“I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.”
-The Apostle Paul (Colossians 2:3)
Chilling Truth about Leadership that Will Raise the Hair on Your Neck…
A chilling statement about tyranny made me sit up and listen. Ever since my friend Peter Kuzmič said this statement it has stuck with me. Peter had experienced first hand the genocide of the Balkans in the early 1990’s. He does not care to see history repeat itself. One time over lunch I asked him what leaders can do to be better informed and more equipped to see tsunami waves of tyranny coming in a particular culture. This is what he said:
Listen to what world leaders say in their speeches. They will do what they say. -Dr. Peter Kuzmic
He was referring to the speeches of Slobodan Milošević who served as the president of the Socialist Republic of Serbia from 1989 until 1997. Milošević’s words many believe were the earthquake that incited a tsunami wave of violence that damaged centuries of relatively peaceful ethnic relations in the Balkans. Milošević stood trial for war crimes at the end of his life. The five-year trial ended without a verdict after he died in a prison cell in 2006. Milošević’s ethnically divisive speeches are widely held as one of the main causes of the horrific ethnic genocide which took place in the former Yugoslavia.
This reminds me of what George Santayana, a Spanish philosopher, poet and novelist is known for saying about history. This is perhaps one of the most famous quotes about historiography (the study of history):
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. 
How to be a Dictator
Recently, the Economist’s Alistair Smith did a profound piece on tyranny, called How to be a Dictator, which is worth reading. He is co-author of, The Dictator’s Handbook: How Bad Behaviour is Almost Always Good Politics (2011). Tyranny is still alive and well because we live in a broken sinful world. But tyranny does not have to be the plight of a culture. The likes of Lenin, Stalin, Hitler and Fidel Castro are all historical figures who knew the secret of tyranny, and benefited from it while their people suffered. Today, we see evidence of tyranny in Syria, Libya, Venezuela, North Korea, just to name a few…
Here is good summary which is worth memorizing:
How does one become a dictator? It’s easy, says Alastair Smith… First, reward a coterie of devoted supporters who know they are easily replaced; then tax everyone else highly, so that basic needs must come from the state. Shedding blood also helps. (Economist January 7th-13th 2012)
Discerning the Swell
Navigators and surfers know how to read the swell. If you can recognize the swell (which is not initially reconizeable to the novice), then you can make some fairly good predictions about the surf. Discerning the cultural swell is a similar art. Alastair Smith is talking about a certain kind of “swell” that leads toward tyranny. He’s warning us to watch out for rogue waves. Here’s his basic premise: as taxes rise, and governments obtain more power through policy and regulation, a society inches more toward tyranny.
If that is true, then take a look around you. What are your national leaders speaking about? Are they talking about raising taxes and consolidating government power? Are they talking about the need for more “planning” and “organization”? Are they suggesting that if they had more power or a more stream-lined ability to use executive orders to pass laws and make government more efficient, utopia would result?
If you hear those kinds of ideas (ideology) between the lines of your national leaders’ speeches, then you may want to ramp up your prayer and figure out how to regain your saltiness to turn the tide. Because if you don’t, you are inching one step closer to tyranny. And history tells us that tyranny does not turn out well for the common people who do not hold elite positions in government.
How to Turn the Tide? From the Grassroots or from the Ivory Tower?
Whether you believe change occurs from the bottom up, or from the top down, one thing is for certain. Our world is broken because of sin, and the only one who can transform culture is Jesus Christ. Those who know me, know that I’m an eternal optimist, and usually look for the way through a trial rather than sitting down and moping about it. I write this blog about tyranny not as a doomsayer or a political pundit. I write it because it is usually visionary leaders who have the ability to cast compelling vision which can either be a blessing or a curse to society. If you can cast vision, you will naturally be looked to for leadership, for better or worse.
That being said, visionary leaders need to remember the past so that they will not repeat its atrocities. If you are a visionary leader, do everything you can to submit yourself to Christ and put on humility as your garment every day. Don’t be seduced by power, but harness power for the glory of God. Listen to what the influential leaders are saying around you, and don’t blow it off. They mean what they say. And they will do what they say. If you understand that, then you will know the problems and issues that you must stand against. You will also learn to recognize those leaders who you should stand with and support. We need many more of them. Maybe you are that leader.
- Think about some recent speeches or statements your national or local leaders have said. What do you think could happen if they really meant what they said?
- Do you think that is the right direction?
- If you agree with what they say, how can you help support their vision?
- If you disagree with what they say, how can you respectfully disagree, debate them, or offer an alternative vision?
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 The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress: Reason in Common Sense 284 (2nd ed., Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, New York 1924