Monday, September 25, 2006

The man above is Saparmurat Niyazov, the 'President of Life' of Turkmenistan in Central Asia, a country where his narcisstic tendencies have oustripped even North Korea's Kim Jong-il. In this former Russian republic, which became independent in 1991, the days of the week are named after himself (exactly how I'm not sure, unless he's got quite a few middle names), all watches and clocks have his portrait, and - in an echo of Mao's 'Little Red Book' - he has an official book called 'Ruhnama' which will make people "become more intelligent" and facilitate a trip "straight to heaven" if read three times. George Orwell would have a field day, except for the bit about becoming more intelligent, as I seem to remember one of the Big Brother slogans in 1984 being about remaining stupid ('Ignorance is Bliss').
Most amusing of all, an enormous statue of himself continually revolves on a rotating pedestal in the capital Ashgabat, so that it always faces the sun (even if there's a total eclipse, I suppose).
That's pretty funny, in a depressing way. Jesus, imagine naming the days of the week after Tony Blair. Whenever I'm feeling down, I just think of the poor buggers - all five million of them - who have to grow up in this place...or in North Korea, of course, where their dear leader is so bonkers that he actually once had a terrified Chinese film maker kidnapped in order to make a propaganda film which had Godzilla but with Kim Jong-il's face. They showed clips from it once on Channel 4 in a documentary about mental films, and there's one bit when this weird , enormous hybrid creature - Godzilla's body, Kim Jong-il's face - attacks Japan. Now I don't know about you, but if I were on drugs watching that, I'd be pretty freaked out....

No comments: