Sunday, January 27, 2008

The death of a dictator

President Suharto is dead.

He was the former dictator of Indonesia who ushered in 32 years of tyrranic rule. Even in his death, he is vilified as one of the world’s most brutal leaders because hundreds of thousands of his political enemies were slain during his graft-ridden reign.

The news reminds me of The Autumn of the Patriarch (Gabriel Garcia Marquez), a well-told story of a dictator who lived a very, very long life. The dictator had killed numerous people—even those very near him—the army being at his disposal. He was filthy rich and powerful. But I could tell that he was never happy. Was Suharto ever like him? It must get very lonely at the top.

Maybe I’m just ignorant, but I don’t know of any dictator whose memory is honored with the same kindness as that given to, say, Princess Diana or Mother Teresa. The dictators I know—Marcos, Hitler, Pol Pot (of the Khmer Rouge)—are almost always remembered with hate, pain, and blame. Worse, people choose not to remember them at all.

Which makes me wonder why they decided to be dictators in the first place. Sure, they got to build their own statues. They had their faces printed on paper bills. They had more than enough. But they should have realized that history is cruel—and will always be—to those who oppress, kill, and steal.

If absolute power corrupts absolutely, why desire it in the first place?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This reminds me of how bizarrely North Koreans honor their "dear leader," Kim-Jong Il. Here's a video of a commercial aired by the only TV network in the country (it's state-run, of course) where he is portrayed as an incarnate deity on horseback.

It's ridiculously funny, but it also sends chills running up my spine. People actually, honestly believe that he IS a god. I could only shake my head and think, the gall of him to call himself such!

Wed Jan 30, 01:12:00 AM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also saw a documentary on National Geographic about Kim Jong Il. It was totally weird.
People were worshiping him, and even thanking him for everything he couldn't possibly do. Like there was a med mission, and cataract patients were getting treated. As soon as sight was restored to them, they would bow before the image of Kim Jong Il and thank him for the healing.
Btw, you guys know what "Korean praying" is. Now imagine that happening, only that they were praying to Kim Jong Il.
I no longer think they are doing this only for show for fear of their dictator. They were actually crying tears of gratitude! Imagine them, denied health care by their "beloved" government and after receiving aid from foreign workers, the first thing they do is praise their dictator for the healing.
So I say a Good Riddance to Suharto, and wish for a speedy riddance to Kim Jong Il. Dictators who desolate their lands and their people don't deserve their titles.

Fri Feb 01, 08:26:00 AM GMT+8  
Blogger Lance said...

@Jef: Thanks for the link. Kim Jong Il? An incarnate diety? Come on. The gall, Jef, the gall. :(

@jp_wasnt: When was it aired? I'd love to see it.

Yes, I know Korean praying, and I can only imagine what praying to Kim Jong Il looks like. Depressing.

Fri Feb 01, 08:16:00 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was aired on May 28, 2007. It had a few reruns later on, and I think it's still possible to catch up on the episode if you like scanning the channel often.

Sun Feb 03, 02:45:00 PM GMT+8  

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