Putin, popularity and power

Putin and the World (Copyright: Wilfred Hildonen)

How do you make countries great — again or anew? Aside from the obvious, military might and economic power, it seems to me that most people are missing one important detail; popularity. That’s the secret ingredient in the sauce. Without it, your fresh empire won’t last that long, a few decades, tops. With it, who knows?

I’m no historian, so please bear with me because of all the errors I will make in the following, but if we start with the Roman Empire, aside from Pax Romana, the ability to keep the peace in regions in which had been filled with fighting and strife until the legions entered, then I think that people started to fancy Roman products like viaducts, paved roads and sewer systems. With it, the language also spread and Latin became the lingua franca of the Roman part of the world.

The question is; would any of this have happened without popularity? If people — the populus — feel that things are forced down their throats, they won’t take to them easily, right? It won’t be an easy sell. If you always have a gun to your head or a boot on your neck, whatever the person behind the gun or boot is trying to convince you to do, will only be done resentfully. That resentment will probably be there all the time, glowing in the dark and from time to time, it will flare up and become full fledged rebellions.

Much can be said and is being said of the current empire, the American, but the reason why it has lasted this long, is definitely because it stumbled across the secret ingredient and all things American became popular, from sunny rock’n’roll to chewing gum and Hollywood movies. And the language. English with an American twang to it is the new lingua franca of the world, even for those who wish to criticise America. And mind you, I’m not saying that there are nothing worth criticising it for, because of course there is. It’s not even that popular in every corner of the world, on the contrary. There are many peoples who have felt and still feel the boot on their necks and the gun to their heads or who have had American bombs dropped upon them. Needless to say then, that nothing American is popular with them.

But they might still use the language and technology of the empire to fight back at it. That’s the secret behind popularity. It takes on a life of its own, just like it happened with the products and the language of the Roman empire.

This is something strongmen like Putin — and Trump for that matter — don’t understand much of, if anything at all. They think it’s all about raw power and muscles and big sticks and dicks.

If you don’t get the secret ingredient right, your country will never be great, no matter what else you do. If the American empire will crumble and fall, it is much because it will lose in popularity. The reasons why that happens, might be diverse, but without popularity, it won’t work. And what is popularity, anyway? It comes from the same root as people — populus in Latin. Liked by people, in other words. Trump’s secret is his folksyness. In spite of being born with golden hairs in his arse, he manages to give the impression if being a regular bloke. That’s just as absurd as the fact that he babbles on like a drunk down on the local pub, in spite of being a tee totaller.

So, what has Putin and the present regime to offer, in terms of popularity? What can they put on the table? A little novitchok if you don’t behave? A kick in the kidneys if you insist on calling a spade a spade and a war a war?

It’s easy to understand why he became popular locally, in Russia. That has to do with the way Western powers bungled up the transition from the Soviet Union to a free, open and democratic Russia, but that’s another story. Suffice it to say that he managed to bring stability to the common Russian man and woman, something which is always popular among people who have had their lives ruined. The problem comes when he tries to expand outside Russia. He cannot say that, hey look, I need to be a bit tough now to take care of your leaders who keep you down and all that shite, but you just wait till that part is over. Yes, Vlad me boy, what then?

We may have our problems with growing inequality and systemic racism and the rest, but neither novitchok or a kick in the kidneys or a visit to Gulag seem to be the right medicine to fix that.

You have a problem with PR, Vlad. Popularity. Appeal.




Editorial cartoonist, illustrator and artist, originally from the Arctic part of Norway. Been living in Sweden, Finland, Portugal, Brazil, Greece and Spain.

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Wilfred Hildonen

Wilfred Hildonen

Editorial cartoonist, illustrator and artist, originally from the Arctic part of Norway. Been living in Sweden, Finland, Portugal, Brazil, Greece and Spain.

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