Tuesday, July 17, 2012
The powerful and the paranoid
Roman emperors had a lot to fear, including their Praetorian Guard. The very people who were supposed to protect them often were the ones who did them in. The lesson has not been lost on the powerful throughout history.
To this day rulers fear their own guard detail. In modern times it still happens. Third world dictators get bumped off by their own security who think they’d make much better dictators. Sometimes someone with a political ax to grind makes it into the inner circle. Occasionally a once loyal guard becomes disillusioned -familiarity breeds contempt.
Other powerful people are also at risk. It’s believed that more than a few Popes succumbed to being poisoned by their own medical staff. How else do you get rid of a bad or demented Pontiff?
Rich business people have been kidnapped because their staff conspires with the kidnappers. Not too long ago in Florida a couple was murdered by one of their staff. Being in a gated and exclusive community didn’t save them.
Death by Praetorian Guard doesn’t happen all that often in First World countries. That is, unless you believe some of the Kennedy assignation theories. What we seem to get is things like the Secret Service prostitute scandal -incompetence and unprofessionalism.
Even in the First World, leaders are always worried about their safety. The less they have in common with the average person, the worse their fear. They become like the royalty before the French revolution, completely disconnected from the plight of the common folk. They don’t understand them so they fear them.
“Emperors” are in a bind. What class of people are they going to get their guards from? Certainly not from the aristocrats who would never sully themselves with such work. They have to recruit from the lower classes, a group of people they have little in common with.
The more a country is run by a tiny group of elite, the more likely it will become a police state. The paranoia starts at the top and goes all the way to the bottom. It’s a sickness that expresses itself in checkpoints, searches, security cameras, militarized police, and a general surveillance state. They aren’t really trying to protect the country as a whole, but the elite who run it.
I don’t feel bad for these people. They created the conditions that require them to sleep with one eye open. The guard at the door is just more person to be anxious about.