Friday, January 8, 2010

Harper's obsession: control and dominance

Authoritarian leaders have four core traits. They are dominating, opposed to equality, committed to their own power, and amoral. They have no compunction about cheating to win, taking advantage of people, or creating false images to sell themselves. In present-day North America they are usually politically and economically conservative.

When a highly authoritarian leader obtains unfettered power, his obsession with control and dominance almost always inflicts widespread damage on his society and its institutions. This is true no matter whether the leader is right-wing or left-wing. -- ferani, in comments at the Toronto Star, referring to the work of Dr. Robert Altemeyer.

Robert Altemeyer is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Manitoba. His book, The Authoritarians, is available online here.

There is one safeguard known generally to the wise, which is an advantage and security to all, but especially to democracies or against despots. What is it? Distrust. -- Demosthenes (384-322 BC)

There are two fairly standard approaches to political power used by those who seek it. Some seek power with the assumption that the citizenry are the source of legitimacy and are to be treated with respect. Others concentrate on identifying whatever insecurities there are in the citizenry and on exploiting them. -- John Ralston Saul

What is hateful is not rebellion but the despotism which induces that rebellion; what is hateful are not rebels but the men who, having the enjoyment of power, do not discharge the duties of power; they are they men who, having the power to redress wrongs, refuse to listen to the petitions that are sent to them; they are the men who, when they are asked for a loaf, give a stone. -- Wilfred Laurier, in the House of Commons, 1880