The Vanity of Dictators

Well-fed vanity is benevolent, hungry vanity is despotic

Mason Cooley

So, what are the commonalities between dictators throughout history and geography? What characteristics do they have in common? To begin with, let us look at the general characteristics of psychopaths. Successful psychopaths are usually charming, charismatic and intelligent. They are confident and independent. They exude sexual energy. They are also extremely self-centred. They are masterful liars, callous, often sadistic and have an unquenchable thirst for power. These are just some of the traits of a true psychopath.

Predictably, dictators do not usually have a person-to-person, empathetic relationship with other people. They may relate to ‘the people’ as a whole, or to ‘the people’ in some abstract tribal or pan-global sense (as Hitler may have related to pan-Germanism, or Stalin to pan-Slavic sentiments), or even to ‘the world’ – anonymous variables which they exploit as they please. But what really makes a person a psychopath, beyond any generalised pan-nationalist “empathy” that they tend to exploit at will?

Do you know someone who thinks they are always right? Do you feel that they treat others with contempt or superiority? If the answer is yes, then you have identified how these people behave. This kind of attitude is a sign that they are as idolatrous as they are contemptuous of others.

Vanity is defined as priding oneself and exaggerating one’s own merits and abilities. On the other hand, vain people assume that others hold them in high esteem because they are on a higher plane. Their personality consists of excessive arrogance and pride.

Vain people love themselves disproportionately and live in a world of exaggerated fantasies of being successful, powerful, and beautiful. This makes them pretentious and leads to excessive self-admiration and self-evaluation.

Behind their airs and graces, however, lies a deep sense of mistrust and insecurity. As a result, they are constantly dependent on what others think of them and their image. In other words, on the one hand they want to show that they do not care what others think. On the other hand, they are obsessed with what others might say about them. In the case of dictators, they can become paranoid.

Vanity leads to arrogant behaviour and a strong desire to be admired by others. They believe they are right, and the lack of modesty and humility leads vain people to believe they are right simply because of who they are. This is why conceited people often use a position of false power or authority over others as a means of defence and enforcement of their opinions. They are constantly in need of information about how they are perceived or what others think of them. However, there is a great deal of concealment and indifference about this need. In many cases they are megalomaniacs. This manifests itself in rigid behaviour based on fantasies, delusions of grandeur and a constant search for personal satisfaction.

Conceited megalomaniacs believe that they are very important in society, that they are capable of great things, and that they have enormous wealth, but these beliefs are irrational and exaggerated.

Do you associate all of this with characters from the ancient world or from contemporary history?  Many come to mind. Caligula, Nero, Prince Vlad, Sultan Murad IV, Diocletian, Ivan the Terrible, Genghis Khan, etc. And closer to home: Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler, Ceausescu, Gaddafi, Stroessner, Mugabe, Putin, Xi-Jinping, Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan, Kim Jong-Un and his father Kim Jong-Il, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Nicolas Maduro, Hugo Chavez, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, and tragically many more, including now Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who is willing to dismantle democracy in his boundless quest for power. These names form part of the list of the most infamous human beings. But some of them are heroes of the world’s ultra-left.

Some leaders who come to power show many characteristics of vanity, even in democratic regimes. Since they are in everyone’s mind, I do not think it is necessary to mention them. In democracies, at least, we can get rid of them through the ballot box. In dictatorships it is much more complicated. And the fall of dictators is always accompanied by rivers of blood and much suffering. 

Let’s hope that humanity will enter a period of LIGHT. But for this it is important not to forget our history.

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