Global Concerns - 15 - Bad Leaders & Bad Governance


1. Over the past few decades there has been a gradual awakening to the fact that humanity’s planetary assets and common interests are being severely damaged. By whom ? By the acts and omissions of politicians, governments, corporations, many international bodies and by the policies they impose. These are responsible for all bad leaders and bad governance wherever it is found. These are actively creating and sustaining all the big global problems that we highlight in our Global Concerns pages. Our measure of whether a leader, government or corporation (or any other body) is ‘bad’ or not is : Have they done or are they doing anything (anywhere) that causes, sustains or worsens any of the big global concerns ?

2. Speaking of bad leaders, we at Red Line Art Works are not fixated on the repulsive Trump in the USA (or any other current bad leader) but Trump reflects and represents the ugliest things in american culture - and worse. Our profile of Trump is here. He is a poisonous and polarising politician by any standard. As the leader of the world’s most economically and militarily powerful country the powers vested in Trump by the US constitution are considerable. It gives him great freedom and power so the potential damage he can do in the USA and across the world is greater than many other bad leaders around the world, some of whom are more constrained by their laws and constitutions. Trump is pushing forward neoliberal fascism, pure and simple. Given the awful history of fascism and fascists leaders, it serves nobody to deny this. Trump should be called out at every opportunity for the racist and fascist misogynist that he is. For those of us who do not like what Trump stands for, there is some better news in our account of Trump's 'End Times', which are already in progress.

3. We fully understand why so many people are very anxious about Trump (we are too) but he is an outcome/consequence of at least three bigger problems (more on this here). Even if Trump was to disappear tomorrow, these three
big problems with the US constitution and political culture would still exist and need to be solved. Trump alone is not ‘the big problem’. The big problem is that of ‘State Capture’. The USA, along with many other countries (this is not new) has been ‘captured’ : Taken over by the rich, big business and corporations, acting together as a corrupt elite, interested only in enriching themselves at the expense of ordinary citizens and the health of the planet. The USA is actually an Oligarchy, working within the pretence of a Democracy, pursuing policies to suit the interests of the powerful few, not the many (for specific evidence of that see paragraph 7 here). Trump and his neoliberal fascism are an obvious and repugnant outcome or consequence of these bigger systemic problems in the USA. Unfortunately, state capture (in various forms) exists in plenty of other countries around the world.

Examples of Bad Leaders

4. In this section we look at the wrondoings of the leaders of the global world order and the leaders of countries. The story of bad leaders and bad governance goes back a long way through human history. Bad leaders have existed in capitalist, communist, left-wing, right-wing, rich and poor countries in all regions of the world. Bad leaders also exist in other bodies
such as corporations, and international or transnational organisations. Many of these have more power than nation states and are completely unaccountable to ordinary citizens. Bad leaders exist in many forms, for example : Dictators, Tyrants, Demagogues, Despots, Monarchs, Authoritarians, Plutocrats, Autocrats, Oligarchs, Kleptocrats, and many more. We have listed over 140 examples of bad leaders here, some from the past and some from the present. It would be impossible to put the names of all the bad leaders on this list - it would be far too long. For each name on this list there are many others that can be added because each of these bad leaders has or had many hundreds (or thousands) of enablers, collaborators and active supporters, working closely with them or for them. These are all complicit in the bad leaders’ wrong-doings and may include, for example : Politicians, government ministers, political parties and their funders and members, press and media moguls, military leaders, heads of police, heads of security services or secret services, business people, corporate leaders, millionaires or billionaires, etc. So this list really only scratches the surface of this big global problem.

5. The stories of just the bad leaders we list here have so far filled thousands of textbooks and millions of news pages. Countless writers, witnesses to history, have told us all how these leaders came to power, documented their wrongdoings and spelled out the awful consequences which have affected (and still affect) billions of people. In today’s globalised and interconnected world there is no doubt that bad leaders have caused and are still causing enormous global, national and local problems.

What Problems Do Bad Leaders Cause ?

6. Here are just a few of the problems that bad leaders are causing for us all :

• Bad leaders often promote division in order to gain and hold on to power. Bad leaders can - and do - tell any kind of lies to get into power and to stay in power. Once in power, they pursue policies designed to create economic, social, ethnic, or religious conflicts in their own countries or with other countries – their tactic is to ‘Divide and Rule’.

