Of all the social, philosophical, political, technological, environmental and psychological themes present in the science fiction masterpiece called "Dune", one of its main themes is the danger posed by charismatic leaders, the blind following and unquestioning belief associated with such cults. And let's say up front that not all charismatic leaders spell doom of course, but that doesn't change the central message of today's post.
The mistakes (of leaders) are amplified by the numbers who follow them without question. Charismatic leaders tend to build up followings, power structures and these power structures tend to be taken over by people who are corruptible. I don't think that the old saw about 'power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely' is accurate: I think power attracts the corruptible.
source: AZ Quotes
Frank Herbert's son Brian much later said essentially the same: "It's dangerous to follow a charismatic leader, because he'll lead you off a cliff." If you're familiar with the Jonestown Massacre, you know that these statements by father and son are true. One of Dune's driving themes, in short, is that leadership should always be questioned. I'm very pleased to see that the large following of Bernie Sanders, consisting largely of enthusiastic and willing supporters, working class people who donated their last hard earned dollars to support his campaign of anti-establishment economical policies, has proven to be anything but a cult; just look at the criticisms now directed at Sanders since he prematurely left the primary race and simply failed to leverage the power he had to at least try to move the Democrats' goalpost slightly to the left. Progressive YouTube Channels, at least the ones I'm watching, have no trouble whatsoever to call out Bernie's obvious failings on those issues, especially when he starts blaming his own followers for not blindly voting for Biden.
Frank Herbert - Interview on TV
This is in contrast to what I see on the opposite side; Trump's equally enthusiastic followers are very much like a cult, or so it appears to me looking in from the outside. They'll defend their leader no matter what nonsense he says or tweets, again adding the caveat that I'm only looking in from the outside, from the comfort of my left wing bubble on the internet. I try to make it a habit to occasionally click on right wing content actively, as to try and influence the search results, something that used to work, but isn't anymore since YouTube simply decided to rank alternative news sites, left AND right, much lower; the algorithms now ensure that "reliable mainstream media" sources are at the top of the search results. Bye-bye free and open internet. Speaking of which, Sanders was absent during a vote that would make it harder for the government (actually the tech-giants selling us out to the government) to gain access to all your browser data; something else Sanders is now rightfully scolded for by his own followers, because there was just 1 vote missing for the vote to turn out right...
I'm very curious to see if this main theme of the original Dune trilogy comes through at all in the eagerly awaited Dune film this December. Paul Atreides is clearly the type of charismatic leader Herbert tried to warn us against, and reading the books you get this strong sense that Paul isn't the squeaky clean protagonist we know from traditional storytelling. In the second novel in particular, we are introduced to Paul's darker side. He refuses to make the ultimate sacrifice he knows is needed to stop the Jihad that will be fought in his name, a storm that will rage over the known universe and kill billions of people in its wake... If you're not yet familiar with these books, what are you still doing here? Just kidding, but do go and read them if you have the chance to do so. And if you plan on letting the new movie be your first introduction to this marvelous universe, avoid this below linked video, as it goes into more detail of Dune's main themes. The rest of you, please enjoy!
What's The Point of Dune? The Key Themes of The Dune Saga
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