The personality cult has been a menace to mankind throughout modern history. From Bin Laden and Hitler to Lenin and Stalin, men who have been able to achieve an almost god like reverence among populations have rendered untold destruction and misery on their populations.
We have an entire historical catalogue ripe with illustrations of the failings of cults of personality from Russian revolutionaries to state Shinto in Japan, to Pol Pot in Cambodia and Hutu Power in Rwanda, but still we continue to have cults of personality that exist throughout the world…the question is why, given that they often end in disaster?
I have a theory, every one of these personality cults has sprang up when a country was under threat either from a neighboring power or its’ own government who had become corrupt and unjust in the eyes of the population. Many of these men were gifted orators and propagandists who seized upon a populations grievences and anger at the ruling party.
In the case of the genocidal regimes of Pol Pot and Hutu Power were able to prey upon elements of ethnic insecurity and inferiority bred over decades and convince their followers that there is an other among them that needs to be destroyed before society can be rebuilt.
These men present themselves largely as hope salesman, promising to liberate an oppressed people from an oppressor regime. Hope is universal in the human heart as something every downtrodden person wants to grab onto. If a person is economically or socially disadvantaged and a person comes along and promises a better life, if the people follow him, its’ going to be hard for the disadvantaged masses to resist him, particularly if the ruling government is viewed as a cause or enabler of the people’s problems.
In conclusion, we have personality cults because there are still disadvantaged people in this world who crave hope and salvation and charasmatic charming speakers willing to use them for their own gain.