• Bad leaders may also exploit or take control of weak state institutions (e.g. such as the Constitution or the Laws), or suspend them (for example in ‘States of Emergency’). They damage or remove democratic mechanisms, for example by : Suspending, cancelling or rigging Elections, suspending or shutting down parliaments or national Assemblies - all to stop themselves being held accountable. They use associates to help them, such as their 'Ministers', Government Officials or Civil Servants, the Military, the Police, Security or Secret services, the Press or Media or Social Media, or in Corporations such as those in the arms industry or (to restrict access to the internet) in big technology corporations.

• So-called ‘populist’ leaders are exemplified by Trump in the USA, former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Poland, presidential candidate Marine le Pen of the National Front in France, Erdogan in Turkey, Orban in Hungary, Chavez and Maduro in Venezuela, Putin in Russia, Bolsonaro in Brazil, and many more. They all appear to make themselves immune from challenges about their own corrupt, illegal or unethical behaviour. Populist leaders regularly blame, not themsleves, but some 'corrupt elite’ (as defined by the bad leader) for the problems faced by ‘working people’ but they define and blame them solely to benefit from popular discontent and to drum up support for themselves. These leaders
have no intention of tackling the problems seriously or in the interests of ordinary citizens.

• In an influential 2014 report titled ‘Working for the Few’ Oxfam, summarised the main point: “Extreme economic inequality and political capture are too often interdependent. Left unchecked, political institutions become undermined and governments overwhelmingly serve the interests of economic elites to the detriment of ordinary people... In other words, corruption can flourish when elites control the levers of power without any accountability.” Trump’s claim that he alone would “Drain the swamp” by reforming the Government in Washington clearly gained him many votes but all he has done is replace the alligators in the ‘swamp’ with his own who are loyal to him. The electors who voted for Trump did not elected a genuine anti-corruption leader, they voted for a Con Artist. Trump is rolling back key anti-corruption legislation, freeing-up corporations to do as they wish, ensuring they get big tax giveaways and ignoring conflicts of interests that exacerbate (not control) corruption. His policies are rapidly enriching the rich and making the poor poorer, exactly as he always intended.

• Bad leaders may foster armed conflicts within their own country (e.g. in recent years in Burma/Myanmar, in the Phillipines, in Thailand and in many other parts of the world). There are many examples of leaders using military forces, police or secret services to attack and imprison citizens of their own country, often including journalists and artists. Recent and current examples include China, Syria, Zimbabwe, Turkey, Rwanda, USA, Russia, Spain, Yugoslavia. If we look at the list covering the past century it is very long indeed. This has often been part of wider activities of political cleansing, ethnic cleansing or religious cleansing.

• In Syria the world has watched (and done little or nothing) while the Russian-backed regime of Bashar al-Assad has carried out brutal massacres in Aleppo, Homs, Ghouta, inside the capital Damascus and in many other places. Among the hundreds of thousands of his own citizens killed by his regime have been many thousands of innocent children - while President Putin of Russia has given Assad both political and military support. From an estimated pre-war population of 22 million (in 2011), the United Nations in 2016 identified 13.5 million Syrians requiring humanitarian assistance, of which more than 6 million are internally displaced within Syria, and another 5 million are refugees outside of Syria. We hope that the many participants in this conflict (including Russia and the USA) will one day be held responsible for their war crimes, crimes against humanity and the many other crimes they have committed.

• China, Iran and Turkey are among many countries with atrocious records of jailing or killing journalists, activists and artists. The former democracy in Turkey, once courted by the European Union as a likely new member, has seen a failed coup attempt in 2016 used by President Erdogan and his brutal regime to solidify his power and to push his political agenda. Erdogan’s regime has been closing down democracy and its institutions in Turkey. Any political opposition has been targeted. Hundreds of thousands of public servants have lost their jobs and their incomes overnight. Thousands of journalists, artists, activists and others have been jailed.

• Bad leaders may support ‘rebels’ or ‘insurgents’ or they may carry out or sponsor destabilising activities in their own or other countries (e.g. Israel's actions over the past century in Palestine). The USA has actively armed
and supported hundreds of covert or secret activities and secret forces inside other countries over the past century, at least. At any one time, in dozens of different countries around the world the USA is using its Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and its other ‘secret services’ to destabilise governments, oppositions, liberation movements, community groups, people’s movements, trades unions, economies, etc. For several years now the USA’s Presidents have authorised the illegal killings of hundreds of people using Drones and ‘automatic aircraft’. About one third of the people killed have been innocent children. These murders are said to be ‘signed off‘ by the US President in routine weekly meetings. The USA is not the only country with Drones spreading death across the world, secretively and unaccountably - Britain, France and Israel are also guilty of killing civilians with their Drones, as well as supplying Drones to many other countries with bad records of Human Rights abuses.

