Failed Leadership in a Broken World

I don’t live all that far from Syria- a little over 1200 miles or slightly more than 200o kilometres. I have no plans to drive there in the near future, but a few years ago I would have. Syria was a well known tourist destination in this part of the world, renowned for its relative harmony amongst the various ethnic and religious groups, as well a place of historical interest too-its goes back to antiquity -circa 10,000BC saw the beginnings of the first sedentary cultures and lifestyles of humanity.  Today it is a terrible tragedy unfolding before our eyes.  More than 60,000 men, woman and children have been killed in a violent, bloody uprising against its current leader Bashar Al Assad. A disparate group of disaffected Syrians, based in other countries, some in England, the United States, Europe and the Middle East have laid claim to the throne and the right to govern the country-helped along by various armed militia, who receive money and illicit arms from many countries including the West. In fact several key western governments have recognised the armed militias and insurgents in the country as the legitimate leaders, even though the current President is still in power, albeit only by a hair’s breadth and a whistling bullet.  The suffering of ordinary men, women and children in Syria, the mass exodus of refugees to Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt, and the lack of will power in the United Nations to stop this madness, resonates with the National Socialists in Germany from the 1930s when they started killing and sterilising the less fortunate in their society, and herding Jews off too concentration camps-the world looked on aghast, but seemed impotent to intervene, before it was too late.

The United Nations is incapable of stopping this madness. The Syrian people are being held captive not only to the madness of its current President and his British born and educated wife, who appear to be mirroring a Macbethean tragedy upon the world stage, but also to a group of men in the UN security council who cannot agree on a way forward. The Russian Federation and the bare-chested, horse riding ,macho-madness of Vladimir Putin in particular are the stumbling block. How little he and his retinue appear to value life over political power and outdated geo political interests.

But Putin is not alone in his governance through fear, oppression and unchecked power. There’s the spectacle of the ‘Dear Leader” in North Korea, Kim Jong Un, whose people starve while he and his madmen spend billions of Aid money building missiles and shooting them into space while producing nuclear bombs and blowing them up underground.

There’s the failed state of Pakistan, with its fractured political and social structure, and corrupt Government and Military establishment which is losing ground to the madmen within various fundamentalist Islamic groups, who hate women and young girls and shoot the latter if they attempt to be educated. So caught up are the political elite in their own political tele-dramas that they cannot provide basic security, health, education, welfare and housing to millions of their citizens, and today survivors of the devastating 2005 earthquake still have no home, little  health care or basic amenities to manage their lives independently.

The Misogynist governance of India has been in the spotlight recently too. Its treatment of women and children especially female children is a crime against humanity. Recently, the mad mysogynistic men of the Salumber municipality in the state of Rajasthan have banned single women from using mobile phones, wearing jeans, singing and dancing. These joyless, sexually dysfunctional and suppressed men have proclaimed themselves the keepers of the moral virtues of all women, but in particular single women. Their bizarre and oppressive control of women is akin to the Vatican’s compulsory moral doctrine for men, women and children throughout the world and we all know where that led to if recent history is any  indicator of the ongoing suffering of  young women and vulnerable children. India’s outdated, colonialistic religious and social class structure is the cause of suffering for millions of its citizens, and the elite desensitized to the suffering they are exposed to day-to -day , pretend it doesn’t exist and live a life of historical and social denial.

The impoverished State of Bangladesh has a desperately bewildered population held captive by the corrupt and powerful government of Sheikha Hasina Wajed, who was elected by the people to actually fight corruption.  Its governmental leaders are so trapped within their own self-perpetuating cycle of deceit, betrayal and corruption they cannot break themselves free.

