Johan wrote this
@ 2023-12-14

The goat of tyranny

The Gävle goat is still standing, for now.

That’s not a threat! I’m not going to burn it down, I promise. But a weird thought struck me today while reading about its bird problems. I went to the goat’s Wikipedia page to see what the track record was, and there are a lot more green years (didn’t burn down) towards the end. Why would that be?

These last two decades I’ve felt the state of the world changing. Power is sliding towards authoritarians, billionaires, and the like. We’ve seen massive protests like those of Hong Kong and Iran that go on for months or even years and involve millions of people, and we’ve seen literal civil wars (like in Syria and Yemen) that ultimately just kind of… fizzle out. They result in superficial changes, if anything, and the unrest is violently quashed. People are imprisoned, “disappeared,” or just roughed up and sent home. The incumbents stay.

And I think tech is responsible for this.

Snowden warned us about “turnkey tyranny” over ten years ago. When you’ve got cameras, facial recognition, satellites, drones, and electronic eavesdropping easily available at scale, you’ve really tilted the playing field against anyone wanting to hold you accountable. It’s become a big part of the system keeping dictators in power. Defending strongpoints (the Kremlin, Baharestan, the Gävle goat) has become a lot easier, especially if you couple it with excessive force. Someone had to pay over 100k SEK and spend six months in prison for burning the thing two years ago.

Again, I don’t particularly care what happens to the Gävle goat. Some years are hilarious (Burnt by unknown vandals reportedly dressed as Santa and the gingerbread man, by shooting a flaming arrow at the goat) and we should probably consider the fact that if it wasn’t for the goat’s unique flammability it probably wouldn’t have a Wikipedia page. It just struck me as an interesting micro-proxy of what’s happening in the world at large. Maybe we’ve seen the last goat burn, and maybe we’ve seen the last dictator toppled by an angry mob. If so, we’re in for a rough time.