Dictatorship: Living in Two Worlds

Dictators of course arrive wearing many diverse kinds of masks and singing all manner of simplistic songs of self-interested nationalism. For those of you out there who find themselves living under such a regime, it must be a really strange experience.

It is true that we all tend to desensitise to hardship or suffering after a while but the underlying dichotomies and faultlines incurred by the opportunistic brutality, lies and corruption of dictators generate irreconcilable paradoxes for autocratic systems and their long-suffering inhabitants.

It is as though you must have to inhabit two worlds: the world of appearance inflated by a constant stream of propaganda as lies, and the world of reality and fact. The fictional certainties of a political narrative intended to deceive derive value (and utility) as a function of the extent to which they deviate from reality.

This is similar to an augmented reality or Metaverse overlay upon the world where the fakes and falsehoods come to obscure the facts. Everyone is quite well aware that they are engaging in deceptive games of language and political fabrication that only ever obscure the lived facts and real problems of their lives but they are variously brutalised or otherwise influenced into engaging with and propagating these false abstractions.

How strange to live in two worlds of autocratic fantasy and material facts, to never utter truth lest it fracture and disassemble the fragile political system of belief that overlays and obscures truth. The deeper enigma here is that the authoritarian requires this possibility of disobedience just as much as they need to cultivate an external threat. The autocrat’s security and political tenure – perceived or actual – is so profoundly grounded upon the presence of insecurity that they can not and will never obtain the narrative, psychological closure and political certainty they seek. Their greatest fear is the essence of their own identity and this represents an unacknowledged insecurity discontinuity that they reflexively inflict upon their citizens and the world.

To live in a dictatorship is to enter into a kind of game with language and reality. The perennial historical return of authoritarian tropes and regimes is deeply problematised by the fact that it is a necessary condition of all human experience to live in two worlds; of symbolic abstraction and of manifest fact.

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