Timothy Snyder Speaks: Much More Than Collusion

 
mapadofu
 
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mapadofu
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13 May 2018 19:12
 

A short, 15 minute, discussion on Trump, Russia, collusion etc:

https://youtu.be/ZJe4NlOjAJo

 
sojourner
 
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sojourner
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14 May 2018 18:50
 

That was a very interesting analysis (if you have seen my average post length, you probably know by now that I loves me some analytical parsing,) although I’m not sure I agree with the ultimate conclusion that Putin and Trump are so similar. Putin is difficult to analyze, but at present my best guess is that he is trying to play the role of monarch (like an actual monarch, not a symbolic one like in England,) in a world where kings of yore don’t really exist anymore, so the concept just confuses people. The closest dynamic we have to ancient kings are probably theocracies (An interestingly parallel there on Synder’s thoughts on truth value - theocracies can pull off creating their ‘own world’ in a way that I think is more socially acceptable to most people today. Not 100% acceptable, but we still more or less make concessions for ‘materialistic’ truth vs. spiritual truth. If we hear Russian bots say “Maybe Jewish people are responsible for this crime! Or aliens! Maybe it was rogue cats who have evolved thumbs, oooo!” I think people go “What the actual fuck, have you lost your minds!?”. If someone says “Um, this is happening because God says so, that’s why, now be quiet,” we might not agree, but there is a sense that sane people can earnestly hold such views, and so it places them in a different mental category. Maybe way back in the day the divine right of kings or the king’s word or whatever was similar.)


Anyways, it seems to me that in large part the component parts of monarchies have broken off into separate groups, so that seeing someone try to meld them doesn’t make sense to us anymore. At first I was puzzled as to why Putin’s government seemed to want to function as both an organized crime ring and a player on the world stage, as those two roles are usually pretty delineated in our world and they interact with authority in rather different and mutually opposed ways. Crime rings keep their heads down when possible. If nearby sources of authority are stronger than the crime ring (as in the West,) they will pretty much try to stay out of their way and avoid conflicts - it serves no purpose and it’s bad for business. If nearby sources of authority are not strong enough to act as true bulwarks, as in parts of Mexico and Central/South America, they will try to co-opt them - but really only for pragmatic reasons. The Zetas, quite frankly, don’t seem particularly concerned about whether or not they are respected on the world stage or what is said about them at the G7.


Respected sovereign states have a different dynamic. I am not getting into the moral ins and outs here, as I know people have strong feelings about capitalism and global interactions and honestly, I’m not well informed enough to speak about those with any certainty. But whether you consider the dynamics of nation states better or not, they are certainly different. Nobody is seriously worried that Bill Gates is going to have Jeff Bezos thrown out a window, or that Elon Musk and his attorney are going to (disturbing content warning for the link) be tortured to death in prison due to spurious accusations of financial crimes. This is apparently not the case in Russia. And yet they are not simply a dictatorship either, with citizens constantly terrorized so that all money can go to the state. There does seem to be genuine interest in advancing the interests of the entire Russian state, projects to help the citizenry, education, maintaining the support vs. the submission of citizens, and so on.


So the idea that Russia is interested in playing both of these roles - crime ring and also respected, seat-at-the-table sovereign state, seemed kind of schizophrenic and even self-defeating to me. But I realized it probably makes sense in the framework of an old school monarchy - although this is a framework that, subjectively, is like a dead language to the West. You are either a dictatorship or a crime ring or a modern sovereign state and you abide by the according norms or else we don’t know what the hell to make of you. So in that sense, as has often been the case with eastern vs. western Europe, I think the dynamics of Russia may simply be the time lag that has been present since serfs were present in the east long after the practice was gone in the west. I don’t know if it’s any kind of unusual, reality-defying dynamic, it’s probably just us, if you rewound the tape about 200 years. (To that end, my thoughts on Russia are similar to my thoughts when kvetching about Harris’s take on parts of the Muslim world - things just have to evolve at their own pace. Human cultures do not develop in lockstep and it’s probably inevitable that others will have to go through the stages we ourselves went through at one point. Also not sure if I agree with Synder’s take that Russia is consciously plotting to sort of ‘drag everyone down to their level’. Is a younger child attempting to ‘drag you down to their level’ through wicked machinations when they have a tantrum, or does it say something about the adult in the room if they respond by saying “Fine, I’ll have a tantrum too!”. I’m not trying to be disrespectful and compare Russia to a child [although it’s probably the more charitable interpretation of some of their more sinister behavior], but that’s just an easy example of intuitions when viewed through a developmental lens.)


While I don’t have any particular insight into Trump’s worldview, I do think he is a product of modernity, and that mindset is simply going to be very different. I think whatever parallels people tend to see between the two are largely superficial or the kind of happenstance similarities you would find if you compared and contrasted any two given personalities, not a deeply rooted similarity in the way they view the world.

[ Edited: 14 May 2018 18:53 by sojourner]
 
 
mapadofu
 
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mapadofu
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14 May 2018 19:39
 

To be blunt, I think that you spend too much time trying to suss out what is in Putin’s mind (it came up in your Masha Gessen post too).  I think that you’re right that we’re seeing new patterns emerge, and none of the existing models are an exact fit for what’s going on.

One of Dr. Snyder’s ideas is that we’ve transitioned to paradigms moving from East (Russia) to West.  It’s not that Russia is living in the past, it is foreshadowing what is (or what could be) in Europe and N. America’s future.

 
sojourner
 
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sojourner
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14 May 2018 20:39
 
mapadofu - 14 May 2018 07:39 PM

To be blunt, I think that you spend too much time trying to suss out what is in Putin’s mind (it came up in your Masha Gessen post too).


Well, that’s subjective. But yeah, I probably spend too much time doing a lot of things… watching Lillly Singh videos (her mom’s cleaning obsession… her morning routine… it’s like she’s in my head and knows my whole life!!); worrying obsessively; eating chocolate; posting on this board… It is what it is I guess. wink We must all amuse ourselves somehow before we die.

I think that you’re right that we’re seeing new patterns emerge, and none of the existing models are an exact fit for what’s going on.

One of Dr. Snyder’s ideas is that we’ve transitioned to paradigms moving from East (Russia) to West.  It’s not that Russia is living in the past, it is foreshadowing what is (or what could be) in Europe and N. America’s future.


I’m not sure if I agree with either of those statements. I think Russia might be 100% Throwback Thursday, it’s just that when viewed through modern Western eyes, it’s like “I don’t get it… your desire to be a gang and your desire to be a world player are as mutually exclusive as my desire to wear a size 0 and to eat my weight in chocolate every day. Pick one and roll with it.” But maybe in the past these were not mutually exclusive desires at all, and it’s only modernity that makes this seem like an odd blend.


That said, I will certainly cede that applying an analytical framework to countries is incredibly nebulous territory. It’s a fun exercise, but it takes quite awhile to see if any theory has predictive value, and even that is very hard to measure and subject to interpretation. It’s an interesting mental exercise but validating such musings via empirical data is unlikely. So perhaps Synder is on the right track and I’m making up just so stories, who knows?