Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The dictatorship of law

Karl Kraus, the Austrian intellectual, satirist and 'anti-journalist' confessed that over Hitler he had nothing to say because satire has its limits and when the 'reality' has appeared to step over the bounds of the known into the 'surreal' (and potentially terrifying), it falls silent as there is nothing to exaggerate to illuminating or humorous effect. Kraus did not live to see his intuition completed, dying in 1936, he saw neither the annexation of his homeland nor the fate of the Jews, a fate, that as a Jew, he would have shared.

This brings me to Mr Putin, not to compare him with Hitler with regard to the latter's terrible results, but as someone who is increasingly immune to satire. Indeed perhaps this is a warning indicator around any regime that as soon as it achieves this immunity, it ought to, in truth, be time for it to go (or, at the very least, for everyone to be highly wary of it and, sadly, prepare for the worst). Or as Lao Tzu would say if it cannot be the subject of humor, it cannot participate in the truth or goodness of things.

Thus, one of your opponents is murdered, on your doorstep, ahead of a rally against your rule. However, this does not prevent you from personally heading up the investigation committee into your opponent's death. This neither occurs to you as (a) offensive to your murdered opponent and their family who appear to share your opponent's belief that you were certainly capable of wishing him dead and of killing him (whether you did or not is beside the point here); (b) that you may indeed have been responsible (which is to the point here) - as you had motive and opportunity or perhaps someone associated with you took it upon themselves to do the deed; (c) you announce the lines of enquiry you are pursuing that, naturally, exclude (b); and, (d) if your country enjoyed 'the dictatorship of law' (to use your phrase) or due democratic and judicial process (to use a better one), you would realise that the executive branch should neither investigate nor prosecute crimes. These carefully constructed, though certainly never water tight, boundaries are there for a reason!

The truly sad feature of the oxymoronic 'dictatorship of law' is that Mr Putin has created a state where it would be exceptionally difficult to appoint a person of the necessary integrity and competence to investigate the said murder of Boris Nemtsov because the atmosphere of trust in which any such investigation needs to unfold is so poisoned as to make any such investigation virtually inoperative. Would anybody trust its results unless it emerged with their own predetermined conclusions?

That this is not simply a Russian problem is true, the corrosion of public trust is a global phenomena and one that requires a vigilant response everywhere; but, that it is exceptionally difficult and corrosive in Russia is depressingly evident.

Nemtsov in his last interview suggested that political opposition in Russia had collapsed to the point of dissidence, suggesting this was a decline but maybe, in truth, this would be a step back in order to step forward. For the characteristic of dissidence is precisely to continually and persistently tell the truth - rather than offer oppositional propositions about how one might potentially govern - and perhaps most of all, what one needs now in word and, critically in gesture, are honorable truth tellers, more than politicians, as they may be the people who begin to recreate the necessary environment of trust.

 

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