Oligarch | ol·i·garch | noun | def: 1. a person who belongs to a small group of people who govern or control a country or a business. 2. a very rich business leader with a great deal of political influence.

Perhaps you already knew the term. It’s been around since the late 15th century. But we’ve increasingly heard it used recently to describe Vladimir Putin and his cabal of close supporters. So who are these people? Typically they are people who consider themselves privileged and above the rest of us, so far above that laws are really not meant for them, those who inherited or built great wealth, CEOs, high-ranking military officers, senior political office holders, etc. As the definition indicates, these are people who have significant political influence, like the Koch brothers and others who have our president’s ear.

The term certainly defines Putin’s “government.” Ironically, given how freely it is applied to Russia, and could be equally applied to China, North Korea, and others, it also aptly defines our current president and his government: rich, arrogant, privileged, and primarily interested in furthering their own interests. For us to sanctimoniously use this term to describe Russia is truly the pot calling the kettle black.

I will share some words I have recently read that describe the fate of countries taken over by oligarchs.

Because human beings fear chaos above all, they will reach for the chains of tyranny to bring order back into life. “Freedom,” untethered from truth, however, is its own mortal enemy.

History has shown that the passage from nationalism to totalitarianism is swift.

Or perhaps you think we are so special that it can’t happen here.

Paul W. Dutram

Waterville