Then there’s the vain and obtuse President Hamid Karzi, installed by the United States of America after 9/11. He is trying to build a war ravished country which hasn’t been able to claim its own sovereignty for over half a century. He’s struggling to hold onto political power in the face of a violent, cruel and misogynistic rabble like the Haqqani and Hezbi Islami groups who also hate women and young girls and kill them for attempting to claim any basic human right. But beyond this tale of terror is a dark history fought out by the madmen and women of the cold war and beyond, who set up a proxy war in Afghanistan from the late 1940s. This resulted in well over a million Afghan men, women and children losing their lives. The sane madness of world leaders who contributed to this bloodletting included at the time, and not in any particular order,  Truman, Eisenhower, Khrushchev, Churchill, Kennedy,  Brezhnev, Attlee, Johnson, Eden, Nixon, Macmillan, Andropov, Ford, Chernenko, Wilson, Carter, Thatcher,  Gorbachev,and  Reagan to name a few.  Not to forget the imprudent bolshie alcoholic, Boris Yeltsin who was in there somewhere, but is mainly remembered during a State visit to the United States for standing outside the Whitehouse, drunk, in his underwear, trying to hail a cab to buy a pizza, while overseeing the disintegration of the USSR from 1991-to 1996-perhaps this drove him to the drink?

Israel and Iran too are ruled by a bunch of mad henchmen. The only difference between  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, some of the Ayatollahs, and Israel’s ruling parties are the clothes they wear. Each echoes to the other a dangerous sectarian and racist rhetoric which could in the short term prove catstrophic for the region. Israel’s treament of the Palestinians, especially its blockade of Gaza, its separation Wall and the occupation of the West Bank  resonate with images of ghettos from another time and place, and through this behavior the country continues to loose its moral standing and general global support and is becoming more isolated. The madmen of Hezbollah and Hamas too, with their poisonous and peverse childhood indoctrination programs of racist stereotypes and insidious sectarianism resonate with the once hatefilled rhetoric of the former First Minister of Northern Ireland, Ian Paisely, and  is harming any chance of peaceful co-existence between Jews and Muslims for generations to come.

The leaders of one of the Russian Federation’s nearest neighbors are worth a mention too. China is held up today as a future global political and economic powerhouse. What that means in reality is that a group of old men who dye their hair black, wear the same colored suits and ties and hold up an outdated and unworkable socialist political creed, imbued with the immorality of advanced capitalism masquerading as a quasi  rule of law, and who govern with ruthless, often times violent, unbounded and unchecked supremacy, will one day in the not too distant future rule the world as the new imperialist power, out stripping the once powerful United States of America.  China’s new order began with one of the most ruthless killers of the 20th century. History scholars now believe that up to 80 million people may have died during the rule of Mao tse Tung because of his policies and personals behaviors, making him responsible for more deaths that the most infamous of the 20th century’s henchmen, Stalin and Hitler. Today, China’s madmen continue to occupy the once peaceful and serene Buddhist country of Tibet, where they continue a policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide under the watchful yet impotent gaze of the United Nations and the rest of the world.

As I write the African Cup of Nations football tournament is being played out in South Africa. It’s been noted by a BBC sports commentator (an African) that because travel throughout Africa is so expensive, thousands of supporters from the sixteen participating countries are not able to attend.

Why is travel so expensive on one of the world’s richest continents? Africa could have one of the best and cheapest road, rail, air and sea links in the world. Unfortunately this isn’t possible because for the most part Africa is still being pillaged by its own leaders  in cahoots with ravenous Western , Eastern and Asian powers desperate for a share of its riches, especially its mineral, oil and gas reserves. Its people suffer unspeakable hardships, while from Egypt in the North to Capetown in the south millions struggle under unjust and oppressive ruling dynastic political parties. There’s the brutal, deluded and cruel ruler of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, who soon turns 90 years old and has been in power since 1987. He’s taken one of the once richest and most developed of Africa’s post independence countries, robbed and pillaged it until hyperinflation destroyed its currency. Nowadays it is dependent on foreign currency from the very countries Mugabe vilifies daily. Recently, it was reported that Zimbabwe had only $217 left in its public accounts. Equatorial Guinea is one of Africa’s largest oil producer’s along with Nigeria, yet both countries rank as the most corrupt and unjust on the whole continent. Each has appalling human rights records where trafficking of women and children is rife, while Nigeria as a whole is being held captive to an internal revolution of sorts in its northern states. Equatorial Guinea has a population of only 700,000 and is the richest country per capita on the African continent. Yet 20% of it children die before they reach 5 years of age because the current President, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, spends all the money on himself, and his family and designs and builds obscene projects like a new city in the equatorial jungle of the country while his people starve.