• Bad leaders in several parts of the world have exploited and fomented multi-lateral or bi-lateral conflicts– the examples of India-Pakistan, China-Japan, North Korea-South Korea, Israel-Palestine and many others come to mind.

• As we saw above, bad leaders deliberately magnify divisions among their own population so that they and their political allies may gain, retain or increase their power within the state. This ‘Divide and Rule’ tactic has also happened consistently in countries that claim to be beacons of ‘Freedom’ such as the USA and Britain. It is a favoured approach of rich and powerful elites running the countries for their own benefit, with the majority of their citizens powerless to bring about anything more than occasional, short term or cosmetic changes. This has been a very persistent strategy across many generations. Across the world this means 'Freedom' for the rich minority while billions of poor people's lives and futures are continually degraded.

• Bad leaders increase the wealth of the richest in their countries (and the corporations) by cutting taxes and destroying support for the poorest citizens - such as health, welfare and education. By doing that they restrict
the lives of individuals, families, communities and whole nations, including their future lives. Following the global financial crisis of 2007-9 the governments in many neoliberal capitalist countries gave massive 'Bailouts' (using public money) to rescue Banks and other financial institutions. Governments then made the publics pay for this by adopting the propaganda of ‘Austerity’ (a false ideology) to persuade citizens that they caused the crisis and must therefore pay for the financial crimes which were actually committed by the governments, financial institutions and corporations. Since then, inequality has increased greatly in these countries and it is now common for a poorly-paid night-shift cleaner of a corporate office to pay more tax than the CEO of the corporation. In many cases one single cleaner will pay more tax than the Corporation itself pays each year, because Corporations avoid paying any tax !

• In many countries bad leaders also ignore international standards of behaviour, human rights and a multitude of international conventions, agreements and laws. For example, the most powerful countries on earth (the five veto-holding members of the UN Security Council) have all refused to sign up to hundreds of international conventions, agreements and laws. Three of these five countries have failed to sign up to the International Criminal Court, preferring to keep themselves immune from investigation and prosecution for some of the most serious crimes on earth. More here

One last example of the problems caused by bad leaders : All of the world’s current leaders are jointly guilty of keeping in place policies responsible for the deaths of around 19,000 children EVERY DAY from preventable causes (according to figures published regularly by UNESCO over the past few years). This is unforgivable and should shame us all, especially our leaders who we empower to end preventable problems like this.

Dealing With Bad Leaders

7. The above list of examples of problems caused by bad leaders has hardly scratched the surface of their wrongdoings. In truth, bad leaders and bad governance should be prevented at source – by their own country’s constitutions, laws and justice systems. Instead, bad leaders are tolerated within states by, eg : corrupt elites, weak constitutions, weak laws or failing justice systems, faulty electoral systems, biased armed services and police, corrupt or biased press or media, illegitimate power-bases, etc.

8. Ultimately, if their own countries fail to deal with bad leaders then the International Criminal Court (the ICC – more on that here) is the right place to put them - whichever country they are from. They should be put on trial for their crimes,
preferably without delay. However, this global Court can only try suspects on a limited range of cases : War Crimes, Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity or the newly specified crimes of Aggression (the latter from 18 July 2018).

9. The International Criminal Court is really still in its infancy (more here) and has not really begun to improve the general standard of leadership or governance for the world’s citizens. However, states can volunteer (or not) to join the ICC and some big states have NOT joined including three of the five 'Veto'-holding members of the UN Security Council. Those who have not signed up to the ICC include many of the most powerful nations : USA, China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Israel, Yemen, Ukraine, Indonesia, Malaysia, North Korea, Myanmar (Burma), Egypt, Rwanda, Libya, Algeria, Zimbabwe, Greenland, Cuba, and many others. Apart from anything else, it is disgraceful that three big 'Veto'-holding states are allowed to dominate the UN Security Council whilst keeping themselves immune from key international laws.

