Scouring the headlines for articles pertinent to those interested in authoritarianism, dictatorships, and civil society leads to an overly-acute understanding of just how many people out there are going to spend the holiday seasons in conditions less favorable than my own. Yes, it's a season for compassion and for giving thanks. It's also an appropriate time to remember how many out there, living in authoritarian shitholes, have very little to be thankful for. Here's just a few examples:
Let's start with the remaining band members of Pussy Riot. Don't know how good their music was, but they're not singing any songs these days, as they're doing hard time in a prison only moderately better than the gulags of Solzhenitsyn. If Putin wanted to send a message that he's not going to take being mocked by a bunch of young women, he's done so ably. But he laid it on kind of thick. They were lipsynching and air-guitaring a punk rock video, ferchrissakes.
Belarus remains a place of close-to-no-freedoms, and its prison system is stuffed with political dissidents (they're called the opposition in more liberated states), journalists, and protestors. Andrzej Poczobut is just one of them. Arrested for questioning the execution of two presumed "enemies of the state" Poczobut is doing hard time along 2200 others arrested in the last three years, including eighteen showcase prisoners of particularly high visibility and symbolic importance.
The Syrian Rebel groups deserve a mention (oh sorry, Assad still insists they're nothing more than ragtag terrorists but he's the only one who believes it). 37,00 have died so far trying to remove one hamfisted dick from power, and Assad seems determined to burn that place to the ground before surrendering power. What's he think he's going to do? Win the war and then go back to accepting invitations for fancy diplomatic soirees in Western Europe?
As I write this blog piece I'm particularly aware of how unfortunate Sattar Beheshti is. Beheshti was doing what I am doing - writing a piece for the Internet - when he was captured by state authorities in Iran and taken in for "questioning." He was tortured to death.
Finally, here's a hat tip to the people of North Korea, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. That's just the start of a much longer list, but here are people whose government is not exactly looking out for them (as far as anyone can tell). They say if you want peace, then fight for justice. This world has a long way to go. Read the Dictator's Handbook. Because the world is still full of Dicks.