Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Beyond Mein Kampf: Three books by dictators

1. Quotations from Chairman Mao

Published from 1964 through 1976, and still a popular read in much of the People's Republic of China, this is a collection of parts of speeches, letters, and general utterances of Chairman Mao Zedong. It was commonly known as the "Little Red Book" and also featured many images from the life of the Chairman. At one point, it was more prominently displayed than even images of the Chairman himself. While it was not required reading for the population, it was commonly printed in small pocket editions, so it could be with one always, and issued to soldiers and other grunts, even, presumably, throughout the Great Chinese Famine.

2. The Green Book

Published in 1975 until right around the Libyan Civil War in 2011, this was a small collection of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi's thoughts on all matters political. It was said to be directly inspired by Mao's "Little Red Book". Unlike that book, The Green Book was published with the intent of making it required reading for all Libyan citizens. Libyan children during Gaddafi's reign had to study the book for two hours per week as part of official school curriculum. Quotes from the book were also broadcast daily over the official radio stations. Billboards were everywhere with quotes from the book. Can you say "citizen brainwashing"? Revolutionaries burned the book at protests and its since become quite a rare publication since the overthrow of Gaddafi.

3. The Ruhnama

We have now reached the epitome of batshit egomania. This book, roughly translated as "The Book of the Soul", was the work of Saparmurat Niyazov, "President for Life" of Turkmenistan until his death in 2006. This was just a little bit more than a run-of-the-mill political rant. Example:

That's a real giant statue of the book, elevated on a rotunda surrounded by bubbling fountains. Here's some people around it for scale:

No, wait, we're not done. Every evening, the giant damned thing opens and displays text and plays video! Here's a video showing the construction of this behemoth, and showing it in action:

Yeah, eat your heart out, Stephen King.

The Ruhnama is not just a political tract, but spiritual scripture and autobiography of Niyazov himself. Required reading in school? That's small potatoes! Reading from the book took you from kindergarten to college in Turkmenistan. You couldn't publicly criticize the book without being thrown in prison and tortured. To make more room in the schedule for studying the Ruhnama, algebra, physics, and phy-ed were removed from the curriculum. You'd have to pass a test on the Ruhnama to get a driver's license. Quotes from the thing are inscribed in half the hard surfaces in Turkmenistan. Posters of the Ruhnama flank the streets. By law, it has to receive equal treatment with the Qur'an, even in Muslim mosques.

Shortly before his death, Niyazov claimed that he had arranged it with no less than GOD HIMSELF that anybody who read the Ruhnama three times was guaranteed a place in Heaven.

We could go on all day, all night, and all day tomorrow about the blood-curdling insanity and megalomania of Saparmurat Niyazov and the utter hell-on-Earth of a nightmarish, dystopian, totalitarian dictatorship this human piece of shit imposed on his imprisoned citizens (who were restricted from legally exiting the country), but this page on traveling Turkmenistan gives you a very good taste of it.

It is fitting that the Internet-fabled "Door to Hell" (a natural gas fire that has raged for 40 years) is in Turkmenistan. How come we've heard all about Kim Jong-Il and Saddam Hussein, but never Niyazov?