But it’s not only the developing world which is governed by mad men. Recently the Prime Minster of the United Kingdom announced that he would support the UK leaving the European Union-a loose federation of European States who have avoided war for over 60 years, thanks for the most part to Germany and France who have worked through centuries of historical differences since the ending of World War II, resulting in the EU being awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 2012. Cameron sounds like Shakespeare’s Cassius, trying to convince Brutus that Caesar needs to be taken down: “Why man, he doth bestride the narrow world like a colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about to find ourselves dishonorable graves”.  Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi’s scandal ridden political career and the ongoing criminal cases against him for engaging in sex with a minor at his now infamous ‘bunga bunga’ parties suggest that Italian political culture hasn’t changed  a great deal since the time of the Caesars. It won’t be long before  “Et tu Brute”  is heard echoing through the halls of the bicameral  legislature of the Italian parliament.

War, political crisis and the suffering of humanity by its own hand are welcomed by the corporate world too, where a Machiavellian approach to business is self evident. For example, Lockheed Martin is considered one of the most powerful defacto rulers of the United States of America. It runs a formidable information technology conglomerate that reaches into the very heart of global family life, while at the same time building and supplying weapons of mass destruction for the US, UK,  Europe and Israel; the latter spending over $1.8 billion annually on killing machines. In the world of health care, the madmen and women of the pharmaceutical corporations also contribute to the daily misery of the human condition. They lobby the Medical Schools of top Universities to promote and flood the market with drugs for obscure and highly questionable conditions like “social anxiety disorder” “attention deficit disorder” and promote their drugs through misleading pseudo-scientific articles which are promoted by the uncritical and misleading world of corporate advertising.

For the most part the world is governed by madmen, who subscribe to the treacherous political philosophy of the Italian intellectual Niccolo Machiavelli. He claimed that love and compassion got in the way of political status and eminence. If a leader, he wrote, must choose between being feared and being loved he should choose being feared. Love and compassion he claimed are very overrated, and ruling by fear will always prove more resilient. As I reflect on the world we live in today I regretfully think he was right.

The Secret Child Soldiers of the West

Whatever happened to the internet’s virtual avatar Joseph Kony?  The 2012 multi-media internet campaign created and promoted by the group Invisible Children described itself as a movement seeking to end the conflict in Uganda and told the story of a former child soldier called Jacob.  The campaign caught the attention of people from all walks of life, but the media specifically focused on the righteous indignation and outrage expressed by celebrities (surprised?) and high profile community representatives.  The real life Joseph Kony is alive and well of course, still waging war with the help of child soldiers, mainly in the heart of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The former Catholic altar boy, who claims Divinity as well as being God’s spokesperson here on earth, has been fighting to install a government in Uganda based on the Bible’s Ten Commandments.  But that hasn’t happened, so for the time being Kony is still at large with his child soldiers while being wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC). When his child soldiers are not fighting, they are usually high on drugs, and play violent video games. Reports suggest their life is tough and very dangerous. They are used to carry out highly dangerous tasks as message bearers and spies. Moreover, reports suggest that they are often used for sexual gratification by older soldiers.

There are several reasons why children are used as soldiers. Firstly, they are more docile and impressionable and easier to train. Secondly, during their training they have to kill and maim others. They do this willingly or have often been raised in violent circumstances or simply get a thrill out of the kill. Sometimes they are under the influence of narcotics. Finally, traumatised and fearing for their lives, they have gained a sense of belonging in a community whose only goal is to kill and maim others.

