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Friday 21 October 2011

The Downfall of Tyrants

The downfall and death of tyrants is a very murky subject and one which leaves me wondering why anyone with even the slightest knowledge of history, psychology or spirituality could ever want power. There are, however, two factors which seem worth mentioning. Firstly, the effect on the tyrant, and secondly the bizarre behaviour (not to mention hypocrisy) of those who seem to gloat in the death of any other human being.
Shakespeare captured it all so perfectly in ‘Macbeth’ wherein the eponymous hero descends into a mental abyss which eventually drives him into delusional insanity, despair and ultimately a very unhappy death.

William the Conqueror – not a likeable man by any means but one who was filled with an overriding personal ambition and who is best remembered for his success at the Battle of Hastings – was eventually killed from an abdominal wound and his naked corpse was deserted by his former ‘friends’ and left lying alone for a whole day and worse was to come:

An interesting post

Ivan the Terrible, saw his country spiral into chaos and lived in terror before he suffered a stroke and died. According to Trotsky, (who was killed after being hit on the head with an ice-pick!) death for Lenin was “a deliverance from physical and moral suffering.” I have been told by various people that Lenin’s brain rather resembled a walnut, so destroyed was it by syphilis (which, at that time, was known to cause insanity). Stalin, having lived in fear of so many of his enemies, suffered a stroke and was left to die untended in his own excrement. Hitler, in despair, killed himself. It is impossible not to think that if someone is so filled with darkness, they are bound to meet a terrible end, not only physically but - far more horrifically - morally/psychologically/spiritually – basically an end in complete despair and terror, which is surely even worse than any physical suffering. It is, perhaps, significant that Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and King Louis XVI of France, both of whom were later quite irrationally branded as tyrants, met their end with great dignity and, in spite of the tragedy, appeared to be at peace within themselves.

In recent time we have been presented with horrific images of the downfall of tyrants and, while on the one hand, it is to be expected that tyrants meet such unhappy ends, on the other it seems more than a little odd to me that nowadays they are always found hiding in holes and are then butchered in self-righteous mania. Gadaafi had indeed committed appalling crimes, as had Saddam Hussein but to see graphic images of any man – whatever his crimes – being killed in such circumstances is, to my mind, beneath the dignity of humanity. Nor can these relatively recent images be overlooked:

In his satirical novel, Joseph Andrews, Henry Fielding described the difference between vanity and hypocrisy. Vanity, he said, is a person doing good in order to be seen and praised. Hypocrisy is a person doing evil disguised as good. One minute the world rulers are befriending this man. The next we hear that his crimes have been going on for 40 years. Then why were people shaking him by the hand so recently? If I recall correctly, the West was funding the Taliban when the Russians were involved in Afghanistan...but then the Taliban were our enemy. Saddam Hussein was also funded by the West during the Iran-Iraq War....And of course, to go back a little further, Churchill, who spoke so dramatically of the ‘Iron Curtain’ was a one-time ‘friend’ of Stalin...

When I see one man crawling out from a hole, looking like a terrified rat, and then being killed by those he has harmed, I find it shocking. When I see another man allegedly being found in some remote compound and then being dropped from a ship before anyone can see him, I find it a little stage-managed. When I see a third person appearing in a blood-soaked shirt, begging for mercy and being killed, I find it repulsive. It is even more repulsive when, in the same news report, there is a mention that happily Libya’s oil-production is now returning to normal.

Well....whatever really goes on behind the scenes, I cannot think of a worse end than that of a tyrant, whether he be one who is blatantly a criminal, or one who manipulates from behind the scenes = the 'dark forces' that Queen Elizabeth once spoke of...


Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful piece, Christina.

The pictures in color tell quite a tale.

Do the actions of those caught on tape brutalizing Gadaafi, think they are somehow better?

Thank you.


Christina said...

Thank you, Tess. I agree....

Hope said...

Very thought-provoking analysis. I was repulsed by how Ghaddafi's end came about. What good is it to fight tyranny if you lose your own sense of morality in the process?

Christina said...

Thank you for commenting, Heather. I so agree with your last sentence.

I also think this is illuminating: