Flutterby™! : Talk of the Devil

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Talk of the Devil

2003-06-21 03:01:40.216233+00 by Dan Lyke 0 comments

I suppose I shouldn't have been suprised when I learned recently that Idi Amin Dada, the brutal once-ruler of Uganda, whose statesmanship was a hilarious parody of diplomacy (yes, fans of Kissinger, it is possible to parody diplomacy) which belied a repressive regime that killed three hundred thousand people during his rule, was living out his remainng days in relative luxury in Saudia Arabia. But I don't often think of former dictators. They're out of power, out of the news, and presumably the countries they once governed have learned the lessons and moved on.

Enter Riccardo Orizio's book Talk of the Devil: Encounters With Seven Dictators[Wiki], translated from Italian to English by Avril Bardoni (ISBN: 0-8027-1416-I). Orizio tracked down Idi Amin, along with 7 other now deposed heads of state, and in telling the stories of this process and the subsequent discussions with the objects of his quest, he reveals a lot about leadership, power, and humanity's desire to beleive in the earnest.

Orizio doesn't come off as confrontational or pushing the hard questions, rather he's interviewing to try to understand the humanity of those who've lead others to commit inhuman acts. From Wojciech Jaruzelski' vision of himself as a man trapped by circumstance in between the Soviets and the social reform of the Solidarity labor movement, trying to protect as many Poles as possible, to Jean-Bedel Bokasa's role as African emperor and "secretly baptized... thirtheenth apostle of the Holy Mother Church", Talk of the Devil[Wiki] offers views of unshakeable self belief, with enough historical context to understand why that confidence is flawed.

I don't think I came away from this book with any new insights into human nature, I knew that leadership was largely a function of self-delusion and exploitation of fear, but it was quite readable, and put into perspective some of the struggles that still echo in conflicts today.

[ related topics: Religion Politics Books Current Events Race Dictators ]

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