Adam Lanza was a child soldier. But he was a virtual child soldier. Before going on his killing spree at Sandy Hook Elementary school, it is reported that Lanza spent hours playing a violent online video game- Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.  Since it was launched and made public this shockingly violent interactive multi-media program erroneously called a game, has grossed over $ 1Billion in sales. In its first 24 hours of release it managed sales in excess of $500 million dollars. So what’s this game all about? Essentially it is described as a First Shooter Video Game. That means the player has an assault weapon on their screen and they shoot as many people dead as he/she can. The so called kills are accompanied with explicit graphic detail of exploding heads and body parts, along with screaming obscenities. The enemies are of course of African, Latin American or European origin-so negative cultural stereotypes abound in the so called game.  The website released some astounding statistics about the game and it is worthwhile quoting here in full:

For about 3 weeks, Call of Duty Black Ops 2 has been in the hands of players. The numbers are booming and players have killed the world’s population of 7 billion people about two and a half times over, being totalled around 18 billion kills. Players have been playing for about 19,000 virtual years. Nearly 375 billion shots have been fired.

Of the 18 billion kills, 1.5 billion have been head shots, averaging out to eight percent of all fallen losing their head. Over 106 million gamers have been stabbed in the back…Call of Duty players have destroyed over 319 million cars. (Lake, A, 2012)

Family friendly stores like Toysrus sell the game alongside their cuddly toys and baby care items. While respectable, conservative online retailers like also market the game as one of their top selling items. It is estimated that over 11 million accounts have been set up to play the game, and among those 11 million accounts a high percentage of the players are in the 12-15 year old age group. Furthermore, online reviews suggest that children as young as 8 years old play the game. Here’s what some of the children have to say about the game:

Kid, 11; love it. it is on for ages 11 and up.

Kid, 12 years old

What the review fails to realize is that you can turn off the blood and cursing. The game is violent. Basically the games goal is to kill as much as possible. I mean I hear worse words at school.

Teen, 14 years old

This game might look bad in the review but you don’t really concentrate on an enemy once they’re already dead.

Kid 10 years old

Black Ops is good for 10 and older in my opinion. When you first go to the main menu, a message will pop up asking if you want to enable graphic content. If you do not want your kids to see blood, gore, or hear very bad language press no. Now the blood and gore will disappear and very dirty words such as f*** will be censored. The game should be fine under these settings. However, these settings do not apply in multiplayer and online. Only let your kids play with friends online because players can have very inappropriate conversations. Also, words such as da*n, he*l, and a**hole are used in the single player campaign and it can be too violent for younger viewers. Hope this helps!!!

Kid 11 years old

First of all. There is no specific “language filter.”  But there is a content reducer. It takes out F-Words, blood, and gore. If you play the game with the content filter, it is just like a rated T game i think. If you play without the filter, it is really profane. It has a lot; and I mean a lot of blood and language without it. It tells a really complicated story but it makes sense at the end. I guess it can be “educational” by showing all of these different places and etc… that had to do with the Cold war and such but its my opinion. The controls are very easy to pick up on. If you have played MW2, the controls are the exact same. In conclusion, it is a great game. If you are a fan of the series or not, you will like it

Kid 12 years old:

This is the best Call of Duty I have played, and not as violent as Modern Warfare 2. The violence is not very bad except for a scene where you shove glass down a man’s mouth and then punch him in the face. I got it the day it came out for my PS3. Get the game.

Kid 11 years old:

Can someone tell my parents in a comment that this game is just fine? They think that just because i play it i am going to go outside and shoot someone. That’s crazy. (Common Sense Media, 2011)

