Friday, October 15, 1999


Star-Bulletin archives
Mao Tse-tung and Marshall Nikolai Bulganin visit premier
Josef Stalin on his birthday in 1949 in this patently fake
photograph, as artificial as any icon in a church.

The dark side of absolute
power emerges

Burl Burlingame


The 20th Century has continued mankind's addiction to the cult of personality, but in ways that are dark and dangerous. Signs of everyday life in the 20th centuryLeaders in the past were either great statesmen or warriors, and citizens flocked to them out of admiration for their style of leadership, or they were philosophers or religious leaders, and folks rallied to them out of spiritual conviction. When the two halves meshed, conflict inevitably resulted, such as the great jihads and crusades.

In the 20th century, the notion that absolute power corrupts absolutely reached full flower in the fading blooms of Communism and Fascism. Leaders of these political extremes, which rejected religion as the "opiate of the masses" nonetheless used the mystic and procedural trappings of religion to cement themselves as figureheads. Chairman Mao's little red book supplants the Bible. Nazi stormtroopers stand in for priests. The religious icons of centuries are replaced by billboards of huge smiling faces, the projected "personality" at the moral center of a ruthless political agenda.

We know causes by their leaders. Pol Pot. Hitler. Stalin. Mao. Hirohito. Perot. Who's next?

"Everyday Life" is a photo feature that examines
the 20th Century. EVERYDAY LIFE, Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu HI 96813.

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