A look into the Psychology of Dictators
The behaviour of dictators like Ahmadinejad, Ghadafi, Idi Amin etc., is not solely a funny subject for people, a witty personage for media, and a caricature for satirists; such behaviour has the potential of catastrophes for a whole nation. They represent an Islamic, authoritarian or even totalitarian regime which is morally bankrupt and thus can commit any wrongdoing.
While many psychopaths are incarcerated in psychiatric hospitals and penal institutions, it has been recognised that a few of them were clever enough to enter the history of mankind, creating catastrophes. All these misfits need to rule is an insane ideology or belief system through which they surround themselves with mad people, devoted followers and blind killers who are equally clueless about what it means to be a feeling human being.
Psychopath as Leaders
Though it was in the nineteenth century that doctors began to elucidate the nature of that disturbing category of human beings that we now call psychopaths, history shows that they have always been with us. A mad leader can be mad about an ideology, religion, or cult, as Hitler is a symbol of Nazism, Stalin irreparably degraded communism, and Khomeini actualised political Islam. Megalomania is a common character for any dictator; no wonder we had Hitler as “Führer”, Nero who exalted himself to a god and Stalin who became father of Russians. All of them used their intelligence in the service of their immoral drives (belief, aggression, power). They use lofty words and emotional speech — an easy thing for a fairly intelligent psychopath — but there is no genuine content to them. Being fairly bright, they learn how to imitate emotional expressions suggestive of some higher emotions (compassion, sympathy, sociability, patriotism and morality), through which they fool the grassroots. However, they hardly fool any intellectual observer because they ring hollow as there is no truth and authenticity in their words. Their fraudulent but emotional speeches distinguish them from sane leaders.
It is nothing new or surprising, a dictator in uniform or suit, also in a robe and turban, would never abandon the idea that he is above all. He would consider himself a God’s handpicked leader. Therefore, lasting compromises with him are impossible and thus he would refuse to allow other ideas to cramp his authority. The guiding principles and policies they use are based on fear. Fear has always been used to silence people and groups in a population. Fear is widespread in all dictatorial systems. Fear is a powerful motivator in enforcing tolerance, obedience, and making people submit to authority, it is a pillar of religious and totalitarian systems. Fear from god or State has always been tangibly present in all totalitarian, religious, and cult systems, such as Italy under Mussolini, Nazi Germany under Hitler, China under Mao, the Soviet Union under Stalin, and Iran under the Islamic regime. The threat of punishment, torture and being killed is widely dispersed enough to cause fear. Fear has systematically been spread by state and religious institutions throughout history.
The psychopathic Signs
According to psychologists, dictators are the individuals whose narcissism is so extreme and grandiose that they exist in a kind of splendid isolation in which the creation of the grandiose self takes precedence over legal, moral or interpersonal commitments. While the psychopath gives no real affection, he is quite capable of inspiring affection of sometimes fanatical degree in others. Indeed, he has no genuine human qualities, but opportunistically adapts himself to any situation. This is not a normal type of behavior we need to adjust ourselves to, but purely an opportunistic trick.
Psychopaths have no human feelings
Psychopaths have no feeling of guilt or remorse no matter what happens. A good example is the famous Khomeini’s response when he was asked about his feeling in his flight to Iran after 15 years in exile, when he surprised a whole nation by saying: “I have no feeling on my return to Iran!“ His spontaneous, unscripted and unadvised reaction to a simple obvious question that would require him to express either empathy or caring and compassion for others, including the millions of his followers waiting enthusiastically for his arrival, shows his real side and his lack of human feelings. Although this little statement in itself was very revealing, it was not seriously taken in consideration at the time. Khomeini’s fumbling with statements and phraseology was not a proof that he was merely unintelligent in the conventional sense, but also showed a typical apathy, no sense of concern for his people.
Psychopathic dictators are not alone
It seems that a dictator is often a product of a whole system. So, a mad dictator is not alone in the arena, his mad followers and supporters are the most reliable helps for him. A dictator would not win without his followers’ help.
