masks aside

a mystical möbius — curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a contemplative space.



Well, I am thinking of our human personalities as a mask. Obviously, our own such mask is known by each of us subjectively from the inside and by others objectively from the outside.



Spirituality 101

Parsing the world in binary terms is a basic human orientation. It manifests in up/down, all/nothing, in/out, right/wrong, black/white kinds of thinking. 

Generally speaking, our early life journey tends to be lived as though everyone else sees the world in basically the same way that we do — a process called projection.

Ironically, to affirm this, we naturally gravitate toward others who tend to align with our own perceptions, i.e., we seek to belong in community with others of like kind and like mind. —Those spiritual communities that are wise both affirm/leverage this desire to belong and critique/eschew groupthink and any tendency of the community toward exclusion. 


Yes, as this naturally creates a binary and makes the insider/us versus outsider/them dynamic basic to social relations in spiritually naïve communities.

So, most 101, entry-level spirituality/practice aims to overcome this seriously limiting ‘binary’ (self-locused) perspective, as it has been shown historically to be very dangerous in certain circumstances. 



Dark Triad                                           

The Dark Triad personality traits – narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism – are manifested in leaders like Russian president Vladimir Putin and former U.S. president DJT. These three traits in combination are associated with a callous-manipulative interpersonal style. 

Because the Dark Triad personality [DTP] perceives the world through a DTP lens, they naturally believe that everyone else sees the world the very same way they do. This presumption leads them to the belief that everything, everything, is transactional and accomplished by power/force. “Strength” becomes the only meaningful metric. It’s a winner/loser mentality writ large. It’s ‘win at any cost.’ No, it’s really more of an ‘eat or be eaten’ sense of the way human life operates. This conforms with the stories of those who were once close to Putin but are now free of his intimidation and able to speak candidly. They consistently say that the only thing that matters to Putin is strength (Napoleon Complex?).

Previous occurrences 

Chechnya, Georgia, and Syria provide ample evidence that Putin has learned the power of scorching the earth. Putin’s grotesque cynicism emanates from his sense that he doesn’t need to win the hearts/minds of those he identifies as the “neo-Nazi Ukrainian majority.”


Embed from Getty Images

Embedding another metaphor

Regarding Ukraine, Putin’s “Savior of Mother Russia” mask acts as part of a slight-of-hand shell game and serves as a distraction. Putin emphasizes defending ideological ground, i.e., traditionalism vs. multiculturalism. This leverages and exploits the prevailing polarization presently being experienced in the “developed world,” and it animates the masses on all sides. Meanwhile, the pea is really under the geo-political shell.


This explainer video lays out what Putin has to gain by using criminal violence against his neighbor to decisively/finally take Crimea (and its water source); industrial Donbas; and southern Ukraine as a land bridge to Transnistria — cued to the spot:



So, militarily, a dismemberment strategy — just as Putin used in Georgia — is sufficient. Putin doesn’t need to take and occupy all of Ukraine. A limited land grab can net Putin most of the geopolitical goodies of Ukraine and leave what’s left of “nazified Ukraine” as a poor, landlocked, agrarian state. 

Ideologically, all Putin needs to do is set the Ukrainian national project back, so that it’s no longer a political challenge to his standing with the Russian people. Putin knows that the Russian people are polarized across Western (U.S. and European) and Traditional (Russian imperialist, Christian Orthodox) lines, i.e., many Russian people would like to see Russia leave its imperialist identity behind and become part of what they perceive as Western freedom and prosperity. So, Putin’s Ukrainian “special military operations” also afford him the means to surface his opposition in Russia. 


  • For Putin, his war is neither ideological nor even about security (Russia has 6,000 nukes!).
  • Putin never wants to return Crimea to Ukraine. Period.
  • For Putin, ideology and security are political masks (e.g., shell-game-like distractions).
  • For Putin, it’s more of an imperialist mindset and about controlling resources.

David Brooks has recently written an article for the NYTimes, “Globalization Is Over. The Culture Wars Have Begun.” With the masses, Brooks bites on the ideological distraction. 

“The heroes of Ukraine are showing that at its best, it is a moral accomplishment, and unlike its rivals, it aspires to extend dignity, human rights and self-determination to all.” —David Brooks


Masks aside, Putin’s primary danger is not his Dark Triad. Rather, it’s that he projects his Machiavellian mindset onto others and then acts accordingly.

[4/29 edit] Fareed Zakaria argues in a 4/28 WaPo opinion piece that the rule of law puts a check on imperialist inclinations and that it’s what merits defending.



Next week:Vladimir Putin’s ‘wokeness’?” Come see.


Your thoughts? 



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