I had thought it was all down to hatred but I was wrong. Hatred was merely a conduit, a means of garnering support, by inducing division and ratcheting up difference. I don’t mean that the Great Wizard or the Great Leader have no hatred or that J Cess is not polluted. In fact he is a typical miasma, in the original Greek sense, ‘a pollution’ in the country. The dramatis personae, Ivan Jar aka Ivanred, Ivan Kar, Aryan the Younger, Rexputin, and the other Ivans- Ivanpence, Ivanstone, Ivanfort, Ivanlynn, Ivangor, etc. all have hatred in their innards even the Dark One, the Slavic Schlut. Don’t be deceived by any appearance of wholesomeness. Much nastiness lurks in many beautiful bosoms.
But, hatred is not the central organizing or driving principle here.
Not even power. Kubla Khan, Genghis Khan, Alexander, Hitler, these were men driven by the lust for power, the desire to control others, as an end in itself. Yes, there was the insatiable need to grab land, to extend territory, to battle endlessly and to kill. Nevertheless, this inherent and driving lust was always in the service of power.
What we have now is the desire to acquire and use power to further the demands of deep-seated greed for money. Maybe even for cruelty, casual unconscionable callousness, for treating others with contempt, for the destruction of trust, beauty, hope and freedom. It is much more like Caligula or Nero than Hadrian or Marcus Aurelius. The reign of the tyrants is upon us. But it is greed, the longing after lucre that drives everything. And it is not a beautiful spectacle.
Medea wouldn’t have understood their kind of hatred. In Medea we have a woman who had crossed from Colchis with Jason of the Argonauts to Corinth. She felt betrayed because Jason agreed to take as his wife Glauce, daughter of Creon. Medea had betrayed her family, killed her brother Absyrtus, and helped Jason to recover the Golden Fleece. All of this for love. She said
I hate my husband, true
but that hate grew understandably out of rejection, abject sorrow, and a comprehensible need for revenge. Out of her hatred she killed Glauce, Creon, and her two sons. The motivation to kill her own two sons was fuelled by anger-
anger, the spring of all life’s horror, masters my resolve,
but the aim as she said to Jason was ‘to break your heart’. Here we have hatred that we can fully understand. But, the hatred of a whole class of people, not of an individual, hatred that does not have as its source a personally explicable basis, points directly at inner corruption in people who HC justifiably called ‘deplorables’.
As for power, Garcia Marquez’s account of Simon Bolivar’s life is an exquisite study of power, more precisely of the disillusion of power.
While they thought he was dying in Pativilca he crossed the Andean peaks again, conquered at Junin, completed the liberation of all Spanish America with the final victory at Ayacucho, created the Republic of Bolivia, and was happier in Lima and more intoxicated with glory than he had ever been before or would ever be again. As a consequence, the repeated announcements that he at last was leaving power and country because of illness, and the formal ceremonies that seemed to confirm them, were no more than idle repetitions of a drama too often seen to be believed
Simon Bolivar’s impetus for power was plain- struggle, battles, relentless and immeasurable delight in conquest, and the control of others for the single-minded purpose of power. And power was ugly.
He had dreamed that a black mule with gold teeth had come inside and gone through the house from the principal reception room to the pantries, eating without haste everything in its path while the family and slaves were taking their siestas, until at last it had eaten the curtains, the rugs, the lamps, the vases, the table service and linen in the dining room, the saints in the altars, the wardrobes and chests with all their contents, the pots in the kitchens, the doors and windows with their hinges and bolts, and all their furniture from the portico to the bedrooms, and the only thing left intact was the oval of his mother’s dressing table mirror, floating in its own space.
The message is- beware, unconstrained, unbridled power ultimately destroys domestic life. The difference between the Great Leader and the General is a simple one. The General was at least trying to unify South America for the good of the people. He was not seeking personal wealth and he did not crave living in palaces. He was at his best, heroic and full of personal courage and at his worst, cunning and cruel but always for a purpose outside of self. The General was a reader too. He read everything from Greek philosophy to treatises on necromancy. That can’t be said of the Great Leader.
The General might very well have read Marcus Aurelius–
Always have these two principles in readiness. First, to do only what the reason inherent in kingly and judicial power prescribes for the benefit of mankind. Second, to change your ground, if in fact there is someone to correct and guide you away from some notion. But this transference must always spring from a conviction of justice or the common good: and your preferred course must be likewise, not simply for apparent pleasure or popularity.
Wise words indeed!
If not hatred or power, what then? Nero whose reputation has come down to us as dissolute at the very least, is less remembered as a performer who craved public attention and adulation, jus as the Great Leader does. Nero sang and acted, and won acting crowns, although it is said that he bribed the judges. What’s new? He was thrown from his ten-horse chariot at the Olympics in AD 67. Nero arranged for the assassination of his mother Agrippina and kicked to death his wife, Poppaea, Even his tutor, Seneca, was not to avoid death by suicide through Nero’s machinations. To know or be close to Nero was dangerous. But, there is no evidence that he was driven by the pursuit of personal wealth against his duty to Rome. It is in this lust after lucre that the Great Leader is distinctive.
Hatred is merely a tool deployed to create space for power. And, power itself to give access to lucre not to the duties, responsibilities and benefits of the commonweald. The Great Leader knows no community, he belongs only to the urgency of the self, by which I mean the indulgences of spittle, semen, urine and faeces. What masquerades as wealth- gold and shiny bangles mean and matter much to the Great Leader just as they do to Magpies.
It is our tragedy that we are living through this diminishment of ideals that foster hope.
Photos by Jan Oyebode