How Masha Gessen wishes Clinton’s concession speech had begun:
Thank you, my friends. Thank you. Thank you. We have lost. We have lost, and this is the last day of my political career, so I will say what must be said. We are standing at the edge of the abyss. Our political system, our society, our country itself are in greater danger than at any time in the last century and a half. The president-elect has made his intentions clear, and it would be immoral to pretend otherwise. We must band together right now to defend the laws, the institutions, and the ideals on which our country is based.
Her conciliation, Obama’s too, was an abdication, says Gessen, and I can’t say I disagree. This is not an ordinary defeat to an ordinary opponent. We need to sustain the norms of civil society – peaceful transfer of power and such – while saying loud and clear that the other party is an enemy to those norms.
Gessen sees us headed for an autocracy like that of Putin’s Russia. I hope they’re wrong. I hope the inertia of a massive civil service, and the dispersal of so much of governance to the several states, and the moral competence of ordinary women and men in positions of care and stewardship, will get us through. But honestly I’m scared shitless.
Scared whatever scale I look at this catastrophe on. Attacks on people of colour and queer folk on a steep rise right this very moment. Sea level rise getting locked in that’ll straiten human and non-human life the planet round for millennia. Attacks, autocracy, apocalypse.
Well, what matters is to act, not the scale of the act. Can’t stop global warming but I can spread the word re: resistance guidelines. Gessen’s Rules for Survival in an autocracy:
- Believe the autocrat. He means what he says.
- Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
- Institutions will not save you.
- Be outraged. It is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock.
- Don’t make compromises.
- Remember the future. Nothing lasts forever.
The whole article here. It’s eye-opening.
4 thoughts on “Masha Gessen on autocracy”
Thanks for posting this. Something like this helps me get past my fear and anger.
Thanks Lin. I’m reading another piece in The New Yorker that’s making me more hopeful – enduring values, the long view. Will probably post on it but here it is if you’d like to see: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/persons-of-interest/how-to-restore-your-faith-in-democracy
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Thanks for the link. I read the article and was struck by this this thought “…the principle, cited by Alexis de Tocqueville and originating in Catholicism, that problems should be solved by people who are nearby. Perhaps, instead of questing for political meaning on Facebook and YouTube, we could begin finding it in projects located near to us. By that means, we could get a grip on our political selves, and be less inclined toward nihilism on the national scale.”