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20 February 2005

What Part of Yes Don't You Understand?

Do not make She unhappy with you.

I wish at this time to say a few more words about Autocratic Despotic Tyrants and Absolute Monarchs. Whether we like it or not, whether or not we wish they would go away and never come back, they infest our consciousness and our dreams. Our brains are a nest of avenues, alleys and grand plazas down which Kings, Emperors, Tsars, Tsarinas, Melechim, Empresses and Queens, all with the power to deflower you or have you drawn and quartered in five minutes, wander unrestrained and unembarrassed.

Gilgamesh, a semi-historical real-lish sort of King of Uruk from around 2600 BC, spent his evenings down at the House of Brides to deflower his pick on the eve of their weddings to Some Other Guy. You think that sort of crap ended a millennium or two ago? Later I will see if I can find you some Documented Smut about the Grand Fromage who was despoting in Kuwait around the time we were putting him back on his satin cushions during Desert Storm. If you have the documented smut (it began as a New York Times story) close at hand, don't be shy, ship it to moi.

Kings, Soldans, Pharaohs, Emirs ... absolute monarchs whose Word Is Law ... this is mostly what most of us have ever known since we began organizing and specializing.

Democracy, councils and commissions, republics, parliaments ... these are all New Toys & Gimmicks from Last Week. They might not last, we don't know yet. I like them personally, but that's not the same as saying: Representative Rational Humane Accountable Government Where Everyones' Rights Always Matter is here to stay.

Iceland -- around 1000 AD, a sort of Viking Horseback Battleaxe Gangland -- began settling things with a democratic parliament, the Althing, which it held each summer at an absolutely nifty place where two mid-Atlantic tectonic continent plates are ripping the ocean floor apart. Iceland continues to do its parliamentary democratic business to this day (though the Althing moved downtown into more permanent quarters; they are Post-Tent now and run all year).

Then Athens, of course, and that Democracy Thing, that was around 500 BC. The Roman Republic and Senate, they had a pretty good run before they shifted to an Emperor who was usually also a God. Caligula made his horse a Senator. (For all the really smutty lurid details, check out Suetonius' "The Twelve Caesars," translation, I think, by the poet Robert Graves, who then wrote the novel "I, Claudius." Claudius was the kinder, gentler absolute despot who followed the assassinated Caligula.)

But mostly what we get is guys, and the occasional gal, who can slice our heads off or heave us off a cliff largely because they had a bad night's sleep on a lumpy mattress. Or they can say stuff like, "Her, bring that one to me now."

You can critique this shit, but you can't make it go away or pretend that's not what we know best and most. And you can kill Caligula, but an hour later, there's a new guy, with all the same off-with-his-head powers. And a new one after him.

I don't mean to ignore the ladies in this historical discussion. My favorite, a fairly recent babe, was Queen Christina of Sweden (at least two movies in English, one with Garbo). René Descartes was a man who detested the cold and slept, as often as possible, until noon. He fell on hard times -- metaphysics and analytic geometry just weren't paying the bills -- and took a job as teenage Queen Christina's math tutor. He got to Stockholm in January 1650, Her Royal Highness announced she would take her royal lessons at 4:30 in the morning, Descartes was dead by 11 February. Later she said she was sorry.

But the hottest of all is SWMBO ... She Who Must Be Obeyed.

Ah, hell, rent the video. Ursula Andress is "She," or Ayesha, a 2000-year-old Queen, of Roman origins, hidden in a mountain enclave way up the Nile. She looks damn good for 2000. Anyway, when anyone annoys She in the slightest, She gestures with one hand, and the Palace Guard tosses the annoying person, typically a screaming virgin priestess, down a volcano hole. This is one hot ripping yarn intended for 14-year-old British schoolboys by H. Rider Haggard, and just a click away:

"Rumpole of the Bailey" (by John Mortimer) is a 65-ish criminal defense barrister in London married for æons to Hilda. Behind her back and out of earshot, he refers to her as "She Who Must Be Obeyed." (He had once been a 14-year-old British schoolboy.)

Plato was quite blunt about the situation: Any ruler with unlimited powers must inevitably become a violent homicidal paranoid maniac and sexual degenerate. It comes with the territory.

Ordinary humans with ordinary romantic and sexual desires quickly become used to "No," or "I don't think so," or "Go away or I'll call the police." The autocratic tyrant has never heard No.

Bad things happen to ordinary humans who act on their ordinary homicidal desires. The autocratic tyrant -- well, Henry II was drunk one night in 1170 with his buddies, and yelled, "Will no one rid me of this pesky priest?" About 48 hours later, four heavily armed dudes assassinated the Archbishop in Canterbury Cathedral. (They would have murdered
Thomas à Becket quicker, but they had to cross the English Channel to find him first.)

This month the King of Nepal appears to have dismissed the constitutional government and swept aside all representative councils and made himself an Autocratic Monarch. He's under a lot of stress; Nepal has a decades-long and very effective and violent Maoist Guerrilla insurgency problem. The current king got his job after a disgruntled prince walked into the royal dining room one night and did all his family with a machine gun.

I need to eat now, but I'm not finished with this. I'm going to tell you about Emperor Bokassa I, and see if I can scare up some good stuff about Papa Doc Duvalier, President-for-Life of Haiti. And if you know any real cool Absolute Despotic Monarchs and Tyrants you would like to share cool tales with, please send them this way. Paul Bowles has some cool stories about le Roi du Moroc (the late father of the current king).


Blogger Newphew Kwak said...

Speaking of Le Roi du Moroc, there's a novel recently translated into American, "This Blinding Absence of Light" by Tahar ben Jelloun, that is a true-to-life (and -death) story of the experience of prisoners of Le Roi at Le Roi's secret prison camp out in the hinterlands. Hardcore situation in a bad, bad, bad, bad way. Okay, so so far all I've read is the flap jacket, but I did read Jelloun's earlier novel, "Corruption," and it was quite good so he's a good writer and by all accounts did the prison camp story right to the tee.


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