Theater and doom

I am not caught up.



It’s been eons, but I remember the optimism that accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union. You understand, we had lived for decades with the U.S. and U.S.S.R. on the brink of a catastrophic nuclear war. It’s a pretty faint memory now but the hope was that decades of Cold War, even as nuclear war itself had seemed increasingly improbable, could finally be put behind us. But here we are again, with Russia and China forming an axis against the U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the rest of the world playing realpolitik games with the conflict.

Vladimir Putin is not new. He is merely explicit, with his pretensions to Peter the Great,[1] in our system of social organization’s unending and often violent contest among our elites over which of them will control which territories and the people and resources within.[2]

On one level, all this is show, the tail wagging the dog, to divert us from truly existential threats like nuclear war, which actually still might happen, and the climate crisis, which is happening, among others.[3]

On a deeper level, that this contest continues even with looming existential threats has to be an absolutely blistering critique of our system of social organization. And that we are incapable of better[4] is a damning and ultimately dooming critique of us.


Fig. 1. Map of Georgia, showing occupied regions, by Deutsche Welle, August 8, 2018, fair use.

Maria Katamadze, “What happened with Georgia’s NATO ambitions?” Deutsche Welle, July 12, 2023,


Fig. 1. “Destroyed Russian military vehicles located on the main street Khreshchatyk are seen as part of the celebration of the Independence Day of Ukraine in Kyiv, August 24.” Photograph by Gleb Garanich for Reuters, August 24, 2022,[5] fair use.

Laura Kayali, “Sorry Russia, the Baltic Sea is NATO’s lake now,” Politico, July 13, 2023,

Ishaan Tharoor, “Zelensky’s ‘guilt-based’ diplomacy leaves its mark on NATO summit,” Washington Post, July 13, 2023,

Wagner mutiny

Fig. 1. Yevgeny Prigozhin. Screen capture from video by УлПравда ТВ, June 13, 2023, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0.

The Kremlin’s effort to weed out officers suspected of disloyalty is broader than publicly known, according to the people, who said at least 13 senior officers were detained for questioning, with some later released, and around 15 suspended from duty or fired.[6]

So, on one hand, we have Yevgeny Prigozhin welcomed back to the Kremlin.[7] On the other, you have a purge within your own military.[8] Oh yeah, and in the face of such a blatant double standard, you expect your own military to remain loyal.

I’ll be looking forward to seeing how that works out for you.

Thomas Grove, “Russia Detained Several Senior Military Officers in Wake of Wagner Mutiny,” Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2023,

  1. [1]Julian O’Shaughnessy, “I’m reconquering just like Peter the Great, insists Vladimir Putin,” Times, June 10, 2022,; Reuters, “Hailing Peter the Great, Putin draws parallel with mission to ‘return’ Russian lands,” June 9, 2022,
  2. [2]David Benfell, “We ‘need to know how it works,’” Not Housebroken, March 19, 2012,
  3. [3]John Mecklin, “A time of unprecedented danger: It is 90 seconds to midnight,” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, January 24, 2023,
  4. [4]David Benfell, “I am no longer an anarchist,” Not Housebroken, June 8, 2022,
  5. [5]Reuters, “Ukraine puts destroyed Russian tanks on display in Kyiv,” August 25, 2022,
  6. [6]Thomas Grove, “Russia Detained Several Senior Military Officers in Wake of Wagner Mutiny,” Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2023,
  7. [7]Nicolas Camut, “Putin met Prigozhin in Moscow after Wagner mutiny,” Politico, July 10, 2023,; Matthew Luxmoore, “Wagner Leader Prigozhin Met With Putin Days After Aborted Revolt,” Wall Street Journal, July 10, 2023,
  8. [8]Thomas Grove, “Russia Detained Several Senior Military Officers in Wake of Wagner Mutiny,” Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2023,

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