I remember a phrase from Marcus Aurelius in which he asserted that the worst thing a person could do is to make themselves and their lives a kind of blemish upon the world. I have been thinking about this in terms of Vladimir Putin. He is certainly inflicting great savagery and brutal abhorrence upon the world in pursuit of very narrow, selfish and insecure political, ideological and financial goals. I wonder if he was to spontaneously vanish into a cloud of purple confetti or otherwise cease to exist if some other misanthrope would simply take his place. Being that he has now subjected a generation of his own people to brainwashing and (now) brutality in the horrifying meat grinder of the Ukrainian invasion and war, has he merely set up history to endlessly repeat itself? I have no doubt that he himself will eventually be forgotten but if the man is to vanish leaving behind him only the suffering and memory of fear, perhaps he himself was only ever the product of a suffering and fear that has lived long before him and that will persist long after he is gone. Perhaps, that is, even the tyrants are victims of circumstance as much as the people they oppress and brutalise. It might just be true that Putin is an accidental autocrat, opportunistic and Machiavellian in the extremest sense but ultimately only as much a product of blind chance as has been all life, all human experience and of those – good, bad and ugly – who came before and who will follow after. He is no mastermind, he and all his sycophants and conspirators are merely mobster kleptocrats and that, if anything, is how history will remember them.