Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Passions of Old Soldiers

So with the fall of Ghaddafi, my interest in the peculiarities of African despots has been reignited. One of the duties of an accomplished African despot is to develop a quirk that is well, that it leaves observers speechless. It is hard to outdo the ones who have gone before, between Mobutu and Bokassa the standard has been set extremely high. But this is a vast continent with many countries and there are plenty of interesting behaviors to be observed. Obvious things like gold fixtures in the palace bathrooms are de rigueur and cannot win you points- one must aim for originality where possible.

Not all artistic yearnings must be vulgar either: I just found out today by eavesdropping on some folks' Twitter conversation that Museveni apparently sings to his cattle*. And that he does so slightly ineptly. The thing about despots is that you have to resist the urge to humanize them because then you start rolling down the slippery slope of empathy... but this is a rather appealing hobby to have. Not to mention stylish: it takes a certain cultural refinement to embrace difficult and dying old artforms. Sigh.

Ghaddafi, on the other hand. What a disappointment. It's like we've seen this movie before: the tasteless palace, the defiant son, the delusions of grandeur, the parting of company with reality. For a guy who has literally pitched his tent everywhere to the delight of people who appreciate small acts of defiance, I was expecting something really rather interesting. But not this interesting. Ghaddafi's crush on Condoleeza Rice was... is... wow. And here I thought the Jheri Curl was the worst of it.

A man's image cannot survive certain revelations about his character.

*Cattle singing is a gorgeous old practice with a whole history behind it and I have always wanted to know more. Anyone know of resources out there?

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