Reviews | A world moving towards autocracy


For the editor:

David Brooks notes that our founders “had no illusions about the depravity of human beings”. Realizing this and fearing ambitious demagogues, they built a democracy with checks and balances. Now, Mr. Brooks sees the threat to liberalism and the destruction of democracy taking place not only in the world but in our own country. He asks, “What happened?” as he sees the 21st century so dark, regressive and dangerous.

As a psychiatrist, I believe I can answer his question. We are all born with good and bad instincts, but we learn to control and repress our lowest instincts, including anger and greed, to be part of a working society. I think Mr. Brooks is right that unbridled narcissism took over, overturning the healthy repression that allowed us to live in a democracy.

A demagogue, our former president, through the use of primitive mob psychology, unleashed the irrational rages that have deceived so many citizens and officials that we are now a sick and divided nation.

We are in a very dangerous period. If we do not rid our nation of its disease and become the United States again, we will see the end of what has been the greatest democracy in the world.

Howard A. Corwin
Naples, Florida.

For the editor:

We live in dark times indeed, but David Brooks’ recollection of the 1990s as a golden age of what he calls “good news” is complete nonsense. Did he forget the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which resulted in approximately 800,000 deaths? Or the Congo civil wars, the carnage in the Balkans, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and so on?

Millions of people died violently during this decade or became refugees, orphans or walking wounded. Indeed, aside from the two world wars, the 1990s were one of the bloodiest decades of the 20th century.

Chris Hennemeyer
The author is an international consultant.

For the editor:

David Brooks is about to urge us to nurture democracy carefully and constantly, because it is not a natural state for humans. I may disagree that this will be the century of the strongman, because the current generation of autocrats does not compare to the murderous trio of the last century – Hitler, Stalin and Mao.


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