Authority, Identification and Nationalism: The Future of Freedom in Estonia
Under conditions of high stress and anxiety (such as exited in concentration camps), victims learn to identify with the person who is oppressing them and are grateful when they are no longer being oppressed; the former victims then replicate the aggression with other people (A. Freud, 2018). The concept of identification with the aggressor seems to be just as applicable in trying to understand why people who were battered by their parents tend to batter their own children as it is in trying to understand why some concentration camp inmates were recruited for the secret police in some European countries during the Second World War.
When we apply this concept of identification with the aggressor to the citizens of Estonia, we find its mundane manifestations in the passivity I mentioned above. We also find its softer form in the uncritical allegiance to the leader that was found not just in Estonia but also in most other countries with an authoritarian legacy. This process will become harsher under conditions of profound stress and anxiety – such as that brought about by the invasion and occupation by a foreign country (in this case, Russia). The victims (occupants of the invaded country) may begin to identify with the aggressors (invaders). At the very least, the victims will often begin to mimic the behavior of the occupiers—replicating the form of leadership and governance imposed by the occupiers. Speech mannerism of the leader are replicated by citizens, as are the words being conveyed by the leader and the occupying country’s media.
It can soon move beyond mimicry. Members of the occupied country will soon begin working with the occupiers and may even join with the enforcing agency of the occupiers (as occurred during the Second World War). We find this play out in the dramatic, fictionalized portrait of a German-occupied United State in Phillip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle (Dick, 2007)—which inspired a cable TV series with the same name. In this hypothetical enactment, much of the enforcement of the Nazi-regime was being carried out by American citizens (who often had been enforcers of the old American regime—led by J. Edgar Hoover, long-term director of the American FBI.