A dictator’s subordinate has to be a devoted followers and blindly obedient. Without them Khomeini, Pol Pot, Stalin etc. would not succeed in forming their dictatorship and sacrificing millions of lives. Devotees are there to cheer, identify, arrest, torture, and kill innumerable individuals as a sign of their loyalty to their leader. In other words, the more devoted they are, the more dictatorial the leader will be, and the more cold-blooded. Even though some of the devoted followers can be the future pathetic victims of the beloved leader, some remain so mesmerised that their last words before execution can be “Heil Hitler!” or “Long live Stalin!” — Hitler’s and Stalin’s purges of his communist comrades showed that depth of devotion.
In reality, Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot were not born despotic, but became, at least for a period, heroes of people. People, especially powerless and politically underdeveloped members, rally around their “heroes”, seeing in them both a reflection of themselves and a promise of a “victory” that would release their fears and frustrations, and avenge their sorry and hopeless fate. Of course what they do not realise is that their leaders would not care about people’s fate. To such fanatical leaders, people are an echo chamber for their words and cannon fodder for their beliefs.
Normally, political or cult leaders have an outstanding ability to charm and win over followers. They are good at rhetoric and present plausible solutions for any problem. They beguile and seduce through certain logic, but this is not the case for all leaders. Khomeini did not have such an intellectual ability. He was not even able to properly speak Farsi. His success at garnering attention was due to a fatal lack of honesty —many doubted his credentials but did not dare to say so. This is another odd subject to see how a character like Khomeini could seduce his followers. Even later, when Khomeini learnt to answer questions on advice of his advisors who reminded him to be sensitive, he could hardly express his sympathy for his people. Amazingly, this lack of emotion was rarely a problem for his followers. The devotees never expected Khomeini to be assimilated to their genuine problems or even to their Iranian identity.
All religions share, to one degree or another, a denial of the modern and civilised world. All “true” believers subscribe to a belief in delightful ideals of their archaic thoughts. Religious fanatics believe in a selective class of elite believers (Mullahs /priests /rabbis etc ). They eliminate the possibility of any critical thought. While all these aspects are true for most religions, they are particularly flagrant in Islam and practiced in its political form. The Islamic regime as a recent example of a political Islam characterises the dark period of the Inquisition in a time that the civilised world had already many centuries far from the effects of the Inquisition. However, the difference between these two archaic systems is the danger of religious ideology, which not only is found in mentalities as before but also in methodologies of Islamism. Islam as today practiced, denies the civilised world and forces an unhealthy backwardness of society. In its paranoid and naive fashion, it develops its own perverse ideology of a new “Dar-al-Islam” (territory of Islam), pushing the methods of divine violence into an extreme and dangerous level of a jihadist strategy.
When a dictator is enthroned
It is in the realm of politics that the psychopath is at his worst. While seemingly in full possession of his political ability, the psychopathic leader demonstrates an inability to comprehend the meaning and significance of his own faults. This is why he never tries to remedy the faults; instead he punishes critics. The psychopath dictator is often astounded to find that people are upset by his exploits, as acknowledged by some enthroned despots. Although he knows intellectually what punishment is decreed for certain crimes, when caught for the same crimes, he puts up elaborate rationalisations and defences, and seems surprised when he is actually punished, as seen in Saddam’s process.
Our psychopathic dictator needs obedient followers. Such devotees are free of remorse. They can be under rare circumstances a national hero, war hero, symbol of pride, but mostly are traitors to their people. Some will ultimately find out that they can lose the head if they desert the camp of leadership; otherwise they remain symbols of shame. If a psychopathic follower becomes a hero of the system, who is very rarely acceptable for his fellow country people, then his “bravery” helps him to win the affection of his fellow followers, but he knows that people one day do not accord him a status of hero; he can be disillusioned by his subsequent comprehension, as shown by many deserters of totalitarian regimes including many ex-Islamists or ex-collaborators of the Islamic regime.
Another aspect of the thoughtlessness is the obliviousness of the psychopath to punishment. Not only does the threat of future punishment have no power to deter him, but actual punishment does not reform him. All historical experience and most psychiatrists consider such psychopaths untreatable. It is historically proved that there is no way to handle psychopaths when they possess political power. Tragically, as a nation, we will remain in the dark ages as long as some of our people keep choosing or tolerating psychopaths as their leaders.