long. He mentions a very clever "Arab Tyrants Manual" which was compiled on Twitter over a period of time as events were unfolding after March 2011. People would send in their observations in Tweet form on how tyrants tried to stay in power. It is funny, clever, and rather sad. The original is here and I have I put a version of it on my own website here. along with an extract of an introductory chapter to the work which is not yet complete. It should be of considerable interest to libertarians - note that the author quotes Lord Acton's famous remark about how power corrupts.

Also note that the item 5th from the end says "Demonstrate your confidence with a casual prop of some kind. Umbrellas are good." which reminded me of this anti-Gaddafi wall graffiti which appeared during the uprising. There was also a strange photograph of him sitting in his car giving a talk on Libyan TV while holding an umbrella. 


Posted at 08:46 AM     Read More  

 Mao waves "hello" in his Bathrobe


One of the choicest presents I got when I was in Shanghai was the statue of Mao my wife found in a market. It was of Mao in his bathrobe after he had swum the width of the Yang-tse River. 


Like any good dictator Mao wanted to show that he had superior physical powers and therefore was worthy of ruling China. He used to swim the width of the Yang-tse river unassisted and then emerge, wrap himself in a bathrobe, and acknowledge the universal acclamation of the adoring Chinese people. The image of him dressed in this fashion was used for propaganda purposes as the poster above indicates. Here is another:


[See larger image]

Posted at 09:07 PM     Read More  

 King Kim II: Born to Salute and be Saluted


Baby Kim II with mummy and daddy (about 2 years old). Saluting authority requires precision and sharp angles.


King Kim II in 2011. When one is in authority one doesn't have to salute anybody but one does acknowledge the salutes of others, even if it is rather perfunctory and flaccid. See the excellent study by Tilman Allert, The Hitler Salute: On the Meaning of a Gesture (Henry Holt, 2008) where this very point is made. Hitler often gave very lackadaisical and sloppy salutes when others saluted him. The angle was also very important, either above or below the heart, straight arm or bent arm.


All this saluting was mocked brilliantly by Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator (1940) including the different salutes for the saluter and the salutee.


[Adenoid Hynkel is "The Phooey" (Der Führer)]


["Benzino Napaloni" (Mussolini, il Duce)]

Posted at 07:53 PM     Read More  

 The deification of King Kim II has begun


According to an article in the Guardian the deification of Kim Jong-Il has already begun:

When Kim Jong-il was born on the sacred mountain of Paekdu, a star rose above the spot and shone brightly, a double rainbow appeared and spring broke out spontaneously. Did we mention that his nativity was foretold by a swallow? The KCNA line is that once the dreadful days surrounding Kim Jong-il's death are over, a "spring of prosperity under Socialism will surely come to the country thanks to the patriotic devotion of Kim Jong-il who blocked the howling wind of history till the last moments of his life". "The sky turned red, it went on, and cracks appeared in frozen lakes. A Manchurian crane then bowed its head in grief."

Before we get too cocky about the poor North Koreans' love of their departed tyrant we should recall how readily Americans deified George Washington and Abraham Lincoln after their deaths. The worship of power and the powerful is a universal phenomenon, both in democracies and in communist societies.


[Unknown, "The Apotheosis of Washington and Lincoln" (1865)] [See larger image]

Posted at 06:46 PM     Read More  

King Kim II and the Escalator to Hell 


[“Ground Floor - women’s perfumes, international court of justice, and the dustbin of history.”]

 I came across this most unfortunate photograph of one of the last public appearances of the Dear Leader  Kim Jong-Il (a.k.a. King Kim II) before he died. Shortly after his death this escalator was turned into a shrine where grieving Koreans could go to weep, gnash their teeth, and rent their garments at the loss of their beloved tyrant. Another reading might be that the Dear Leader is on an escalator to hell, followed at discrete and geometrical distances by his sister, “Uncle Jang”, and other assorted party and military leaders who will soon be fighting over the bones of the state he left behind. Our hearts and thoughts are with you Dear Leader! [see article].

Compare the photo with Sandro Botticelli's (1445-1510) painting of the ladder to hell in "A Chart of Hell" (1480s) and his illustrations for Dante's Inferno. Rings 8 and 9 are reserved for corrupt politicians:


[See a larger image]

Here is how the website Art and the Bible describes it:

This is Botticelli's chart of Hell as described by Dante in his 14th century epic poem Inferno. Dante saw Hell as an abyss, a giant cave leading to the center of Earth. The cave was created when God cast Lucifer out of Heaven. Lucifer is stuck in the center, caught in ice.

In the story Dante describes his journey through Hell, which he made together with his friend the poet Virgil. Descending, they pass nine rings, representing categories of sins.

The first five rings are for people who could not control their desires: lust, gluttony, greed, anger and revenge. Also, unbaptized souls and decent heathens dwell here. Rings six and seven are for heresy and violence: murderers, suicides, blasphemers, and sodomites. Rings eight and nine are for fraud and treachery. Here dwell witches, thieves, astrologers, seducers, corrupt politicians, alchemists and sowers of discord. An interesting detail is that Dante describes meeting the founder of Islam, Muhammad, in that ring. Dante and many of his contemporaries viewed Islam as an off-shoot from Christianity.

See also The World of Dante.

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