Archive for November 30th, 2017

Two Pees In A Pod

Homo Sovieticus is basically the human being who evolved to survive under conditions of state terror. Any person faced with an ongoing traumatic situation develops certain survival skills, certain coping mechanisms—the personality fragments, and different parts of the person get activated depending on these rapidly shifting circumstances.

The hypothesis that I write about in the book, on the part of the sociologist who invented the term Homo Sovieticus, was that it was generationally bound. And once enough time had passed since state terror ended, since the 1950s, Homo Sovieticus was just going to die out, and then the Soviet Union was going to collapse. And the Soviet Union seemed to collapse right on schedule. But then it turned out that Homo Sovieticus didn’t go anywhere, because there’s such a thing as intergenerational trauma. And those coping skills—those ways of behaving and thinking—are actually passed on from generation to generation in society as a whole.

So society as a whole has cultural institutions that sort of kick into gear as soon as they start getting signals that they interpret as signals from a totalitarian past. And I think that’s what’s happened under Putin. Putin set out to build a mafia state. He didn’t set out to build a totalitarian regime. But he was building his mafia state on the ruins of a totalitarian regime. And so we end up with a mafia state and a totalitarian society.

After Putin is over—and he will be over eventually, everything ends—Russia will not maintain its current borders. I’m pretty sure of that. It’s an empire that is experiencing more and more tension, and it’s holding together as a result of a combination of both fear and greed. So Putin either instills fear in the regions, or buys them off. That system will break down the moment the Kremlin is thrown into disarray, which it will be when Putin is gone. Putin is definitely aware of the challenges to Russian territorial integrity.

He does feel permanently threatened—threatened personally, to the extent that he doesn’t actually perceive a boundary between himself and the state. He has continuously come in—and this is actually another weird parallel between him and Trump—he has continuously campaigned on the threat to the country. His message has consistently been, We’re on the brink of catastrophe and I’m the only person who can hold things together. And if I step away, everything will fall apart. I think that he sincerely believes that. He believes that even more sincerely because he has been watching Putin TV for 17 years. And so he says to the television what it should say, and then it says it, and then he believes it. Which is also not dissimilar from the media bubble that Trump is intent on creating—or has, to a large extent, created for himself.

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