Autocrats can hardly be defeated. But they can defeat themselves. This is how.
If this blog post makes me a million dollars, I will just keep it a secret and tell everyone that I won the lottery. That would earn me more respect.
Ferenc Puskás, the famous football player, became a “traitor” and a dissident after he left Hungary in 1958. The state security services, naturally, have never stopped snooping on him and opened all his letters sent home. In one of them, he apologized:
“My dear friend,
I’ll tell you why I didn’t go back home. I’d like to emphasize in advance that it wasn’t to make more money. That couldn’t be further from me.”
The evolution of political leaders since the second world war can be described in three logical stages, following a sadly predictable pattern of decline.
First, there were statesmen with values and convictions. Then came the media-savvy generation of gradually decreasing amount of conviction and vision. But they still followed the rules and still wanted to be loved. If you think they are deplorable, wait for the third generation: the logical endgame of the evolution of political elites. Continue reading “This Generation of Politicians is a Disgrace”
When you hear about divisive, unpopular or outrageous policies, you may be tempted to think logically. You assume that they will provoke resistance and the leader losing supporters. It is not the case.
When Steven Pinker named predation, dominance, revenge, sadism and ideology as the five roots of violence (in his book on the decline of human violence) – I immediately became interested. Especially as he wrote that the cause of ideological violence is not any particular part of the human brain – but is distributed across many people.
“The fifth and most consequential cause of violence is ideology, in which true believers weave a collection of motives into a creed and recruit other people to carry out its destructive goals. An ideology cannot be identified with a part of the brain or even with a whole brain, because it is distributed across the brains of many people.
…the really big body counts in history pile up when a large number of people carry out a motive that transcends any one of them: an ideology. Like predatory or instrumental violence, ideological violence is a means to an end. But with an ideology, the end is idealistic: a conception of the greater good.”
Now that we went through the theory of useful idiocy, it’s time to put it into practice. Here is a useful manual that illustrates the best practice of this ancient profession.
There are many ways you can become a useful idiot, an active defender of the interest of some autocrat, who would – to put it mildly – not defend you back. Like Putin. Or Orbán. Or any random populist to whom you are just another pawn on the chessboard.
A useful idiot sees someone who reigns over a territory, steals and intimidates, someone who captures the infrastructure of a state to enrich and empower his own family and allies – and all he finds is a counterintuitive, clever little reason why this strongman is actually right. And unafraid to share it.
In the meantime, the useful idiot doesn’t get paid. Otherwise he would just be called ‘useful’.
The vast majority of people would agree that identity and sense of purpose are hard work so you’d rather drift with prefabricated life roles and it’s as good as the real thing because everyone else is doing it, anyway.
But there is a catch. It will kill you.
The sense of being in control is a more pressing need than not making things worse, but collective control is not a thing. If you give more power to someone in order to get back some sense of control, you are bound to get disappointed.
Do you want to take back control? You’re right. But take it back over your own life – and not over others’. And definitely not through empowering a strongman and your government.