The Big Man – why macho leaders (sometimes) win in politics

New Philippine leader, Rodrigo Duterte, threatened to kill all the criminals and dump them in the sea, plus more statements of bravado. Seen as a potential liberator of the people – as well as a dictator by those more attuned to what statements can come to mean in no time at all – he wins by a landslide. Donald Trump threatens everyone, with walls or wars, and destroys his opposition – at least within the Republican party, whose voters he himself has called idiots. Vladimir Putin would no doubt love to be remembered as the bare chested Russian president with one foot resting on a bear’s head, the other holding a shot un pointing towards the sky.




So what’s going on with the macho leaders right now?

In times of distress, rapid change and seemingly endless conflict, many people who think there’s no alternative back the guy they think will protect them. (And such potential leaders love you to think there’s no alternative – remember Margaret Thatcher’s shut down of any other form of modern society other than neoliberal free market globalization?) This kind of domination has been going on since civilization was invented, well before the Romans began ruling the Mediterranean.

In ancient Mesopotamia, before Babylon’s permanent military had been installed, a city-state’s local ‘big man’ was voted in whenever a city had to go to war. This is like the neighbourhood tough guy leading the pack against the enemies from ‘over there’ – wherever ‘there’ happens to be. You now the guy – the football captain, high school jock, or local stand over man, or the gang leader who shows less fear and more convincing moves. The one who will lead us to victory in our tribal conflicts. Who will protect us and keep them out.


trump angry


In crazy times, reason takes a back seat. Pugnacious types come to the fore. Thoughtfulness is almost a liability. Compassion is weakness. Open hearted love and open armed welcomes come to be seen as mere foolishness, a luxury we cannot afford, a path to ruin.

 In evolutionary terms, we’re not that different from a pack of apes protecting their turf. We’re certainly not far distanced from the Mesopotamians. And we seem hell bent to vote in those most likely to incite world war three, or any number of other, smaller dirty wars, with other fearless leaders, filled to the brim with sabre-rattling rhetoric and stocked, perhaps, with chemical and/or nuclear weapons.




Can we ever be forgiven for this crime against the planet and all its life? Only if we choose to act with love and compassion, environmental awareness and reflectivity. And en masse, we’re seeing some dangerous signs.

How to react? Don’t. We’ve got to take our time and help convince everybody we can that violent bluster is no way forwards. You know the old saying: There is no way to peace, peace is the way. Along with active ecological awareness and the actions that go with that. Support your local food growers, or become one. Help build your local community towards resilience for the tough times ahead. Welcome those in need. Don’t vote for warmongers. Anywhere.


MLK Peace