Totalitarian Bizarreness August 29, 2013Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary , trackback
Beach isn’t a big fan of totalitarian regimes, but in the defence of those sorry little (and occasionally big) regimes they do make for bizarre news stories. For example, the rumour is just coming in, via South Korea, that the Great Leader in the north has wiped out much of NK’s pop singing community. Among the dead was an ex-girlfriend Hyon Song Wol, most famous for her song Excellent Horse-Like Lady (you couldn’t make it up and the video is even better, look out for the dreadful pepsi style running at the end). Some of the pornographers in chief were also found to have Bibles that really sealed their fate. Bibles, pornography… Beach always feels sorry for North Korea they are such a fifth-rate police state: they can’t even get the basics right. Some of my less dynamic students would run the place far better on the wages of Walmart check-out worker.
In any case, Beach has been squeezing his brain trying to recall other totalitarian regimes in similarly bizarre and stupid acts against their own population and has been disappointed by the results: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Can anyone help?
There were some almost unbelievable stories about the Iraqi sportsmen under the very unbenevolent dictatorship of Uday Hussein, who looked after the country’s national interests their by killing and torturing atheletes who failed to perform well: and whatever you do don’t annoy him at a party (look out for the ear plugs, what a prat). Soccer players, for example, were forced to kick concrete footballs for losing a match and lest that sounds anecdotal here is a description from their star player at the time:
I was tortured four times after matches. One time, after a friendly against Jordan in Amman that we lost 2-0, Uday had me and three teammates taken to the prison. When we arrived, they took off our shirts, tied our feet together and pulled our knees over a bar as we lay on our backs. Then they dragged us over pavement and concrete, pulling the skin off our backs. Then they pulled us through a sandpit to get sand in our backs. Finally, they made us climb a ladder and jump into a vat of raw sewage. They wanted to get our wounds infected.
Then, if you want colour, there was always Libya under Gaddafi: where to even begin? Beach’s personal favourite was when the Colonel visited Rome in 2009 and, then, hired out 500 beautiful girls for the evening and gave them a talk on purity and then gifted them all a coran and a signed copy of his Green Book (Gaddafi’s political philosophy, see picture above). In comparison with loons like Uday, Gaddafi and Kim Jong-un communist regimes were just monochrome (can’t take NK seriously as a communist regime). Perhaps the only real contender was Nicolae Ceausescu, chief honcho in Romania, who became famous for stealing things when he was invited to foreign capitals, including, to Britain’s eternal shame, London and Buckingham Palace. NC also had serious trust issues: but then 300 soldiers volunteered to shoot him when he finally went to meet his maker so perhaps he had a point. Of course, Russia did briefly nationalise women… and Mao tried to barter his people…
31 Aug 2013: Tacitus from Detritus makes an obvious point that I should have caught. How could you not have an entire post on Idi Amin? Why his titles alone cry out to be mocked. And among much that is simply unsavory to bestial in his regime there was considerable comic gold. My personal favorite was the special Suicide Commandos he kept on hand. Leggy gals, including wife number 5, reportedly willing to die for him. At the last however he was abandoned by them all and ended his days in Saudi Arabia. I read somewhere that he could often be found at the local Pizza Hut in Jedda’. The great Mike Dash writes: I suspect this tendency has a pretty long history, and while of course much depends on how one defines “bizarre”, many of the actions of the First Emperor of China might qualify, from his burning of all histories of older regimes (apparently so he could not be unfavourably compared to any earlier ruler) to ordering the standardisation of all Chinese cart axles so the newly unified nation’s carts could all run in the same ruts. Rather like Ataturk’s insistence that Turkey switch from Arab to European script, or Sweden’s decision to stop driving on the left, such decisions make a good deal of post hoc sense, but imagine the chaos at the time. The Ottomans also boasted a long line of unhinged dictators; a close parallel to Kim Jong Un’s machine-gunning of his old mistress was the order, issued by Ibrahim the Mad in the mid seventeenth century, to sew all his harem girls into weighted sacks and drop them into the Bosphorus. My old history teacher’s version of these events was that he did this solely so he could have the pleasure of selecting their replacements; no wonder I acquired a lasting fondness for Turkish history. And in recent times, it’s hard to outdo the 250ft tall Arch of Neutrality erected in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan by President Saparmurat Niyazov in 1998. This monument – constructed, in one critics’ words, to resemble “a gigantic rotisserie” – was topped by a 39-foot high gold plated statue of Niyazov himself which was designed to rotate slowly throughout the day so that the figure always faced the sun. NPM writes: I’m not sure we can leave Nero out of this discussion. Pliny the Elder and Suetonius(??-I think it was in his “Lives of the Caesars”) talk about Nero’s one-time hobby of dressing up as a commoner and mugging people in the streets of Rome at night. When his victims realized that it was the emperor mugging them, they were obliged to stop fighting back and give him their stuff, lest they face imperial punishment. Pliny says that after the fact, the emperor was said to treat his bruises with the sap of the deadly carrot (Thapsia sp.) to make the swelling go down (though he found this to be suspect, since Thapsia and other species in the Apiaceae contain chemicals that can cause nasty skin reactions). And of course, we could go on about Augustus, too. Suetonius says the first emperor actually had a squad of men that he sent around the countryside to find good looking virginal girls and bring them back to his palace in Rome so that he could deflower them. The emperors seem to be a treasure trove.’ Thanks to Mike, Tacitus and NPM for getting all classical on us! Beach hopes to start a series Totalitarian Twits.