Regina Saphier: The Tale of the Dictator Who Became a Flower Salesman
How unlikely! Right? No dictator ever gave up his or her corrupt power voluntarily. Have you ever wondered why? I did. First, I actually just contemplated good, responsive, inclusive leadership that my country never really experienced. And from there I got to the question: Just what is it about a society as an organism that does not permit healthy leadership? And I ended up with the image of a bodily tissue that can not properly repair itself and if you imagine a country as an organism, the dictator is produced by dysfunctional social tissue. This is why a dictator is a cancer cell, his or her immediate and selfish community is the cancer, and the country is the organism that is dying of cancer. There are dangerous and deadly cancers, and there are milder, more treatable cancers. Orbán and his entourage is colon cancer with no metastases (yet), actually rather preventable if an organism is well informed and takes care of itself, and also curable if someone finds the right surgeon. The North Korean dictator (whoever happens to be in that role at any given time) and his closest people are more of a metastatic, aggressive breast cancer. Much harder to treat and cure. So, dictators are identifiable on a scale. Yet almost all dictators (as all cancers) can be dangerous when untreated or when more social tissue degeneration is possible.
Add the Dunning and Kruger effect (of followers and the dictator for this essay’s sake).
“For a given skill, incompetent people will:
– fail to recognize their own lack of skill
– fail to recognize genuine skill in others
– fail to recognize the extent of their inadequacy
– recognize and acknowledge their own lack of skill, after they are exposed to training for that skill.”
Nouriel Roubini posted a blog regarding the possible fragmented, nationalist dystopian future of the EU if Orbán-omics (illiberal and nationalist state capitalism) spreads across Europe. Orbán is the populist, nationalist authoritarian mini dictator of Hungary (unfortunately there are similar jerks running countries in the EU). He has (or pretends to have) seriously archaic views of gender roles, social values, and economics. Yet, when he “worries” about the safety of Europe, he will say that he wants to “protect values like gender equality”. He will say whatever he thinks he needs to say, depending on his latest vision and depending on the environment. In my opinion Orbán is a classical, ambitious, manipulative sociopath with no remorse.
How are sociopaths* made?
Sociopaths are more common than you would expect (especially among politicians, business people, lawyers and the like). Becoming a sociopath is a typical (mal)adaptive developmental reaction to e.g.: a physically abusive father, and to a massive change in environment and social class that forced him (or her) to experience a lot of humiliation. Orbán is highly ambitious, a calculating risk-taker, superficially charming (according to his equally superficial followers), plus he is manipulative, aggressive, paranoid, delusional, experiences no remorse, does not have much cultural capital, yet he thinks he is always right, believes he is smarter than (almost) anyone else, has a grandiose sense of self, has no insight into the fact that he is a sociopath, uses others as tools, is constantly in a hero pose, does not experience true empathy for others, and is full of narcissism… and now add the constant secret inferiority complex that causes a lot of frustration (he uses metaphors in his political speeches that refer to physically abusive acts and he also spoke as a young man about his father beating him brutally)… he always knows when he is hurt or bothered, but is oblivious to other people’s feelings… (a sociopath is different from a psychopath in that the sociopath is a creation of his or her experiences and environment, while a psychopath is born without empathy and conscience… now that psychopathy can be diagnosed with MRI and genetic testing, I wonder how sociopaths could be spotted with these tests…). Of course I am only theorizing here, I am not a psychiatric professional, and obviously I can’t put dictators in an MRI machine. It is however hard not to see the traits that are used for diagnosis in psychology. Should we not have our politicians tested with objective tools before letting them take control of our national institutions, networks and budgets? Should we not stop psychopaths and sociopaths from ruining our national economy and international country image? (*After I wrote this blog I did more research regarding this personality disorder and I came across the term “acquired psychopathy” instead of “sociopathy”. The major difference between psychopaths and acquired psychopaths is that the latter experience fear and anxiety because their amygdala is functional. I also encountered the term “pro-social psychopath” as opposed to “anti-social psychopath”… plus there are “transient psychopaths”… eg.: some people – when their loved ones are threatened – automatically turn off their empathy towards attackers. Unfortunately, “fearless dominance” that is so typical of born and dangerous psychopaths without anxiety is also very attractive to followers as a perceived leadership trait… During hard times many people unconsciously or consciously gravitate to leaders who are able to pretend to be fearless or are in fact dangerously fearless…)
