THE STEPS TO AUTOCRACY . . . and, btw, also genocide

#1. Promote yourself as the savior, often by glitter and large buildings, who will return your nation or culture to greatness and lift “your” people out of humiliation and make them safe by eliminating “dangerous elements.”

The steps to become a dictator, an all-authoritarian ruler, are the same as the ones required to achieve genocide. While I do not believe, by any stretch, that the United States is headed towards genocide, I recognize that the actions by our president are aligned with the actions necessary for genocide. It is a question only of degree and goals.

My study of strongmen gaining control of governments and, ultimately, achieving genocide began in 2003 when I co-directed and produced the documentary film Peace by Peace: Women on the Frontlines. The film showed the work of women rebuilding their nations after massive devastation, including in Burundi and Bosnia.

It was ten years after the genocide in Burundi, concurrent with the genocide in Rwanda, by Hutus of Tutsis and moderate Hutus, and seven years since the end of the four-year siege of Sarajevo by Bosnia Serbs.

The documentary, which debuted at the United Nations and was aired by PBS television, shows women in Burundi using reconciliation radio programs and face-to-face interactions to build peace and connections across the land. In those verdant hills a civil war continued to simmer. One day after filming our local handlers told us as we were driving away that guerrillas had come to that village the day before and they had killed people.

In Bosnia, we filmed women in Sarajevo and across the countryside rebuilding the economy through small businesses and micro-loans. A tepid peace was maintained by the presence of United Nations peace keepers.

To understand the causes and effects of genocide I observed and researched, among other things, the strategies of strongmen in Bosnia and Burundi and other nations, including Germany. What steps are required to achieve the power of an autocrat?

Below are my findings from that time, with a few updated side comments. They are more or less in sequence:

1. Promote yourself as the savior, often by glitter and large buildings, who will return your nation or culture to greatness and lift “your” people out of humiliation and make them safe by eliminating “dangerous elements.”

2. Instill fear in the hearts and minds of your citizens. Fear in the majority of the minorities so the majority align with you for protection. Fear in the minorities of you and the majority so they stay silent and weakened.

3. Gain control of the media by silencing, weakening, and defaming legitimate media and setting up false media to carry your messages of fear, hate, and alternative “truths,” i.e. propaganda. This is key.

4. Begin and maintain a steady drumbeat through media and every way possible of demeaning and debasing one or more minorities. Nothing you say is too extreme and there is no need for it to be truthful. They are killers, rapists, dirty, and, eventually, “cockroaches.”

5. Gain control of the military by degrading the leaders who would oppose you and replacing them with those who will do what you say – usually for their own gain.

6. Do the same with the judiciary system.

5. Attack and weaken educational institutions, scientists, and professional leaders. Condemn and weaken the “effete intellectuals.” They are your enemy. They must be silenced. They are infiltrators who do not like you and have their own agendas.

6. Set up paramilitary groups across the land with arms to patrol, intimidate, and harm “the other.” If you don’t have guns, machetes will do.

7. Restrict the selected scapegoat minorities, saying it is for the safety of the majority. Restrict their travel, opportunities, access to education and professions and places to live. Tighten restrictions over time with systematically applied “rules” about what they can and cannot do. If possible, build a wall to isolate them.

8. If you wish to enact a genocide, look for, or create, an event to use as a catalyst, as a spark to the tinder you have prepared, to launch slaughter, randomly or orderly depending on your preference and what is possible. Watch the fire burn.

Our president, his staff, and appointees know he is striving for personal power beyond “checks and balances,” but they probably don’t label it as turning our democracy into an autocracy. Trump certainly has no internal existence except “Trump First” and that does not allow for self-review of his actions and their consequences. It also means he does not have a clue of the nature of a democracy let alone know how to be president of one. He doesn’t have the equipment.

We, however, are becoming aware of the signs of an emerging autocracy and must continue to rise against it en masse – majority and minorities, women and men – to prevent immense damage to our democracy, our nation’s fiber, and our personal morals.

If looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, the chances are it will behave like a duck because it IS a duck. It is what ducks know to do.

Donald, Duck-esque, only knows what he knows to do. It might work well in his personal fantasy land, but it does not work in our real world. En masse is the accumulation of concerned people. Rise up!

