This evening, the World Affairs Council of Houston is presenting a talkback with author and New York University Professor, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, on his book The Dictator's Handbook. According to the author and co-author of the book, Alastair Smith, they have "concluded that leaders are not as concerned with national interest as they are with staying in power." Really? Because we thought they were keeping the national interest in mind when they committed genocide. The lecture promises to give insight into how dictators come to power and how to use this information to better serve human governance.
Dictators are a tricky bunch, one minute you think they are going to solve all of your problems and the next minute they are forcing you to name your children the same as your neighbor and burn your copy of The Bible. We'll admit, everyone needs a good bossing around at times and there have been dictators that changed the course of history for good, such as Alexander the Great, but just as many have used their powers for evil.
For better or worse here are Art Attacks top 7 notable dictators.
7. Muammar al-Qaddafi Unless you've been living under a rock this year, than you've heard of the atrocities that have gone on under Qaddafi's leadership. Since 1969, up until recently, Qaddafi had been in full control of Libya, wreaking havoc on not just his country, but also the world. Well known for militant actions against his own people, it's no wonder that he has been the target of at least eight assassination attempts and that's not including all the people that have tried to kill him! Horrors aside, Qaddafi is a known eccentric who allegedly suffers from manic depression and/or schizophrenia, which may be the cause of his appalling behavior and dressing habits.
6. Napoleon Bonaparte Napoleon reined Emperor of France from 1804-1815. You know you aren't the most well liked guy in town when extended periods of war are named after you. On the flip side, Napoleon did quite a few good things for the world. He forced France to adopt the metric system, and his "Napoleonic code" gave way to the end of the feudal system, allowing freedom of religion and abolished the order of birth rights. It's been said that he had something of an inferiority complex, due to his short stature. However, there have been conflicting accounts of whether this is really true. Maybe he had a complex because he was exiled to the island of Saint Helena, to die a lonely death. You'd have a complex too.
5. Julius Caesar Caesar was the type of dictator you could almost feel bad for. The guy couldn't win. Under previous rule, the Roman Republic was messy, with too many cooks in the democratic kitchen weighing the empire down with corruption. So, Caesar gave himself total power. The people loved him; he unified the country! Then they hated him because he celebrated himself too much. Then they loved him! He updated the Roman calendar, gave land to army veterans and cut taxes. Ultimately, though, they hated him. He was "betrayed" by his people, even his best buddy.
4. The Great Dictator In Charlie Chaplin's classic film about the fake country of Tomania, The Great Dictator, he portrays a fascist leader named Hynkel, obviously based on Adolf Hitler. The film does a lot of mocking of the Third Reich, with Chaplin giving hilarious Hitler-like speeches in Germany-gibberish (in there somewhere you can make out the word sauerkraut). The film was Chaplin's first real leap into the "talkies," he had been making silent films well after sound had been introduced, and it is considered one of his best.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
3. The Dictators The Dictators was a rock group that formed in New York in the good old days of punk rock, somewhere between the MC5 and the Ramones. There is nothing specifically dictatorial about the group save their name and that they totally ruled.
2. The Emperor Palpatine Palpatine is the emperor of the Galactic Empire from the Star Wars series. Palpatine is as malevolent as he is creepy looking. When we first learn of his existence in A New Hope, we hear tell that he has abolished the entire Imperial Senate, and it's all downhill from there. Blowing up planets, trying to sway Luke to the dark side, harnessing the power of the force for evil; this guy may be the most evil dictator in movie history!
1. Kim Jong-il Kim Jong-il has many infamous characteristics; being self-titled as "Supreme Leader of the Republic" barely scratches the surface. According to North Korean accounts, when Kim Jong-il was born a double rainbow appeared in the sky along with a big bright star. Yes. And did you know he was a film buff and wrote a book in the 70s entitled On the Art of Cinema? Apparently, he also perms his hair. There is just so much to say about Kim Jong-il, none of it flattering nor objective, so we will stop right there.
The World Affairs Council of Houston (WACH) presents: The Dictator's Handbook, tonight, October 5 at 6 p.m. at the Junior League of Houston. For more information visit www.wachouston.org