Notice that young Orbán used to be relatively honest and uninhibited (he says he did not study much, but he is clearly intelligent). In this interview he talks about domestic abuse he experienced and how he would rather be a political science professor, after realizing that he is not a very good football player. He emphasizes that he does not want to be a politician sitting in meetings for 8 hours a day. And yet soon after this he found himself to be an elected official, a member of the Hungarian parliament and today he is a prime minister. So, was he telling the truth about his dream career as a professor, or was he extremely confused about his own aspirations during his mid twenties? (Note: This video keeps disappearing from YouTube… until now I had to add three different links to keep this video available in my blog post! Orbán is clearly trying again and again to erase his liberal self from the web, because it shows that neither his liberal, nor his autocratic self is the truth… he is just an empty role player. He has no core values to build his own moral character. He is very similar to Trump! Did you know that Trump used to be liberal? These types of people will “become” anything to be in a power position.)
Within two decades Orbán went from liberal political youngster studying law, to conservative political football player acting like a politician for economic gain. He does not have any deep and real core values, he is not a person of deep thought and definitely whimsical as a decision maker (note: as a young man he appeared to have European and democratic values… that is no longer the case). I am sure had George Soros known what is going to happen, his scholarship fund would not have supported Orbán’s Oxford studies. Orbán should have been an average football player or university professor we never heard of. Orbán today as a #1 politician is a dangerous product of his environment. Remember, he was the symbol of democratic hope 25 years ago! Apparently, he is not a man of core vales, he is rather a role player. He kind of thinks the country is his estate now. He is now simply playing in another film that suits him according to his own self image. He is a confused cell placed into the wrong bodily tissue and does not know its true and constructive role. This is why Orbán is a cancer cell, his entourage is cancer, and his (untreated) politics is becoming a malignant ideological tumor actively spreading in the EU. In the right tissue he would be a relatively normal and harmless cell. (I will explain this idea in a bit more detail later.) It is important to state: Most people aren’t born to be evil. Only a small percent are born with criminal tendencies. Most people who become criminals or dictators, are growing up with the wrong values and experience distorting events. As with the Dunning and Kruger effect, notice how most maladaptive behaviors have to do with the wrong kind of learning, with trauma, distorted perceptions, fluid and circumstantial morals, lack of objective feedback or the lack of knowledge and insight. This is the road that takes someone from active, inclusive, constructive idealism (humanism) to reactive, exclusive, destructive skepticism (dictatorship) along the full spectrum of human attitudes and perceptions of social realities.
Idealism, realism and skepticism
I have been thinking in writing for a couple of days about idealism, realism and skepticism. Before I share my spontaneous reflections, let me say that I am what I call “an active, inclusive, constructive humanistic idealist”, and at the same time I like to take ideas apart, and put them back together with other, seemingly irrelevant ideas (so in my case “constructive” has a double meaning). It is like playing with idea Lego. Also, it is important to mention that I have never been the member of any political party ever and I am completely without illusions when it comes to party politics.
I share the humanistic values of people like Daphne Koller, Buckminster Fuller and Nikola Tesla. Constructive, visionary leaders with positive attitudes are the true architects of humanity’s future, but it is the collective sum of our best actions, hopes, ideals and ideas that lead to the future we will experience. Nobody in their right mind wants to live in a dark and hopeless, dystopian future. 100% basic realism is for selfish opportunists, for lazy conformists, or for misled people without any imagination. People who hate idealism have the darkest souls and wish for an equally dark future. Their souls are simply broken. (I am not one of them.) Basic, destructive and skeptical realism is for servants of the status quo. This is Orbán’s realm today.
