Singing His Own Praises

Sunday, July 25, 2004
I don't mean to stereotype, but dictators tend to be a rather self-absorbed bunch. After all, anyone who spends their entire adult life bossing millions people of round has to be a little pompous.

Saddam Hussein, for one, was famous for his extreme egotism, which he expressed by demanding that Iraq's children refer to him as "Father", by depicting himself in ubiquitous public portraits as a buff, Babylonian hero, and by erecting a plethora of giant statues and extravagant palaces to honor his godly leadership.

In North Korea, Great Communist Visionary Kim Jong-il is surrounded by an insane, Orwellian personality cult that would make even Saddam jealous. The idolization of Kim Jong-il is so ludicrous that North Korean school children are actually taught that he was born to a virgin on a luscious hill-side under glowing rays of sunlight, and that he and his father are so superhumanly perfect that they transcend the need of ordinary people to eat and defecate.

In fact, despite not having enough food to feed its people, the impoverished Stalinist state spends up to $900 million dollars year (4% of GNP) furnishing Kim Jong-Il's absurd personality cult.

Few tyrants could surpass the sheer pathological narcissism or towering megalomania of Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-il; still, most dictators rely on their bloated ego to keep their regime afloat. And the dictator of Turkmenistan is no exception.

Recently, Mr. Niyavoz, whose previous acts of egotistical flair include renaming months of the year after himself, appeared on television to read a self-penned poem in which he revealed himself as a heavenly savior, who had arisen as the spirit of Turkmenistan to lead his people into a "golden age".

Turkmen president waxes lyrical

[No offense to our heavenly savior, but the guy seriously looks like a hybrid of Tom Ridge and Boris Yeltsin.]

The leader of Turkmenistan has shown another side to his talents - by revealing himself as a poet.

President Saparmurat Niyavoz used a recent public holiday to regale the nation with a work of his own - The New Turkmen Spirit.

Mr Niyazov, whose initiatives include renaming months of the year after himself, left no doubt about the spirit's identity: him.

The poem expresses his devotion to the nation, but warns against dissent.

"I am the Turkmen spirit, reborn to bring you a golden age," the poem begins.

It goes on to echo a favourite theme of Mr Niyazov, who likes to be known as Turkmenbashi, or leader of the Turkmen - that he protects and sacrifices himself for his people.

"I do not spare myself for you, for I am devoted to you all," he promises, adding, "I am your saviour."

The president has shown his devotion to the smallest detail of his people's lives.

Mr Niyazov banned smoking in public places after he was ordered to give up the habit following heart surgery in 1997.

Earlier this year, he passed a decree forbidding young men to wear long hair or beards, and ordered a young woman to have her gold teeth replaced with white ones.

The promise to be his people's saviour applies only to those who "are still faithful to me".

"While cherishing my allies, I am desperate to fight my enemies," Mr Niyazov declares.

[...] "My sight is sharp - I see everything," warns the leader, who earlier this year ordered the government to intensify video surveillance to "let us know if a fly quietly buzzes past".

Or, in the words of the poem: "If you are honest in your deeds, I see this; if you commit wrongdoing, I see that too."

[So not only is he the President, he's Santa Claus too.]

If you ask me, the extraordinary hubris of dictators stems from a need to compensate for a certain short-coming. Therefore, my theory is that the best way to get rid of oppressive despots is not through diplomacy or regime change, but rather, through a free shipment of Enzyte.