Allure of toxic leaders

January 23, 2021

A modern state is made up of two imperatives: state sovereignty and national integration. It ceases to be a state in the true sense when any of the two is compromised.Leadership has critical...

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A modern state is made up of two imperatives: state sovereignty and national integration. It ceases to be a state in the true sense when any of the two is compromised.

Leadership has critical implications for this nation-state. Its success leads to strength and prosperity; its failure to ominous fissures within the state. The US, in the guise of the Monroe and Stimson Doctrines, termed changes anywhere in the world as a challenge to US interests; 9/11 became a carte blanche to terrorize the Muslim world.

Pierre Hassner encapsulated American unilateralism as “this exceptionalism to consider that the US is empowered, because of the purity of its intentions and the excellence of its regime, to judge between good and evil and to punish the wicked and troublemakers with the self-righteousness that typifies the benevolent hegemony”.

Dr Jean Lipman-Blumen, author of ‘The Allure of Toxic Leaders’ is an expert on leadership. She defines toxic leaders as those whose “destructive behavior and dysfunctional personal characteristics generate serious and enduring poisonous effects on those they lead”. She also describes how toxic leaders possess and bring about “negative emotional mood swings, aggression, unethical deviant conduct, theft, fraud and sabotage”.

Mary Trump is a clinical psychologist; she is also the niece of Donald Trump. Her book, aptly titled ‘Too Much and Never Enough; How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, sold nearly one million copies on its inaugural day. In the book, the author dissects Trump’s persona finding him an individual besotted with “narcissism, sociopathic traits and learning disabilities”. She also faults Trump’s “craven need for revenge” as being responsible for “mass murder” given his indifference to the coronavirus epidemic fallout in New York and elsewhere in the US.

Toxic leaders destroy the very fabric which makes a nation. The Capitol Hill images shattered the crafted visage of the ‘United States’. Spin doctors would like to portray the horned and shirtless Jake Angeli and his cohorts as a bunch of loonies; they represented the true face of long suppressed anger and resentment. The fact is that Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the White House helped vent the leashed sentiments ushering in unabashed supremacies’ in, apart from other countries, the US and India.

The year 2024 could even see candidate Donald Trump Jr, a personification of the senior Trump. He has a legion of social media fans and is a revered ‘Make America Great Again’ troll. The other alternative from the ‘all in the family’ presidency is Ivanka, dubbed HABI (home of all bad ideas) by critics. Her husband Jared Kushner, disparagingly referred to as “secretary of everything”, was Trump’s Palestine ‘peace maker’ and also led a corona epidemic taskforce. He was an unmitigated disaster at both. However, the couple used the White House to woo royalty, world leaders and corporate bigwigs.

As the family flourished so did the Trump businesses. Trump International Hotel in DC became an attraction for Republicans, corporations and foreign governments, adding millions of dollars to the Trump kitty. Over 137 events were hosted at Trump facilities to elicit the administration’s favor. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago and other resorts hiked membership fees so great was the deluge of wealthy membership seekers.

Pakistan was always castigated over the security of its nuclear arsenal. Iraq’s nuclear facility was bombed and Iran’s peaceful nuclear program and personnel were criminally targeted. Today, a frantic Nancy Pelosi calls General Mark A Milley, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, about keeping “an unstable President (Trump) from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike”.

The freedom of speech avatars welcomes the permanent suspension of the leader of the free world’s Twitter and YouTube account. In an unprecedented first, US military leaders condemned the “seditious invasion” of the US Capitol by rampaging Americans and exhorted their resolve to defend the state (from itself). What a twist of fate indeed!

Trump may have lost the elections but garnered a mammoth 74 million votes to Biden’s 81 million. What he lost in numbers was neutralized by the toxic fervor. Given Mary Trump’s pathological definition of her uncle, Narendra Modi seems a Trump clone. Modi, like the Trump sarkar, has created fractures within the polity that makes a nation and a state. The most worrisome aspect is that, true to the allure of toxic leaders, this ominous stratification has resonated with the compliant masses.

Modi has created for himself a persona of a (fallacious) 56-inch-chest alpha male, out to avenge what he calls the ignominy of being ruled by Muslims. In doing so he has, according to a paper by Sukhadeo Thorat for the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, created an India where average life expectancy of an upper caste Hindu is 20 years more than that of a Scheduled Caste person.

The brutalities waged on Kashmiris and other religious minorities, the callous indifference to the plight of Indian farmers are yet another means to satiate the sociopathic tendencies of a destructive leader. As the former White House resident walks into the sunset, let us hope eventually so too shall his clones. The many wounds they leave behind shall take decades to heal; the scars will remain forever.

The writer is a freelance contributor.


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