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is one of a series of graphically horrific, sadistic and violent interactive multi-media manipulative experiences, and while marketed as a game for older teenagers and adults they  specifically target the innocence of children as potential users.  Users engage in simulated war like activities in which avatar like enemies, more often than not racist stereotypes, have to be killed in extremis in order for the online user to score points or win. The most worrying aspect of these kinds of online interactive controlling programs is that children are being manipulated and conditioned into negative psychological thinking, disturbing behavioural patterns and aggressive attitudes.  For example that certain races are the enemy or that killing is an integral part of life’s experiences, or that being at war is a natural state of existence. This is subtle but effective social conditioning and programming at its worst. It is highly manipulative propaganda too, with the message that killing people is fine if you have a clear mission in mind and feel compelled to do so. In one particular interactive program Modern Warfare 2 a scene is set up in an airport, and the user infiltrates a terrorist group earning their trust. The objective is to kill every civilian in the airport then get out. The graphic visuals include unarmed people in an airport running for their lives while being shot down in cold blood.
According to the American Psychological Association, violent video games increase children’s aggression. They become conditioned to react in a strong negative way, rather than responding in a discerning way.  For example they could attack something, or be mean to another person for no particular reason other than gaining personal pleasure.  Also research suggests that there’s an increased frequency of violent responses from children who engage with these interactive multi-media programs. A more disturbing aspect to these programs too is that like the child soldiers in Uganda and the DRC these interactive programs do not teach moral accountability or responsibility or the importance of an ethical worldview. The children who engage with them are rewarded for creating suffering and maiming and killing, and according to some psychologists, they inturn adopt aggressive postures, language and attitudes as normal coping mechanism in everyday life.  There’s also well researched evidence which suggests that engaging with explicitly graphic violent multi-media programs correlates with children and young people being less caring, kind and helpful towards each other and others, and that should they become addicted to these interactive media, like their child-soldier counterparts in Africa, they need to undergo a significant period of deprogramming to return to a relatively normal state of being in which they are able to engage with more healthy and positive ways of relating to their peers and significant other people in their lives.
The media, parents, care-givers, schools and other social institutions which take on responsibility for the disseminating of knowledge and information, and the education and welfare of children seem conflicted. On the one hand they argue for creating a nurturing community of children and youths, who as  learners and civil citizens will embrace positive healthy personal and social values that will create functional and sustainable communities. Yet, they shift blame away from themselves for the actions of those in their communities who have been programmed and conditioned through interactive multi-media platforms, to enjoy creating death and mayhem through killing others.

It’s time for us to recognize and act on the truism that corporate culture appropriates the innocence of children, just like Joseph Kony. It is about time that groups like Invisble Children, along with other Child Safety Organisations  and the Education profession, recognize and understand how compliant, obedient children at home and at school , when left alone or with their peers, are vulnerable to the manipulation and powerful conditioning of violent, interactive multi-media platforms which masquerade as games and entertainment.

There’s a powerful argument which asserts that the real teachers of our children are not in our schools, universities, colleges, churches, or other supportive social institutions. They reside in the boardrooms and advertising agencies of the corporate world; with its hidden agenda of offering a violent and aggressive consumer culture to children.

What are disappearing are trustful, supportive and productive bonds between adults and children. These are being replaced by a culture of suspicion, and a social consciousness endorsed through mis-trust and negative interactive multi-media platforms where everyone is a potential enemy. A nihilist social discourse is replacing the once positive hopeful social narrative  that regardless of our culture, religious and political beliefs or indivdiual life styles, humanity in general is able to work towards peaceful co-existence.


Common Sense Media. (2011, March 9). All teen and kid reviews for Call of Duty: Black Ops. Retrieved January 10, 2013, from Common Sense Media:

Lake, A. (2012, December 2). Call of Duty Black Ops 2 statistics and figures. Retrieved January 10, 2013, from

The Uncomfortable Truth about Violence, Entertainment and Violent Crime in Society.

Three weeks after the United States of America was overwhelmed with grief at the murderous rage of a 20 year old man who went on killing spree ending the lives of 26 people, including 20 children in addition to his own mother and then himself, the violent, horrific film Texas Chainsaw 3D, featuring an antagonist called Leatherface, who wears a mask made of human skin has topped the US box office making over $20 million in its first weekend release. The film is released by Lionsgate Pictures, and is directed by John Luessenhop and written by Debra Sullivan and Adam Marcus. I only mention these details because people ought to know who the purveyors of violent entertainment are. It is the 7th film in a series which portrays extreme, sadistic violence perpetrated by one human being on another.