Constructive idealism is for true change makers working with ideas that might look utopian and impossible to the conformist, less imaginative, less creative and less enlightened members of societies. Being an idealist means that you have ideas, ideals, values, aspirations, feelings, intuitions, mental images of a positive and inclusive future that you wish were your reality. When putting your constructive ideas and ideals out there in writing, saying no to personal circumstances that are destroying your positive experiences in life, and opting for actions that open the door to new, more ideal circumstances for you and others: you become an active, constructive idealist in this process. Our minds together create our reality in the future. Be mindful of what you wish for in a dynamic human network of ideas!
The success of your active and constructive idealism does not only depend on you. We live in human networks and ideas are spreading at the speed of light via the internet. The collective level of latent/passive, and active/constructive idealism determines the success of your own idealism.
My new hypothesis
Humanistic, inclusive and constructive idealism in action is the highest and most noble form of futuristic realism in any society.
In my humble opinion, realism is a spectrum, that runs from passive, selfish, misinformed skepticism, to active, informed, complex, constructive and humanistic idealism. Active, constructive and humanistic idealism reminds me of genetics. A constructive idea(l) adds value like a Telomerase … a kind of idea related telomere terminal transferase…. a protein… a reverse transcriptase enzyme. Enlightened idealists produce abstract ideas: catalysts constantly replenishing and extending the information related fibers of the social “fabric”, keeping the social “tissues” healthy and pushing the boundaries of humanity.
When the enlightened and knowledgeable idealists (the most terrifying enemies of rigid, authoritarian and aggressive dictators) are locked up, killed, discouraged, mistreated, unappreciated, economically and politically marginalized, or even forced to leave a country: societies stop improving and begin to age and die, just like humans when Telomeres are no longer replenished by Telomerase enzymes at the end of linear chromosomes. It is a weakened social structure that permits the rise of the dictator in the first place. It is not the rise of the dictator that starts the deterioration. The dictator is the one who will escalate the process.
Dictators are confused cells
Dictators and their immediate human networks are sort of confused cells and cancerous tissues (they want to be bigger, have more and more power, resources and money… often plutocrats in business behave the same way… again, dangerous psychopaths and sociopaths in action… and how many naive people just love them!?). Dictators begin to drain and abuse replenishing-resources of an immune deficient society (or multiple societies) to maintain their own opportunistic and corrupt social “tissues”. When human bodily tissues are not well repaired, or when there is a lack of iron, oxygen or vitamin D, the immune system becomes less efficient, some cells become confused and selfish, tumors grow, angiogenesis and cancer happens. Cells forget their original roles.
Cancer cells can become normal cells again! It’s true!
So, again, cancer happens when a cell forgets its original role, and this “cell dementia” happens because the surrounding tissue is deteriorating. The tissue matrix stops telling the cell what to do. Just like dictators are oblivious to the usually rather obviously bad ends of their dictator peers (the bad judgement is clearly visible right there) and to the bad shape of societies these people torture, cancer cells also don’t care that their selfish behavior is killing the entire organism. Place confused cells into healthy and relevant tissue, and the cells will suddenly remember their original, constructive and healthy roles! Cancer cells become healthy again! I am not making this up, it is true (watch Mina Bissell’s TED talk below). Basically, in rotten social networks the same happens, because the cells (people) don’t get the right information and forget their constructive roles. This is how people become destructive and self serving. This always inevitably leads to some level of collapse of values one way or the other, because the social “tissue” becomes thick, overgrown, rigid and homogeneous in an unhealthy way. The societies that contain them must first die in a way to be able to somehow experience the birth of healthy cells, people, ideals and values. (The operation called “system change” did not help in Hungary. We buried that illusion of change with former President Árpád Göncz recently.)
Here is a scenario that never happens (for a reason):
Unfortunately, in their isolated little bubbles, with their pathological personalities, dictators don’t normally wake up one morning with a new sense of self knowledge and say (I imagine this little sketch written by me, performed by Eddie Izzard on stage): “Oh, I am so sorry, I am a confused “cell”, a dictator person, oh no, and my people, who are dead inside, are not telling me the truth, wow, because I am a narcissistic sociopath with no empathy, oh no… I must do something about this… I will quit being an autocratic jerk and will become a lovely flower and stadium turf seed salesman instead.”
