And this is why I love me some Chaos:
How the Coronavirus Revealed Authoritarianism’s Fatal Flaw
China’s use of surveillance and censorship makes it harder for Xi Jinping to know what’s going on in his own country.
A few highlights:
Xi would be far from the first authoritarian to have been blindsided. Ironically, for all the talk of the technological side of Chinese authoritarianism, China’s use of technology to ratchet up surveillance and censorship may have made things worse, by making it less likely that Xi would even know what was going on in his own country.
He really has no excuse for that since it's happened before in China:
On August 4, 1958, buoyed by reports pouring in from around the country of record grain, rice, and peanut production, an exuberant Chairman Mao Zedong wondered how to get rid of the excess, and advised people to eat “five meals a day.” Many did, gorging themselves in the new regime canteens and even dumping massive amounts of “leftovers” down gutters and toilets. Export agreements were made to send tons of food abroad in return for machinery or currency.
Just months later, perhaps the greatest famine in recorded history began, in which tens of millions would die because, in fact, there was no such surplus. Quite the opposite: The misguided agricultural policies of the Great Leap Forward had caused a collapse in food production. Yet instead of reporting the massive failures, the apparatchiks in various provinces had engaged in competitive exaggeration, reporting ever-increasing surpluses both because they were afraid of reporting bad news and because they wanted to please their superiors.
Mao didn’t know famine was at hand, because he had set up a system that ensured he would hear lies.
For some reason whenever Authoritarian regimes overplay their hand and fuck up royally, they always seem to do so in ways that seem like parodies of themselves (and yet the people involved have nothing even resembling a sense of humor, which only adds to the whole surreality of it all).
Well, a parody with a body count, unfortunately, so definitely a dark comedy. Everybody in charge was too busy pinning medals and planting incriminating evidence on each other as they played Game of Chairs to notice that the people were starting to drop dead of a mystery illness again, I guess.
It’s nearly impossible to gather direct evidence from such a secretive state, but consider the strong, divergent actions before and after January 20—within one day, Hubei officials went from almost complete cover-up and business as usual to shutting down a whole city.
So eventually the Emperor realized he was wearing no clothes and snapped out of it. It will be interesting to see if he stays snapped out of it or goes back to total surveillance, total control if business-as-usual ever resumes.
Anyway, the article details the timeline of the emergence of the virus and how it began with relatively minor mistakes that were not properly attended to that added up until they snowballed into a full-blown disaster, which is also the way people tend to die in the wilderness.
It's kind of fascinating to watch the math play out in politics like this. The more Order you put in, the more Chaos you get out. So no matter how oppressive and authoritarian a regime might desire to be, it is nevertheless in its own best long term self-interest to dial it back a bit lest it get destroyed by things it never saw coming (literally).
The trouble is, most authoritarian meatheaded egomaniacs suck at math and don't read much Chaos Theory so each of them has to learn this stuff the hard way. That means there's always a new crop of ambitious assholes pushing things too far and who think they can get away with it right after the last group of ambitious assholes went to prison or their bodies were dragged through the streets and put on display in the town square (depending on how pissed people were, I guess).
This basic level of ignorance seems to be why all the nasty shit repeats itself, which if true points to a possible way for us break out of the brutal cycles of history and finally give ourselves a chance to try something else for a change. In the 10-15 years we've got left before it's all moot, I mean.
Contrary to common belief, the killer digital app for authoritarianism isn’t listening in on people through increased surveillance, but listening to them as they express their honest opinions, especially complaints. An Orwellian surveillance-based system would be overwhelming and repressive, as it is now in China, but it would also be similar to losing sensation in parts of one’s body due to nerve injuries. Without the pain to warn the brain, the hand stays on the hot stove, unaware of the damage to the flesh until it’s too late.
During the Ming dynasty, Emperor Zhu Di found out that some petitions to the emperor had not made it to him, because officials were blocking them. He was alarmed and ordered such blocks removed. “Stability depends on superior and inferior communicating; there is none when they do not. From ancient times, many a state has fallen because a ruler did not know the affairs of the people,” he said. Xi would have done well to take note.
Edited by TVCasualty, 24 February 2020 - 01:38 AM.