The lighter side of tyranny.
Those who appreciated the satirical bite of Borat will find a kindred spirit here, though enjoying Norwegian journalist Hem’s humor is easier if you forget the brutality, impoverishment, imprisonment, and murder that come along with despotism. The author draws from personal experience living in Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe as well as anecdotal evidence from the totalitarian regimes in Uganda, Cuba, North Korea, and elsewhere. “ ‘You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time,’ said Abraham Lincoln. Obviously, he was no dictator,” writes the author, who shows readers how to become a dictator and stay in power as well as how to behave while in power (get rich, help your friends and family, become extravagant in your furnishings and sexual appetites) and how to plan for the possibility that your reign might end. Hem uses facts to underscore his absurdities, such as the ascent of a Central African dictator: “The total coronation cost is calculated to be $22 million, a fourth of the country’s annual budget. At that point, two-thirds of the country’s four million inhabitants lived on less than one dollar a day.” Funny? Or tragic? Maybe such atrocity is best reflected through the fun-house mirror, and maybe more readers will learn about the conditions under which much of the world lives through such a satirical approach. And maybe someone will be motivated enough to follow its precepts to achieve the rewards it promises—though becoming a dictator, the author acknowledges, is easiest if your father is one or if you have an army behind you. “If you succeed as dictator,” writes Hem, “you are guaranteed a life filled with excitement, unlimited power, a population that worships you like a god, and, most of all, fantastic wealth.”
Alternately amusing and depressing, a hit-or-miss book of political satire.