Putting Pressure on Leaders & Governments to Make Big Improvements

10. Gradually, over the last few decades thousands of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), ‘Watchdogs’ and campaigning bodies have been doing great work investigating and exposing what politicians, governments, corporations and international bodies are doing (or failing to do). These NGOs and thousands of Whistleblowers have been exposing what is really happening across the world and within States. A long list of Whistleblowers and what they have revealed can be found here. The growth of the internet in the past couple of decades is helping NGOs to ensure that ordinary people across the world can now find out more about what is really happening.

11. These NGO’s critiques of the ‘status quo’ at global, national and local levels is now very comprehensive, detailed, and increasingly influential. These NGOs cover a very wide spectrum of global concerns, including all those which are highlighted here in our summaries of the big Global Concerns. You can see some of the key NGOs in our list of Links here.

12. As a result of all this work by NGOs, Watchdogs and Whistleblowers, a massive set of uncomfortable truths have been emerging about what politicians, governments and corporations have been doing (contrary to all our interests). As a result, each year hundreds of millions more people are awakening to these damaging policies and activities. The so-called ‘World Order’, the status quo, is obviously insecure and highly dysfunctional. It is in itself a major global concern. There has been a growing sense that we have all been misled into not just two big global emergencies (Climate and Ecological) but several emergencies.

13. International bodies have also not been preventing this when they should have. Instead, they are too influenced by bad leaders, governments, and corporations which have been allowing and enabling extensive harm and creating great risks to people and planet. For example, they are allowing societies and industries to emit greenhouse gases and degrade environments which are causing the Climate and Ecological Emergencies. Bad leaders and bad governments are keeping in place a wide range of policies which enable economies and financial institutions to create inequalities and inequities across the world. They are allowing enormous poverty, famines, conflicts and wars to develop and persist.

14. What we would like the big International bodies to do (but they show no sign of doing this) is to create a legally enforceable framework of laws that insist on every State having a good written and properly codified Constitution including integral high standards of democracy, leadership and governance (including excellent Human Rights and the rapid dismissal of bad leaders and governments) to ensure global best practice everywhere in the interests of the vast majority of the world's citizens, not in the interests of the elites, as now.

What Can Art and Culture Do ?

15. Leaders and Governments have not given the International Criminal Court the powers to tackle this epic scale of wrongdoing. So, its essential that NGOs, Whistleblowers and we (the public) should speak up about this in whatever ways we can, whenever we can. When politicians, institutions and the media fail then other global influencers have to work harder to bring change. If we are lucky enough to live in countries with relative freedoms and are lucky enough to have received an education then we have been privileged - and with that comes responsibility. That is why we at Red Line Art Works ask artists and creative people (who can be among the key influencers) across the world to ‘speak up’ in their art works. These are potentially more powerful than thousands of words.

16. Changes in the culture, among the mass of the people, can expose politicians and political systems to pressures which lead to progressive change. Indeed, there is plenty of historical evidence from all around the world that big pressure from the mass of the people is sometimes the only thing that can bring significant changes to leadership and governance. There is plenty of evidence that mass movements of citizens look to their artists, songwriters, performers and writers etc for inspiration, for validation of big social causes and for confirmation of their own ideas about social and political change. This pressure on politicians and institutions might have to be sustained for years (even generations) before the desired change eventually comes. Think of the fall of Apartheid in South Africa, the fall of the Soviet Union and of Communism in eastern Europe - and many more big changes achieved only after years of struggle. Artists cannot expect to leave all of the struggle to others and just selfishly take the benefits when the change comes. That is no way to ensure respect for your art or for yourself. We all have to be in the struggle, in whatever way we can. Artists and arts and cultural institutions who keep silent are being complicit with the bad leaders, governments and corporations which are pushing our planets and our civilisations towards destruction.


16. As we end this Introduction to bad leaders and governance we ask you to consider this question : Do bad leaders cause bad governance or vice-versa ? This is a bit like the question : Which comes first, the chicken or the egg ? Of course, it works both ways. Bad leaders and the constitutions and laws that allow them to get into power are ultimately responsible for all of the big global concerns, risks and threats which now face humanity. So, bad leaders and bad governance are always related and are often two sides of the same coin. Global institutions and States all need constitutions and laws that will prevent power ever being given to (or taken by) bad leaders. However, the whole world is unfortunately still a long way from that situation, which is why the big global concerns are so enduring.