Humungus Lessons

10 Rules for Dictatorship –
Creating Chaos

First of all, we need to recap on the state of the world as depicted in the second of the Mad Max films, The Road Warrior - video clip below.  Before this time, civilisation was built on power from ‘the black fuel’, then for reasons long forgotten two mighty countries went to war and unleashed a devastating conflict that engulfed everyone. The conflagration was so vast that supplies and sources of fuel were devastated and machines ground to a halt, creating civil unrest on a vast scale, with the highways ruled by gangs fighting over the last supplies of gas.

Cities burned, lives were destroyed and Max heads out into the wasteland after the loss of his family to the gangs, ‘and it was here, in this blighted place, that he learned to live again.’

Lesson 1 – Violence
From a high rocky vantage point, Max watches, with his dog and captured gyro pilot, as a large desert compound is repeatedly attacked by swarms of fighters in bikes, cars and bizarre home built vehicles. The attackers are outlandishly dressed, some in the black leather and helmets of police officers (implying that even the law has fallen into decay) and others are nihilistic, leather clad punks.

Standing in the cockpit of his vehicle, towering, massively muscular, is the Humungus, directing his forces as they swarm around the perimeter of the compound, ‘round and round like angry bees.’ Inside the compound oil is being pumped and refined by a mixed group of men, women and a child, led by the charismatic and single minded Papagallo. Film nerd note here, the original script contained an opening scene with Papagallo the Chief Executive of Seven Sisters Petroleum gathering survey maps, planning for a time when he would need to find the locations of oil as civilisation fell apart.

Here is the first lesson, the threat of unmentionable violence directed at a settled and democratic community. The dominating of the land around the settlement with violence isolates it and unsettles the minds of the people within, building fear and uncertainty.

Lesson 2 - Abnormal Behaviour
Aside from the extreme violence and assaults on the compound, the forces of the Humungus behave in ways the people in the compound struggle to understand, as they act far beyond the norms of even this post-apocalypse world. This keeps civilisation on the back foot, unable to understand actions and words which are not part of their world. Not only do they have to contend with their own society, with all its differing opinions and challenges, but they must attempt to understand the thinking and motivations of the aberrant enemy facing them.

Abnormal behaviour, actions, ways of dressing, and speech keep the settlers off balance and trying to figure out exactly what they face and how to deal with it.

Lesson 3 – Organisation and Hierarchy
The Humungus is at the top, a position established by cunning, ruthlessness and use of huge physical force. Under him he has built a structure of individual units, the Mowhawks, Gayboy Beserkers and Smegma Crazies, which he directs tactically on the battlefield and strategically in his masterplan.

Like any good dictator, he remains alert to dissent or rebellion and crushes it ruthlessly, as he does with the maniacal Wez after the killing of his partner The Golden Youth. Wez is the best fighter, the most ferocious and the only one to get into and out of the compound alive, so the Humungus is lucky that Wez is killed by Max’s car bomb when he rebels. Had the Humungus not been killed in the climactic crash with the semi-truck, then his authority would have been weakened through huge losses in his forces and Papagallo’s trick of hiding the fuel, since the ruthlessness of a dictator or warlord will maintain his position only if dissatisfaction is less than the fear of reprisal and if victories outway the cost of achieving them.

Lesson 4 - Propaganda
Propaganda is the job of Toady, proclaiming the greatness of his lord. The Humungus also has his own broadcast facility, with which he can communicate to the civilised world, talking directly to them, delivering his thoughts and proposals; in his case it’s a microphone and a big PA system. Control of the media is essential in providing legitimacy and the projection of the message of power.

Iconography is a useful propaganda tool and the Humungus uses this to great effect when Toady announces him to the defensive compound: ‘Greetings from The Humungus! The Lord Humungus! The Warrior of the Wasteland! The Ayatollah of Rock and Roller!’ If he had a stone mason he would be Ozymandias, if he had a sculptor he would have a statue in Bagdad and if he had a media machine at his disposal then pictures could be distributed of him bare-chested on a horse.

If he had captured the gas then he could have built a wasteland empire and, perhaps, someone would have carved a great stone statue of him with black eyes starring out from behind a mask, bulging bronzed muscles and a studded black leather cod-piece. Strangely, it is hard for a dictator to leave a legacy that does not look personally ridiculous.

