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Playing Loki – yes really?

Playing Loki – yes really? As I write this, the world is being divided into those who believe it’s OK to invade other sovereign nations, and those that don’t. For the record, I don’t and thankfully my nation doesn’t either (although its imperial past is ugly and must be addressed; in this we are on the right side of history. After all, we have proof of murderous hostile activity on our own soil. Novichok in a dumpster, anyone?!).

I am reading quite a bit around this grim state of international affairs. One item, more a soundbite than an article, referred to the perpetrator as Loki, the capricious God of ancient Norse mythology. Sometimes termed “the trickster god”, Loki was often described in legends as a mischief-maker, interfering in the affairs of others for his own pleasure.

In myths and legends, Loki was repeatedly warned not to cause mayhem, because of the threats of the gods’ rage if he did. Loki chose to disregard these warnings, behaving that he was entitled to disrupt, challenge and discomfort.

Sound familiar? It never ends well for Loki. The trouble is, this all comes at almighty cost to all concerned. We’re not in a Marvel comic now, ‘though. This interference is real – and deadly. Potentially deadly for all of us.

This parallel with “the world’s pariah” is, however, too simplistic. Invasions that cause huge death tolls and widespread opprobrium are not something to be done lightly. They are also not the work of one person, capricious though he may be. This is a massively complex situation. Decades of badly-handled socio-economic change have resulted in a sense of betrayal, isolation and having been exploited.  

That is a heady cocktail of negative emotions, and ones which are pretty easy to share through propaganda to whip up national fervour. It is a tactic straight out of Machiavelli, divide abroad to conquer at home. And at the heart of this fervour, almost like a sinister puppet master, we find a single “hero-leader”.

An Extreme Maverick [1] if ever I saw one. Wilful independence has been perverted into a sociopathic rejection of the importance of international law, national boundaries and the sanctity of human life. “Who cares who dies, so long as I get what I want?”

An Extreme Maverick will pursue their desire for power and control to their last breath. They will also impose their will on others. Some around them will find their strong sense of purpose inspiring. Others will see it for its true, frightening nature, and reject it. The former will become part of an inner circle, the latter will languish in prison. Stark choices, brutal responses, a regime lacking nuance and subtlety both at home and abroad.

I would argue that Loki pursued his mayhem out of a sense of mischief or dissatisfaction – an appetite for revenge. That could well be true for the current situation. After all, it was born out of a desire for revenge against the international institutions that pretty much devoured a huge bloc of countries and spat them out, ruining economies and lives and leaving a void to be filled by pimps and oil barons. I suspect, however, there is a deeper emotion at play. One which is even more powerful than the Loki-esque revenge: fear.  

Specifically, a deep-seated, Cold-war driven fear of what could happen if “the West” were to have too strong an influence in his own country. Admittedly, the 1990s would not make anyone think that would be a great plan. However, what else but fear could be behind some of the actions of the past month? Fear of strong neighbours. Fear of “Western” ideals. Fear of the truth. Only a regime running scared of its own populace would ban international social media platforms.

And this is the interesting thing. We’re talking about an Extreme Maverick, who is actually operating on deep-seated fears. Reminds me of another, motivated by disaffection and a fear of difference, who caused millions of deaths by persecuting one faith group (and other assorted  “deviants” – his words – such as travelling peoples, twins and gays). Reputedly mad, definitely a sociopath, and undisputedly an Extreme Maverick, it didn’t go well, or end well for him. Let’s hope that the world has learned and sees a negotiated and peaceful resolution to the current state.


[1] Extreme Maverick – Judith Germain, The Maverick Paradox: The Secret Power Behind Successful Leaders (Publish Nation) 2017

Astrid Davies
Astrid Davieshttps://astriddaviesconsulting.com/
Astrid Davies MA is an Executive Coach and change consultant who uses her 30 years of leadership experience to help her clients make positive changes which last. She is a mentor and guest lecturer at the University of Southampton, including supporting their Enactus chapter for social entrepreneurs. She also runs a series of successful leadership training networking events across the South of England, where she helps young professionals to build an ethical and effective leadership career alongside their professional development. A passionate champion of diverse and sustainable workplaces, Astrid integrates several of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals into her client projects. If you would like to find out more, please go to www.astriddaviesconsulting.com.

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