Skip to content

Peeing Where an Emperor Peed

April 20, 2014

Image

He is unsettling his fellow world-leaders so much that they are scrabbling to form an economic and military  alliance to protect themselves from him.  His behavior across central Europe is violent and unpredictable and he has made repeated attempts to shut off key supplies to his opponents.

His well-trained troops are energized by the nationalist fervor which he has whipped up at home with the help of an intense and carefully-fostered personality cult. Their expansionist aggressions are causing intense anxiety across central Europe. He himself is driven not only by ambition for his country and erstwhile empire, but by a sense of personal humiliation at the loss of that empire which he regarded as one of the great tragedies to befall mankind.

He is a small man of 5 and a half feet (1.6 meters), narcissistic and encourages distribution of pictures of himself in a range of poses and settings conveying a high machismo. His small stature and humble origins may be key to how for him, political and military action may be an intensely personal affair unconsciously driving him to try to heal the wounds of life’s early humiliations.

Under his iron fist, political opponents have been jailed, disappeared and executed. He brooks no criticism and has accumulated vast personal wealth, but he is strangely adored by vast swathes of the populace who seem to find comfort in the certainties of authoritarianism. And their standard of living has risen under his rule, while the country indubitably works more efficiently and has modernized rapidly.

I have just followed the footsteps of a key 100 days in the career of this leader, trying to get under his skin, psychologically speaking, and to understand what drives this man who is such a threat to the peace and stability  of Europe. After all, this year is the one, I believe, which historians will see as the turning point for the whole of western civilization. For if 1815 should end with Napoleon Bonaparte again Emperor of Europe, then the world should tremble.

There is something about standing at a spot where you know that Napoleon Bonaparte took a piss – I kid you not – to get you under his skin in a strange sort of way. Each morning I woke up feeling closer to Paris and to that aching need for power and empire that drove him on like the addict’s need for more heroin.

And once you start imagining Napoleon and what was going on in his world in 1815, you simply cannot help thinking of how he as conqueror strutted the streets of Moscow three years before, Emperor of Russia. Nor can you help thinking about another, present-day, Emperor of Russia and wonder what sort of a trail of bewilderment he will lay for Europe over the next decade for us to follow in the future.   

I was following the latest in the Let’s Trail (www.letstrail.com) series – Let’s Trail Napoleon’s Hundred Days by Pier Kuipers.

 

Image

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jake permalink
    April 23, 2014 3:41 am

    Hard to know where Putin ends and Napoleon begins in this post!

    But I would say that Napoleon’s origins were not exactly humble coming as he did from minor nobility and his ‘expansionist aggressions’ may well have been ‘causing intense anxiety across central Europe’, but they were also welcomed by many as he ‘freed’ the common people in the lands he conquered. The anxiety was felt by the ruling regimes of Austro-Hungary, Prussia and particularly Russia, which had little appetite for extending ‘rights’ of citizenship to their subjects. Hence there was the intriguing spectacle of Beethoven and others celebrating while Napoleon besieged and pounded Vienna’s walls.

    The ‘certainties of authoritarianism’ were actually restored at The Congress of Vienna by Metternich and his fellow reactionaries – just ask the peasants of Russia, labouring for another 46 years as feudal possessions of their overlord class!

    But there again, maybe I’m just missing the point…))

  2. April 23, 2014 9:12 am

    Fair point, Jake. But remember that when Beethoven heard that Napoleon had crowned himself Emperor, he ripped through the title page of the 3rd Symphony which he had dedicated to Napoleon and renamed the symphony the Eroica because he refused to dedicate one of his pieces to the man he now considered a “tyrant”.

  3. Jake permalink
    April 23, 2014 10:05 pm

    I take that point, Ian, although if I’m not wrong, Beethoven continued to vacillate on the subject of the original ‘special one’ for the remainder of his days…))

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 213 other followers

%d bloggers like this: