“Dictator Watercolor,” by Naxart Studio in Fine Art America

Egocrats Are the Enemy

The early modern era produced some prodigious Egocrats.

The despotic Turkish Sultan, Abdul Hamid II, for example. Abdul Hamid II ruled over the vast Ottoman Empire. Above all, he demanded his subjects prove their loyalty to him.

So, when a minority Armenian population advanced a successful civil rights campaign for Christian autonomy in the Muslim Empire, he threw down the gauntlet.

Incensed by Armenians’ campaign for civil rights, he professed to solve the “Armenian question once and for all.”

Sultan Abdul Hamid II directly quoted by a reporter in 1890 said: “I will soon settle those Armenians. I will give them a box on the ear which will make them . . . relinquish their revolutionary ambitions.”

This “box on the ear” took the shape of a “state-sanctioned pogrom where hundreds of thousands of Armenians were murdered.”

Or what about Joseph Stalin?

Stalin was the dictatorial leader of the Soviet Union, whose collectivization arrangement for Ukrainian farmers produced a man-made famine known as the The Holodomor.

“By one estimate, the Holodomor, claimed the lives of 3.9 million people, about 13 percent of the population.”

The Holodomor was Stalin’s way of getting what he wanted.

And what he wanted was to “replace Ukraine’s small farms with state-run collectives and punish independence-minded Ukrainians who posed a threat to his totalitarian authority.”

Sadly, these examples barely scrape the surface of the egocrats who have taken center stage in world history.

But, before going any further, I think it’s important to ask the question: What is an egocrat?

An egocrat, according to French Philosopher Claude Lefort, is someone who “displaces the rule of law and common sense to become the quixotic judge of what is just or unjust, truth or lie, at each moment.”

I will expand on Lefort’s definition adding, egocrats have:

1) A voracious appetite for power, rendering them highly susceptible to acts of moral cowardice.

2) A powerful obsession with ideology which demands they reshape humanity, no matter the human cost.

3) An excessive desire for totalitarian control over others, that left unchecked, can lead to genocide.

In its heyday, Nazism presented as a workable social order. Nazism was a social project other countries initially admired. Hitler’s egocratic regime used moral confusion, propaganda and lies to help legitimize power.

Only hindsight allowed the world to see Hitler’s power as illegitimate. And by that time, the damage had been done. Of the 6 million Jews killed, 2.5 million were children.

Can 21st century citizens cut through the moral confusion, the techno-spectacle, the fake news and the propaganda of our time to see the egocrats who hold currently hold illegitimate power?

Try as we might, predicting the next illegitimate egocrat through a lens of past experience, won’t work.

Did anyone really foresee the election of Donald Trump in America? Who could have predicted an aged reality TV personality and New York real-estate mogul, rising to the ranks of an egocrat so quickly?

History teaches us that dangerous tyrants are usually military characters with a mustache. Think Saddam Hussein in Iraq or Jorge Rafael Videla in Argentina. They do not host TV shows like The Apprentice.

Unfortunately, I believe, Trump, at the height of his power, is only the tip of the iceberg for this centuries’ egocrats.

If history is a bad predictor of future egocrats, how can we predict the rise of the next one?

Instead of looking for superficial guises ie. rogue military men with mustaches, or washed-up reality-TV starts, we first need to identify who fits the definition of an egocrat.

We must ask:

1. Who in our society displaces the rule of law and common sense to become the quixotic judge of what is just or unjust, truth or lie, at each moment?

2. Who has a voracious appetite for power that renders them highly susceptible to acts of moral cowardice?

3. Whose powerful obsession with ideology demands they reshape humanity, no matter the human cost?

4. Whose excessive desire for totalitarian control over others, could lead to genocide?

I’ve had the humbling experience of meeting and speaking with survivors of both the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide.

Their stories ripple through me like an electrical current. Yet, not one of them ever came face-to-face with the egocrat that founded their genocidal regime.

I imagine most survivors never will.

Odds are, most of us will never come face-to-face with the egocrats of our historical moment either. But just because we don’t see them, doesn’t mean they don’t need to be stopped.

Historically, humans are slow to recognize the original sins of egocratic leaders.

Those sins are always the same: Hate, Greed, Robbery, Murder, Militarism and Moral Cowardice.

Let’s not let 21st century egocrats hide behind fancy techno-gimmicks, lies, propaganda or moral confusion. It’s time we recognize them by definition.

Let us call the egocrats out, together, before the worst happens, again.

Works Cited

Amanda Onion, M. S. (2020, 06 16). History. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/armenian-genocide

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Caitlin Patricia Johnston

Caitlin Patricia Johnston

Public Writer: the Personal made Public

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