Friday, July 30, 2010


Power corrupts, of that I have no doubt. But does corruption also include rampant paranoia and megalomania?

I think one thing that this trip has taught me is that absolute power makes men think they are gods. Men - you are not gods.

I visited the Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an, China a couple of days ago and its sheer size is magnificent, the artistry is spectacular and the level of preservation is unparalleled. I just couldn't help but thinking that this dude was certifiably insane.

The Terracotta Warriors are a massive army of 8000 lifesize replica soldiers that are all different and were placed in full scale battle-ready positions. Built 1800 years ago for the first Emperor of the Qing dynasty, the army may have been constructed to protect the Emperor in the afterlife, although some people think that it may have been because Emperor Qin Shi Huang, in all of his cockiness, thought he could continue to rule from the heavens.

Then of course we have Mao Zedong, a pretty nifty dude at the beginning of his rule, then his ideas of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution cost China millions of lives. Kudos.

Of course there is Stalin. Psychopath.

All of these larger-than-life figures had one thing in common - a belief in their own god-like status and yet a level of insecurity so high that they forced, coerced, cajoled their public into believing their psychosis and building crazy-ass structures to prove their power - the Pyramids for the Egyptian Kings, the Taj Mahal, St. Peter's Basilica for some Jesus-guy and the Terracotta Warriors.

Some of the most incredible tourist sights in the world are for dead dudes, normally planned and executed by the leader themself. Talk about self-indulgence.

In my tour of megalomaniacs of the last two millenia I started thinking about one guy I haven't mentioned yet - Chinggis Khan. He wanted an unmarked grave, constructed no lasting structures to prove his power and generally just wanted to be left alone to rape and pillage. In other words, Chinggis Khan is my buddy.

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