Poor dictators. They always get so much hate. If only we took the time to get to know them, if only we looked beneath all the theft, oppression, and killing of their own people, then we might see them for the gentle souls that they really are deep down.
At least that’s what Dennis Rodman would have us believe. Returning from a visit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, Rodman has come to the enlightening conclusion that Kim is a peaceful, humble, and all around good guy. Who would have known? All this time he was putting hundreds of thousands of his own people in death camps and starving the rest, when he really just wanted people to see his softer side.
And who could forget the recently-expired president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez? After a courageous (or cowardly, who can tell?) battle with cancer, the poor old dictator passed on, leaving countless supporters grief-stricken. Apparently, a massive expansion of state power and destruction of the most basic liberties is a surefire ticket to popularity.
But beyond all the sarcastic comments, there are a couple of lessons to be learned from this. First off, there’s nothing about being a brutal dictator that precludes one from being charming and personable. In fact, such personality traits can actually help a ruler gain, and secure, power. Second, maybe totalitarian rulers aren’t violent psychopaths by nature, and would actually be decent folk were they living a normal life. Maybe it’s not the person that’s evil. Maybe it’s the power. Maybe giving a human being godlike control over the fate and fortunes of millions can make a man into a monster, and turn even the most mild-mannered Jekyll into a beast like Hyde. Maybe a truly saintlike and benevolent person, upon inheriting power, would have to choose between becoming a monster and completely dismantling the dictatorial apparatus of his or her country, truly setting the people free.
Don’t hate the player. Hate the game of playing with human beings’ lives like a cat toying with a rodent’s limp and helpless body.