Lesson 5 – Blame Others
Papagallo sends his recce vehicles out to look for, in the words of the Humungus, ‘a rig big enough to haul that fat tank of gas’ but the crews are captured and tied to stakes on the front of the leader’s six wheeled vehicle, displaying the consequences of opposition. Drawing up his forces in front of the compound, bloodied captives to the fore, the amplified voice of the Humungus booms out across the desert:

‘I am gravely disappointed.
Again you have made me unleash my dogs of war.’

The fault lies with the defenders, and next we are given the reasons:

‘Why? Because you’re selfish!
You hoard your gasoline.’

It does not matter that the people in the compound have worked hard in their own land to pump and refine the oil. It does not matter that they will be using it to escape from the wasteland, to a better place, away from the ravages of murderous warlords. It does not matter that repeated attacks have been made to steal from them. No, they are the ones to blame for trying to keep what belongs to them. No dictator ever acknowledges that anyone other than themselves has the right to anything.

We can go further in this Humungus Lesson as he informs the defenders:

“There has been too much violence, too much pain.
None here are without sin.”

No matter how honourable the defenders believe themselves to be, it is their hidden sin (their fault) which has brought this catastrophe upon them.

Lesson 6 - Hold a Parade
The Humungus draws up his mighty forces in front of the compound, giving him a sense of immense power, re-enforcing his warriors’ belief in themselves and intimidating the defenders.

A simple lesson, every dictator must have plenty to parade. No matter how poverty stricken the country is, this is vitally important.

Lesson 7 - The Truth
Truth is what you make of it, nothing is absolute and there will always be some people who will believe what you tell them, no matter how outlandish, particularly if they are scared. After blaming the defenders, the Humungus offers their frightened minds a chance to escape, understanding that if they believe there is no hope of escape then they will fight, as they have nothing to lose. It is irrelevant that past actions run contrary to what they are being offered, or if logic tells them that in leaving the compound they will be slaughtered, the civilised mind will naturally seek reasons to believe.

Flexible truth makes dictators appear more positive, more trustworthy, which the Humungus does admirably:

‘But I have an honourable compromise.
Just walk away.
Give me the pump, the oil, the gasoline and the whole compound, and I’ll spare your lives.
Just walk away. I will give you safe passage in the Wasteland.
Just walk away and there will be an end to the horror.’

With just a few words the defenders are reassured that the Humungus is trustworthy, that this is a deal that they can accept without loss of face, that it is a simple trade and they will all be safe. Were it not for the refusal of their leader to submit and the offer of a pragmatic solution in the form of a rig from Max then it would have worked.

Had the defenders surrendered then the Humungus had his plans already set, as he whispered to Wez, ‘Fear is our ally, the gasoline will be ours. Then, you shall have your revenge.’

The lesson is that dictators can say what they want, as they know there are no consequences for lying.

Lesson 8 – Ultimatums
This is simple, no one should be given time to think, so every ultimatum must be brief. The Humungus gives the defenders ‘one full day to decide’ because he knows that short ultimatums induce panic and weakness and put pressure on leaders.

Beware of dictators issuing ultimatums.

Lesson 9 – Helplessness
This goes beyond fear, it is a feeling of being trapped, encircled with no way out, as the Humungus points out ‘this is the Valley of Death’.  He also parades the captured in front of them, graphically demonstrating that their plans have failed and taunting them with their failure:

'Look at what remains of your gallant scouts.'

The perception of helplessness fosters appeasement, illustrated in the absurdity of one of the defenders after the Humungus’ proposal:

‘Alright, this is it!
I’ll talk to this Humungus!
He’s a reasonable man, open to negotiation.’

Then another:

‘He promised us safe passage! He gave us his word!

Once helplessness is established, concessions will follow, irrespective of what might happen if the defenders stiffen their resolve; after all, they are the ones inside a defensive compound with buildings and shelter, whereas the forces of the Humungus are forced to live out in the barren desert.  But, it is the feeling of helplessness which creates capitulation.

Papagallo identifies 'the first step, defend the fuel' because it 'is our lifeline to a place beyond that vermin on machines.'  He recognises there is never a day one total answer to a dictator, situations are highly complex and dynamic, so solutions are found step by step.  

Lesson 10 – Be Ruthless
No dictator needs to learn this this lesson, since it is a prerequisite for the position.

To understand the predations on Ukraine, many of the answers come in 5 minutes of a 1982 post apocalypse movie.  To understand the weakness of the Western powers the answers lie in a dependence on fossil fuels and an inability or unwillingness to understand the mind of a dictator.