This somehow does not happen. It is how confused and broken these people are. Realistically, questioning their own behavior, or displaying true humility are not part of their repertoire. The stunning part? Everyone would be better off if this could happen, but it can’t. It is based on “social physics”. Yet what often does happen is that such a confused “cell” ends up in a prison cell, when a society’s immune system becomes stronger. It could be ironic that a lawyer becomes a dictator, but actually it isn’t ironic. In fact the legal profession is very popular among sociopaths (and among psychopaths).
The sicker the social tissue, the worse your dictator
Notice: As confused cells are the products of a broken repair system on the “tissue matrix” level, so are dictators products of a broken repair system on the social “tissue matrix” level. Unless you can somehow change the social matrix, you will not see any change in the short term. Orbán is allergic to Syrian refugees and migrants in large numbers because their strong will and determination could actually change the social matrix in Hungary… and he is terrified of that. It is his personal interest to keep things as they are. I personally would welcome Syrians in Hungary (healthy diversity, tolerance and the flow of information leads to prosperity), but I also understand that they would not want to live here. Hungary is mostly an intolerant and backward place (because the social tissue matrix is dysfunctional).
Since Hungary joined the EU, the European Union managed to finance (feed and support) the rise of a social class that is opportunistic, corrupt to the bone, destructive and intolerant (and not just the right, but also most of the left… Gyurcsány avoided becoming the same kind of dictator by falling flat on his political face… he had to learn something from that… of course leaving his office when he failed is also a detail that would never happen to Orbán, because the most important thing for him is power). The problem is, that the social tumors were never completely cut out of this society after the so called system “change”. At the same time the active and constructive humanistic idealists were economically and politically, gradually forced to leave the country after 2004. (Note: I was the only citizen in Hungary at that time who decided to found a pilot project for returning, highly educated Hungarians like me to support social change in this new EU member state. Within a few years the passive-aggressive and corrupt “elite” drained my soul and the entire establishment made me sick, in every sense of the word. One constructive idealist against a monolithic group of destructive, self-serving skeptics. One healthy cell in a sick tissue. There was no healthy way to function in this context. This is why I live and work in internet exile, away from the sick social tissue. I integrated into a global, online context that is much healthier for me. Here I am able to function as a free thinker and blogger. Nobody even attempts to tell me what I can or can not say and I am able to speak my mind freely.) Hungary as a society is dying of a relapse of social cancer, that was (only) believed to be removed over two decades ago. The leadership in power consist of people who are opportunistic, self serving conformists, destructive “realists” without: imagination, inclusive insight, conscience and appropriate knowledge. These people say that women belong into the kitchen, and that women should not participate in politics, because “dirty politics” (made dirty by these sick men in party politics) is “not for the ladies”! The kitchen is for the ladies! And their ladies think it is true! The only policy I appreciate was the banning of smoking in many public spaces. I love that! That is about it… and one bad decision comes after the other.
What is politics anyway?
True politics is about finding a common ground and setting goals in an intelligent, informed way for all members of a society and making responsible decisions about our community budget. Politics today also has to be based on intuitive and well informed futurology. What is happening in most countries today has nothing to do with politics that is in touch with people’s realities and needs. And to return to my original points: healthy and true politics is humanistic, inclusive and constructive idealism in action on a community level… the highest and most noble form of futuristic realism. Without a free and creative group of people at least aiming for a utopian future, modern societies are simply (pardon my French): fucked. I don’t know too many true politicians. The real politicians are well informed, decent, active, constructive, knowledgeable and idealistic civilians (yet pros in their respective fields) who are in touch with their communities and people’s needs and know about sustainable opportunities that their communities need to learn about to live better lives (eg.: Bernadett Szél, Bálint Misetics and Gergely Karácsony are promising examples in Hungary). Remember, healthy tissues tell healthy cells what to do. Even a couple of good people are able to form healthy tissues and networks around a capable human being. (When I set out to start my civic initiative, as a returnee to my native country, it is exactly the healthy social tissue and local network that I did not have.) Healthy social networks provide a healthy environment for people. But it is also important to remember, that at some point, when cells in tissue and people in social networks make a functional comeback, their contributions will make the entire system even healthier and more balanced. This is exactly why citizens are looking for such optimally functioning examples, because around such constructive people often happens to be a healthier social tissue and the possibility for change.
