Twelve centuries ago a fearless and formidable political force swept into power. This was the singular Charlemagne, who in the space of forty years conquered most of Europe. His success depended upon his military might and vision, and an uncompromising religious zeal. He remained utterly committed to his cause, which was to bring Christianity to the heathen hordes of Northern Europe. His methods were not peaceful, in the process entire villages were either starved or murdered. The Pagans who converted only did so by the sword.
Europe in the late eighth century was primitive and fractious. A figure like Charlemagne was admired as well as feared. He helped to forge the Holy Roman Empire but his actions were horrifying. His political achievements were impressive but an affront to our modern sensibilities.
However the familiar adage that humanity learns from historical atrocity is clearly untrue when we look at the world today. The heirs of Charlemagne have risen among us. National and global demoralisation has enabled figures like Donald Trump to ascend to power, even though he has only succeeded to alienate. Jair Bolsonaro`s regime in Brazil is driven by a similar sentiment, as his appointment owed much to the corruption and scandal of his predecessor.
However Bolsonaro`s unapologetic style and right-wing policies are not unique to the Brazilian nation or its culture. He is just one demagogue out of many on the world`s stage. In Turkey Recep Erdogan has initiated an aggressive de-secularisation campaign in the manner of an ancient Ottoman sultan. His bullishness and pride appeals to an element of Turkish society that feels that its culture is in decline.
Narendra Modi in India has a similar level of appeal to an older, more traditional populace that rejects Western influences. However he has created many problems that are starting to affect the rest of the world. Again this isn`t a uniquely Eastern problem, as Vladimir Putin and his Belarus ally are behaving in a manner that is suggestive of an unhinged Emperor.
These men are very dangerous forces that threaten our already fragile peace and security. It is patently obvious that their arrogance and insensitivity to wider international concerns would almost put Charlemagne to shame.