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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Grandiloquent titles

One pretty consistent rule I've noticed over the years is, the grander and more pretentious the title, the smaller and more undeserving the human being. 

For instance, the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Is there any chance that any of them were actually real wizards, like the folks at Hogwarts? Or somehow related to an emperor? Then why call themselves that? It only makes them seem silly.

But some of the titles the world's dictators have bestowed upon themselves put that to shame. They are testament to delusions of grandeur and unchecked egotism. Like all such displays, they are actually quite funny in their own way. 

Mobutu took power in the Congo in a coup in 1965, after which he ordered that all foreign names be replaced by native ones. He changed the name of the country from Congo Republic to Zaire and his name from Joseph-Desire Mobutu to "Mobutu Sese Seko, Kuku Ngbendu wa Zabanga," The second part of his name roughly translates as "Savior of the Nation."

(Mobutu may have been the savior of his nation, but he was also the chief pillager of his nation: by the late 70's he had reportedly amassed a fortune of over five billion dollars, much of it siphoned off from foreign aid intended for the poor.)

Back in his day Idi Amin, the dictator of Uganda, was always good for a laugh, one of which was provided by his title: 

"His Excellency President for Life Field Marshall Al Hadji Dr. Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, King of Scotland Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in particular."

There was something almost cute about Amin's childlike grandiosity. But an utterly uninhibited man-child with unlimited power can be a very dangerous creature. Amin personally executed prisoners in the basement of his palace. He kept the heads of two of his enemies in his freezer, and every now and then would take them out to lecture them on their misdeeds. And when one of his wives, Kay, had an abortion, he had her killed, then had her arms and legs cut off and reattached to their opposite sockets. He then showed her disfigured corpse to his other children by her and told them, "See? This is what happens when you disobey Daddy."

Jean-Bedel Bokassa is the former French paratrooper who is most famous for having spent a third of the national treasury on his coronation ceremony. His full title: "His Imperial Majesty Bokassa I, Emperor of Central Africa by the will of the Central African people, united within the national political party, the MESAN."

The all-time champion of self-important titles has to be Kim Jong-il, the recently deceased dictator of North Korea. Wikipedia actually has an entire page devoted to his titles. Some of the better ones:

"Dear Leader, who is a perfect incarnation of the appearance that a leader should have"

"Shining Star of Paektu Mountain"

"Guarantee of the Fatherland's Unification"

"Ever-Victorious, Iron-Willed Commander"

"The Great Sun of Life"

"Great Man, Who Descended From Heaven"

"Invincible and Ever-triumphant General"

"Guiding Star of the Twenty-First Century"

Did Jong-il never guess that he might be setting himself up for mockery? Or was the "approval" he received from his people so overwhelming that it just never occurred to him? How gratifying must it be to go through life so vainglorious yet with absolutely no one to rein you in?

This post is three parts mockery, but also four parts envy. 

By John Craig -- Writer of the Most Entertaining Blog in History, Shining Beacon of Truth and Logic, Center of the Universe in General and Single-handed Disprover of the Heliocentric Theory of the Solar System in Particular


Anonymous said...

In a perfect world, Kim's list would include "Grammy Nominated Artist", for his heartrending performance of "I'm So Ronery". We need to remember that all people, even murderous egomaniacal psychopathic dictators, have feelings.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Ha! So true.

He should also have a title for his incredible athletic abilities. The North Korean news agency once reported that the Great Leader would "regularly" shoot three or four holes in one per round of golf.

Anonymous said...

I also like the Pope's modest titles:
Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God
which along with the simple digs in Rome seem very much in keeping with Christ's teaching on poverty and humility.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Thank you. Wow, I hadn't realized that the Pope had all those titles. And I agree about the riches of Vatican City. But there is a difference between a self-bestowed title and a hereditary one. Had the Pope given himself those titles, it would be more telling.