The making of a tyrant

BY SAMUEL MARUTA Chakafukidza dzimba matenga, Zimbabweans say. Loosely translated, this Shona proverb means roofs conceal many goings-on in homes. Unfortunately one of the major goings-on in Zimbabwean homes, as perhaps in homes in other countries as well, is the making of tyrants and criminals

through the beating and abuse generally of children by their own parents, close relatives and caregivers.

According to the perceptual projection theory of social behaviour people behave according to the reality that they perceive the world to be. This perception depends on one’s psychological condition or the state of one’s inner self, which is a creation of a combination of our inborn characteristics or genetic endowment, our upbringing or early childhood experiences, and our earlier experiences in relation to a particular issue.

For example, a deeply hurtful childhood tends to produce a highly hateful and cruel adulthood. If such people get into leadership positions at whatever level of society, they display tyrannical tendencies. Their privileged position gives them the opportunity to take revenge on society for the psychological injuries they suffered in childhood as the battered child inside them comes back and takes charge. Unaware of the harm their upbringing did to them, they see nothing wrong with causing pain and suffering to others.

A look at the background and exploits of some notorious people to have graced this world would help illustrate this point.

Adolf Hitler of Germany usually quickly comes to mind as one of the most notorious dictators this world has seen. History records that his father beat him mercilessly from an early age. He grew up with a double burden, the unorthodox Jewish lineage and the vicious beating by his father which he blamed on his unknown paternal Jewish grandfather. In an attempt to come to terms with this double burden, Hitler developed a hatred of the Jewish race until he became convinced of the need to kill all the Jews in order to free not only himself of Jewish blood but also all of Germany and the whole world.

Another notorious dictator that also comes to mind is Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, otherwise known as Joseph Stalin, of the former Soviet Union. He caused millions to suffer and die because even at the height of his power, his actions were determined by an unconscious, infantile fear of powerlessness.

Many more dictators could be cited, such as Mao Zidong of China who in his childhood was regularly whipped by his father and who sent 30 million people to their deaths in his adulthood. Closer home there is Sani Abacha of Nigeria who sent Ken Saro Wiwa and his fellow Ogonis to the gallows for politely asking him for a small share of their own wealth. Even closer to home is Joseph Mobutu, otherwise known as Mobutu Sese Seko, of the then Zaire (DR Congo) who was richer than his own country of diseased and impoverished people.

Finally at home, virtually no day passes by without the newspapers reporting on some heinous crimes such as rape, torture and murder. Fathers have been reported as having raped their own children, some of them in their nappies. Children have been reported as having axed their parents to death.

Recently during the farm invasions and operation murambatsvina, deeds were reported done that could only have been perpetrated by, and defendable or justifiable to, tormented souls.

So the question is: How do we, as social beings, live our lives? Above all, the theory questions how we bring up our children. The default is for us to do it the way we were brought up by our own parents. However most of us were abused in one way or another, albeit with good intentions, and the results are there for all to see – we are dangerous to ourselves and our societies.

The time for a paradigm shift is now. As parents, we have an influence on what kind of adults we want to produce out of our children. We should, therefore, begin to lay the foundations of a more benign future by protecting them from abuse of any kind. As one expert on the effects of childhood hurt on adulthood behaviour once said, many people do not know that they are placing dynamite in this world by abusing their children. Let us all beware.

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