 

The Narcissistic Personality: trouble in River City

This blog is not about what to do now. The answers to that are organize, unite, protect each other, and use every aspect of our judicial system to fight against incorporating hatred into the laws of our government and the mores of our social structures. This blog is about understanding the nature of Donald Trump’s mind and not being naïve. He is a dangerous man who does not know what is happening in the real world because he experiences only the world he has created for himself as a classic narcissist living in a world where hate is legitimate, lies are normal conversations, and he is entitled to delude people from the golden chairs in his tower and spew petty twitter rants from his bed. 

Operating principles of a narcissist:

1) Narcissists don’t care about you because you don’t exist to them as a real human.

2) The world they construct in their heads is the only world they perceive.

3) They experience themselves at the center of this artificial world.

4) They are often charismatic because their belief in themselves at the center of their world has a spillover effect on others, i.e. they believe they are great, and this can be seductive.

5) This spillover effect reinforces their sense of superiority and entitlement to whatever they wish. This is manifest often in a sense of ownership of people of the opposite sex.

6) Because their world is small and of their making, they are freed of any obligations towards integrity, honesty, consistency, compassion, or keeping of contracts and promises. Truth is irrelevant in this world where they are, essentially, the only inhabitant. Pathological lying is their language because they can change the contents of their private world from one moment to the next, eliminate this, add that. They don’t fully compute that real people in an “outside” world keep track of their inconsistencies and don’t like obfuscation, denials, and trickery.

7) Rage, duplicity, aggression, and divisiveness are their most common tools against people who confront them. They willingly send their minions after such people.

8) To mock, expose, or criticize them provokes an immediate response because, at all costs, they dare not give up their image of themselves as a superior being in a fantasy world. The spillage that could come from examining themselves in the mirror could be horrific to them—and most have lost the ability to enter the scouring world of truth, in any case. They cannot conceive that their thin-skinned responses are petty, absurd, and reek of being a third-grade spoilsport on the playground.

9) Narcissism is one of the most difficult of the delusional psychological diseases to treat because narcissism has for the most part served them well. Narcissists are successful in our contemporary world, which tells you something about our contemporary world.

Commentary on narcissists:

My experience with narcissistic humans could take up pages, but this is not about an ex-husband or former employee, or screaming in the shower for so long that my dog went outside to get sleep. It is about narcissists and what to expect of them.

That is, do not expect Donald Trump to become a rational human being. He will make his decisions based on his belief of that moment of what he thinks is best for him as ruler of his fiefdom. He does not have a rational, reality-based capacity for thought or decision.

Our President-Elect is a dangerous man who knew how to con and use nearly 50% of the people who voted in this election. He played on their fears, insecurities, prejudices, assumptions, lack of truthful and complete information, the financial inequities that affect their daily lives, and their feeling they are looked down upon by coastal “elites” and pushed aside in favor of minorities and people who are “other” than them.

He lied over and over and over and over—and a gullible (and, in some cases, biased) media gave him free press and allowed his lies to go out unchecked and unchallenged. He was perceived as a clownish bully rather than an unstable threat who could become our president. The media has a lot to answer for.

His spewings encouraged and justified violence in the minds of people who are now committing hate crimes across the U.S. This is not an illusion, it is happening, and it is happening not only to minorities but to white women I know.

And the people who voted for him for financial reasons will discover soon enough that he was never for them. They will be left further behind if his plans to lower taxes for the wealthy, limit social security and the Affordable Care Act, and deregulate the banks go into effect.

This is not even touching on the massive issues of climate change and global terrorism, or our relationship with Putin who is an even better con artist than Trump, or the setbacks and prejudices against women and their rights, or foreign relationships, or the global economy.

There it is, and it is not pretty, and it is not safe.

Still, I believe in America because I believe in Americans. I believe we will survive and we can rise. With intent and actions, we can unite across the divides to strengthen the middle of the bell curve, to reclaim the heart of who we are. We will protect each other and work together.

If our President and the Republican congress cannot serve us well, then we will have to create the Renaissance ourselves. We can do this by calling on our civil sector, our entrepreneurs, our artists, our visionaries, our lawyers for justice, our local governments and businesses, our diverse and wondrous citizens, and each other. We will not abandon the principles of this nation to a man who thinks we are his gullible throngs.

I believe this is possible with every cell in my body IF we remember at all moments that our President-Elect is incapable of self-control, rational decisions, or altruistic motives. This government must be under our watch, not his. We live in the real world and we are responsible for its care, our care, and the care of each other.