The Madness of Kings

Every empire in the world has had its mad, its vicious, its authoritarian tyrants. 

Every age has had its times of social disaster, every culture its times of unbearable sufferings, of loss, of futility, of destruction by conquest from without or incompetence from within. Every Empire has had its own karmic debt, owing to bad policies, indulgences, and unsustainable practices. Insistance on clinging to solutions that have become problems… Allowing a dominant belief system such as a religion to dictate law… Exercising power for the top of the social pyramid without regard for the lower levels that support the apex…

Is this the story we are living in the US? Not just the US, either–there has been a rise of authoritarianism across the world in the past several years. When they have packed the courts and corrupted the justice system, when they have sown distrust in journalists and rewritten historic truth to suit their purposes, have exhausted resistance, they have won. At least until they die.

Most of the long-established Constitutional checks and balances written into the US Constitution have been diminished under this and other administrations since Nixon. In the current administration, the distinction between truth and falsehood has been gaslighted out of the trusting and hopeful; both religion and outlaw fringe organizations have been co-opted to support the new “truths” and intimidate reason and morality–though in both cases, there is some question who is using whom.  Education, science, and honest journalism have been disparaged and villainized. 

The next step is terror applied not just to one powerless minority but to everyone not in the ruling clique. It starts with putting immigrant children in concentration camps, moves through other minorities and groups that disagree and resist, and finally comes to everyone else.

Authoritarian empires never last. They are built on one person’s mad fantasy of shaping all the world, and when that person dies, whatever charisma and imperatives drove the fantasy goes, too. No one who follows is quite demented enough or extreme enough… and is, anyway, a follower, not a leader.

Besides, in the end, there are more of us than of them. The Dear Demented has one lifetime, while the People go on and on, many lives, many lifetimes. The Resistance ultimately wins: no matter how beaten down, its roots are as deep as life itself, and whether by underground tactics or full scale revolution, it ultimately wins.

The pendulum swings, partly because that’s nature, and partly because we refuse to learn from history.


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