Observe submissive authoritarian minds in action.
Ask any gloating, self-congratulatory politician/voter and he will quickly opine that no small crime must go unpunished lest we send the message to “criminals” that stealing a loaf of bread is OK. It is all about the precedent, they say, and that is because it is all about the precedent for them. The authoritarian mind wants to see what the punishment is before deciding whether to refrain from an certain action – and if punishment if not forthcoming, morals don’t interest him. But if there is a precedent of punishment (i.e. he has been punched in the face for something) he will not go there again. That is what authoritarians have in lieu of morals.
But there is a double standard here. Because the authoritarian mind only sees the nee to “make a precedent” when it is about the weak, the Jean Valjeans of the world. The authoritarian mind is incapable of seeing the same connection between crime, punishment and precedent when it comes to the powerful.
This failure of logic of the authoritarian mind always surprises those who are not under the spell of that particular authoritarian control, but it is painfully obvious. An authoritarian doesn’t dare to hold the powerful accountable because he feels helpless against them, and comes up with imaginative and counterintuitive reasons why the powerful should not be punished.
A new party (not yet in parliament) of mostly young people came up with the campaign promise that they would hold Orbán (and all his cronies) accountable for the wholesale corruption of the last decade if they win the election in 2022. And the reaction of the (mostly) old public was wretched.
This is the moment of the authoritarian mind to overthink himself and to come up with imaginative reasons why theft should not be punished. Most of them simply don’t believe it is possible (i.e. feel helpless). Others feel helpless AND come up with logical-sounding “arguments” to justify wrong:
- Because it would make a bad precedent (I am not kidding) of politicians being arrested once they are out of power so they would never want to leave power
- Because it would be chaos (and unrelenting, wholesale theft is apparently better than the one-off event of holding thieves accountable)
- Because these ones have already soaked themselves full of public money (and presumably they will start governing any day now) but the others will just start
- Because we at least know who we are dealing with (so we should keep them in power)
Of course the autocrat makes sure to burn the country and salt the earth if he is ever to be removed from power. They said many times that they would rather be kings of a trash heap than common people in a prosperous country, why do we never listen?
And destroy they do, largely because that is the only kind of impact they know how to have, creation and building things is not in their skillset – even when they claim it is. They are always waging wars on things, that never converts into prosperity, ever, because it is the opposite logic. It helps them gaining power, even keeping power, but war never helped anyone to build anything. Apart from empires which says nothing about how it was to live in those supposedly glorious times.
The simple need to punch the bully to make him stop never occurs – neither to a non-bully, nor to the victim. And even accountability evades them if it is up to their victims, because fear clouds minds and makes people rationalize pardoning the criminals.
If the regime’s corruption can really be proven – and it doesn’t look like they made a huge effort to conceal it – they should be held accountable. Maybe it “sets the precedent” of every regime sending its predecessor to jail – but maybe not. Maybe it just send the message that stealing money puts you in jail – even if you were the untouchable bully for a long time.
But of course, that would put those who are currently against accountability to shame. Let me guess, we need to provide them with a way to save face so just let the thieves run freely. See, I can also perform unnatural mental gymnastics to justify wrong. I could fit in!