And I just can’t get it up

I found out a few interesting facts about dictators this week. It’s amazing what strange snippets of information, opinion and observation come up in English classes. There has been much discussion of the Japanese tragedy, of course, and the Libyan crisis, but my trivia-dar was activated when a student started to expound on his theory about the three types of dictator.

Apparently there is the ‘World Domination’ Dictator, like Hitler. Then there’s the ‘mad as a box of frogs’ dictator, like Ghadafi.

‘I mean, you just have to look at him,’ he said. ‘Mubarak didn’t look mad, just greedy. Like a thief.’


‘Shifty? That’s a good word, I like it, yes, shifty eyes. He looked dishonest, not crazy. But I mean, come on, all you have to do is look at Ghadafi’s face to see he’s a nutter.’

Then there’s the third type, the dictator who seizes and maintains power allegedly because he wants to help his country in some way, but probably has some pretty funny ideas about how to go about it. Like Franco.

This, as a theory, works for me; I can live with it. In fact it would be an interesting discussion to try and sort them all into their respective categories and personality types – Stalin Number 1? Idi Amin clearly a number 2, Mao- borderline number 2-3? And Castro for example? A parlour game that could provide hours of fun for all the family. This is not, however, the observation that really fired up my imagination: that came later in the week from another student. Being fascinated by this type of ridiculous little man, laughable yet lethal at the same time, I have always collected scraps of personal information and bizarre anecdotes about figures like Franco. For example, I know that when he was on his deathbed he ordered the mummified hand of St Theresa of Avila to be delivered to his bedside so that he could clutch it in moments of anguish. But now I discover there is a theory that he was impotent and hated sex. Oh yes, that explains a lot – like, for example, why he ordered those saucy 1950’s bikini ads to be blocked out bodily, as though the models were wearing laminated burkhas. Apparently he also found his wife physically repulsive (fair enough, she does look like a bit of a frosty old stick if you see photos of her) and they only had one daughter, and the theory extends to the supposition that she wasn’t even his.

How very interesting. It seems that there’s always something odd and dysfunctional about these dictatorial men who inflict their world-view on everyone else (normally a perverse and prohibitive world-view as well). Look at Ghadafi and his coterie of Amazonian virgin bodyguards. We could debate at length which category he falls into, but I’m not even going to start discussing Berlusconi’s bunga-bunga parties with underage girls. My old history lecturer once shared his theory that Nazism had a sexual root and was based around extreme sadism. This rings true when you look at the uniforms – the other interesting fact I discovered this week (while researching Russell Brand, coincidentally, listening to one of his radio clips) is that Hugo Boss designed the Nazi uniforms. Those shiny boots? Such extreme power and cruelty in impeccably creased tailoring with glittering buttons? I think he may have a point. However morally and politically hideous they were, the uniforms were slick. If Hitler was around today he could always, of course, have commissioned Galiano, him being such a fan and all.


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