Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Quote of the Day (Michael Idov, on Cynicism and Dictatorships)

“One tends to imagine life in an autocratic regime as dominated by fear and oppression: armed men in the street, total surveillance, chanted slogans, and whispered secrets. It is probably a version of that picture that has been flitting lately through the nightmares of American liberals fretting about the damage a potential autocrat might do to an open society. But residents of a hybrid regime such as Russia’s — that is, an autocratic one that retains the façade of a democracy — know the Orwellian notion is needlessly romantic. Russian life, I soon found out, was marked less by fear than by cynicism: the all-pervasive idea that no institution is to be trusted, because no institution is bigger than the avarice of the person in charge. This cynicism, coupled with endless conspiracy theories about everything, was at its core defensive (it’s hard to be disappointed if you expect the worst). But it amounted to defeatism. And, interestingly, the higher up the food chain you moved, the more you encountered it.”— Michael Idov, “Russia: Life After Trust,” New York Magazine, Jan. 23, 2017

The image accompanying this post shows Russia’s Vladimir Putin—not only the dictator of his country’s own autocracy, but also a model for would-be strongmen elsewhere. This article was published three years ago, but it is no less relevant now--and probably more so.

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