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‘Let Libya burn, I will not surrender’: Gaddafi’s and Hitler’s fatal addiction

September 2, 2011

“We are not weak women. We are not slaves. We can not give up. We cannot surrender,” Muammar Ghaddaffi said in the message broadcast on Syria’s Al-Rrai TV channel yesterday. “Let this be a long fight and let Libya be engulfed in flames,” he continued .

This is uncannily similar to Adolf Hitler’s orders from his Berlin bunker in the last weeks of the Second World War, when he ordered that Germany be burned and destroyed because the German people and their country did not deserve to survive without Hitler . Gaddafi similarly believes that without him, the Libyan people are doomed and should burn rather than survive without him. What psychologically is going on here?

Only a handful of people in the modern world have held the degree of absolute power that Gaddafi and Hitler held – even Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe has had to share some power with the opposition. High doses of power stimulate the release of testosterone in considerable quantities into the body, and this in turn triggers cascades of the brain’s chemical messenger dopamine.

Addictive drugs such as cocaine and heroin also cause such rushes of dopamine, and this overloads the brain’s reward system such that the addictive drug hijacks the reward system with all the terrible consequences of addiction that we are all familiar with.

But high doses of power have an almost identical effect and can be even more addictive. The power-triggered dopamine flood causes distortions to thinking and behaviour which are very similar to those that addiction to cocaine and heroin produce.

Gadaffi and his son Seif are, very probably, addicts (to the neurochemical effects of absolute power) and show all the behaviours that many chronic addicts display – criminality, prioritisation of getting the drug over everything else, self-delusion and self-destruction. The Libyan people better find the Gadaffi’s soon, because we can seldom expect normal, reasonable behaviour from addicts.

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