The original movie, released in the 1970s, was refused a certificate by the British Board of Film Classification. They felt its themes of sadistic terror, extreme violence and aberrations of bizarre human behaviour unsuitable as a form of entertainment. The BBFC certainly showed a balanced duty of care for the moral well being of its society and local communities in protecting people from gratuitous, sadistic and sickening violence which masquerades as entertainment under the so-called Horror genre.  In sharp contrast the United States Supreme court ruled in 2011 that individual States did not have the right to regulate the sale of graphically violent video games to children, arguing that governments do not have the power to “restrict the ideas to which children are exposed”. Initially I was puzzled by this ruling because in in Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15, 93 S. Ct. 2607, 37 L. Ed. 2d 419 (1973), the Supreme Court concluded that a work is obscene and can be regulated if it appeals to a viewer’s prurient interest; portrays sexual conduct in a patently offensive way; and lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. The Court further ruled that interpretations of this definition may vary across the United States and that communities may apply their own local standards to determine obscenity. ( Encyclopedia of American Law, 2008) However, the above ruling was one based on sexual behaviour not on gratuitous violent behaviour, although it can be argued that a causal link exists between the kind of violence portrayed in Texas Chainsaw 3D and sexual violence perpetrated against others. Art it seems does imitate life.  It reflects a society’s accepted standards and values and what it holds and deems sacrosanct for the well being of its members. While it might appear that in the United States of America, despite its alarming statistics of sexual violence against women, men and children, prurient, aberrant and explicit sexual behaviour is less acceptable than sadistic violent behaviour, neither is acceptable in a civil society.

Social institutions, whether they are courts of law, educational institutions, or film classification boards act as control mechanisms in our societies.  The principle being that they regulate the kind of information which makes for a functional, as opposed to a dysfunctional society. Schools are examples where the kind of information along with the flow of information are carefully regulated, and for very good reasons.  Their inclusion and exclusion of information reflects the kinds of values a society embraces and the vision it has for its future.  For example, there is much debate and argument on the standard and quality of movies, novels and stories which should or should not be included in a liberal arts program.

A film like Texas Chainsaw 3D lacks any kind of intrinsic social value and if none of the films had  ever been made we would not have suffered any great  social or cultural loss. However, the series of films have been made, along with thousands of other excessively violent films, video and online games. And communities and societies have suffered great losses. Research into the effects of violent films, television programs and video games on young children suggests that they can develop more aggressive behaviours in their teenage and late adolescent years. Jack Kornfield’s (1994) alarming statistic that our children “see on average eighteen thousand murders and violent acts on TV before they finish high school” is  astounding and alarming. He writes further “On this earth as I write today, more than forty wars and violent revolutions are killing thousands of men, women and children. We have had 115 wars since World War 2 and there are only 165 countries in the world. Not a good track record for the human species. Yet what are we to do?” (Kornfield, 1994, p.25)

It’s an urgent question. What are we to do? Wait until another deeply disturbed person-a product of a particular culture and society-goes on another murderous rampage?

It seems to me that our societies have become so dysfunctional at a bureaucratic level that urgent discussions on returning to values which uphold the dignity and respect of human life have all but been lost. In trusting the branches of governments to look after our moral, social and political affairs we have given up any sense of personal moral and social responsibility. I am reminded of Adolf Eichmann’s defence when charged with crimes against humanity. He argued that he was not responsible in any way for the deaths of millions of Jews during World War 2. His job was one of a loyal government civil servant who had to manage moving masses of people from one country to another or from one town or city to another. Any consequences, immoral or otherwise which derived from his duty statement as an employee of the State were irrelevant to him and he argued that he was innocent of the crimes against humanity and not responsible for the deaths of any concentration camp prisoners.

The World in general, and the United States in particular did some soul searching after the Sandy Hook massacre-opinions were expressed, theories abounded and reasons were sought and offered as to why a young man would kill so many so violently. The killer’s disturbed mental health was a key argument put forward, and perhaps this was the case.  Or is it more to do with the collective mental health of a Nation or any Nation for that matter,  which seeks a high degree of gratification through various forms of violent and horrifying entertainment?


Encyclopedia of American Law. (2008, March 3). Philosophical Arguments for Censorship. Retrieved January 7, 2013, from West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2.: http://legal-dictionary.Philosophical+arguments+for+censorship

Kornfield, J.  A Path with Heart, Bantam Books, New York, 1994