So You Wanna Be A Dictator – Part I

So You Wanna Be A Dictator – Part I

Adrienne BoettingerFriday,14 March 2014

The Snap

Teachers spend a lot of time asking students what they want to be when they grow up. The older you get, the more stressful it is to answer the question. It’s the same for dictators. They don’t usually start out with all-encompassing power. Sometimes they’re unsure of their path; other times they have a lot of crap jobs before achieving total world domination. In our first installment, we give you an ophthalmologist and a gamer.

The Download

1. Eye Doctor (Bashar al-Assad, Syria)

If you had to guess what doctor would be more likely to torture his or her patients, you’d probably say dentist. However, the real medical menace was quietly lurking in the shadows, waiting for you to fail to read the last line of letters. Before he was driving a million of his constituents out of the country and helping contribute to the deaths of well over 100,000 people, Bashar al-Assad was handing out stickers to Syrian children after dilating their pupils.

Bashar was never supposed to be the leader of Syria. Growing up in Syria, people thought him a nerd and his older brother a charismatic leader. His brother was the apple of their father’s autocratic eye while Bashar was considered a mama’s boy. Bashar went to London to study ophthalmology. He developed an affinity for volleyball and windsurfing. He met a girl and was set to live as normal of a life as someone from a bullying, authoritarian family can. Then, his more dictatorial brother kicked the bucket and Bashar had to come back to take over the family business.

Western powers hoped Bashar would be influenced by his kinder, gentler past and positive experience with the outside world. Sadly, the world’s hopes for a less brutal leader were short-sighted. After more than a decade of fairly bland reforms, the world’s eyes have been opened to this would-be ophthalmologist and his vicious rule.

2. Gamer (Kim Jong Un, North Korea)

Take a good look at Kim Jong Un and it’s much harder to picture him as a nutjob ruler than it is to picture him as a gamer. Kim Jong Un was another son not initially groomed to take over for his dictatorial dad. His half-brother and older full brother were the more likely candidates but when one got deported from Japan and the other was not studly enough for their Pops, Kim Jong Un got tapped to follow in the kookiy autocratic footsteps of his father and grandfather.

Kim spent his time at Swiss boarding school being good at math, an aficionado of pornography, and a mega gamer. Maybe that was how he honed the skills that would eventually earn him the title of Supreme Leader. Now between looking at things and executing his relatives, Kim Jong Un relaxes with his BFF Dennis Rodman. Can’t you just picture them pounding energy drinks and playing World of Warcraft? Let’s hope that’s not how he’s making his military decisions.

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Hat Tips:

Slate, Time, CNN, The AtlanticWashington Post, NPR, Reuters, Image Credit: Flickr



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  1. […] last we left our exercise in “Dictators for Dummies,” we discussed two very different paths […]

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