On the party political news you mostly see pseudo politicians (role playing party figures). The real politicians (civilian leaders) are rarely on the news. When they are, it often has to do with the enormous gravity of their idea(l)s in action. This power comes from the synergy of the individual’s vision and the readiness (level) of the networks around him or her, be it a local or a global network. Many amazing idea(l)s fail because the networks are not yet ready enough, not yet soaked by information, knowledge and insight to a certain extent (apathy of the masses in my opinion happens when latent idealism is temporarily frozen due to horrible social circumstances in dying social “tissues”… it means that the juices stopped flowing… interactions are minimal… ideas are not produced). It is often not even the constructive and visible visionary individual who fails. It is often the invisible and intangible network that fails the visionary individual, because members of that society for one reason or other don’t fulfill their right and duty to internalize new and important information and knowledge. Of course dictators love that, it is why the Hungarian state television is unbearable if you are an intelligent global thinker with local insight. It is a bit like being one healthy cell among all the ill ones in unhealthy tissue. Who is going to support you? Nobody! You can only make the change with external support in this case (and post operative rehabilitation will be essential until new values are internalized and institutions change). Unfortunately, it is always the individual who is blamed for the failure, because that is easy. Seeing the big picture requires intelligence, intuition, effort, knowledge, insight, analysis, etc. (Similar cases? For example imagine the talented kid failing because of a bad school. A healthy cell in unhealthy tissue. It is the child who is usually blamed, humiliated or forced to repeat a school year. The child can go to another, much better school where he or she will thrive. Ever been punished for your environment’s failures? It is so common, people don’t even notice.)
In countries like Hungary it was the biggest possible mistake to let the state administer the EU funds. The administration should have been less complicated and funds should have been much more directly available to civil players. Goals should not have been centrally determined, rather local (and real) civil players should have been setting the goals. Because the funds were administered via the government, it is the middle man who benefited (those who were willing to participate in the corrupt games). So, in a way, the EU officials and institutions are guilty of making a huge strategic mistake in this country. And the strategy did not change, so today the EU essentially is financing a new dictator in Hungary, while the social tissues beyond his entourage are drained of nutrients. Giving this corrupt government the same EU financial support in the future is like feeding a cancer patient sugar. An Unconditional Basic Income for all Hungarian citizens would be a healthy, nutrient and fiber rich diet for a survivor.
Sir Ken Robinson says: find your tribe. In addition I say, keep learning to build truly visionary tribes for a better future. Instead of putting all the responsibility on constructive visionary leaders, be mindful of your responsibility as a follower, as part of a network, a tribe, a community and a society, because you are all parts of the tissue matrix of that society. Don’t grow up to be a simple adult. Grow up to be a mindful member of a society. We have different personalities and different opportunities. Think about who you are, what you can do, what you could become, learn as much as you possibly can, and be your best possible self. Don’t be a passive complainer who does not do a thing. Even daydreaming about a better life and getting angry with your boss can lead to a better future for many people, if you speak up.
Remember, dictatorships never last forever because societies are dynamic human systems.
Update: It is February 2017. Apparently some of the social tissue started to show signs of regeneration and some social groups are getting tired, angry and frustrated enough of the situation in Hungary. Perhaps The Momentum Movement could be the group that starts the change we need. The “tissue matrix” (the society) that surrounds “the confused cell” (the autocratic “leader”) is trying to tell the confused individual what to do (and what not to do). Healthy ideals are resurfacing again! Solutions are being offered!
Here is the only acceptable mission for humanity: