by Zoe Pollock

Stefany Anne Golberg has written a deeply arresting essay on the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and what a country's secret files can do to the psychology of a people:

It’s no easy task to kill a dictator. Partly this is because they have a special kind of life. A double life. In 1957, Ernst Kantorowicz published a classic study on the medieval theory of the rights of kings, which he called “The King’s Two Bodies.” Every king has two bodies, he explained: the body politic and the body natural. The body natural is a physical body a screaming, pissing, farting, and, most importantly, dying body, just like yours and mine. Knowing that this natural body will eventually die, the king also has another body, the body politic that is the symbol of his divine right to rule. Being divine, the body politic transcends the physical body, allowing for a continuity of the kingdom even when the king had died. In other words, the king’s rule is still wielded over his subjects, even after death. As such, a king never really dies. The king is dead, long live the king.

It is really, then, the king’s subjects who keep the kingdom (and the king) alive. They are the believers with the immortality of the regime woven into their souls.

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