Dalrymple tends to be wordy and a bit pedantic ... tendencies I have reason to sympathize with. He also seems to find and comment on writings that defy the "standard view", something I REALLY like.
Unlike less reflective observers, Custine asked why the Russian officials should have behaved with such a manner, keenly aware that men inhabit a mental and not just a physical world and that their conduct is determined by their thoughts about the world as they have experienced it. He surmised that these border officials had been deprived of all true discretion and were deeply fearful themselves of the power to which they were subordinate. Custine described them as "automata inconvenienced with a soul": a description true, perhaps, of all bureaucrats fearful for their jobs but truest of all where power is both arbitrary and completely centralized...
As a Christian observing a bureaucratized totalitarian culture, I find that description quite accurate -- although now, rather than just the bureaucrats, it is the entire masked masses. It is even more apparent as a China Virus "survivor" ( I've "survived" a lot of colds and flu in my 64 years as well - many more nasty than the much hyped China Virus), I realize that there is no escape from the derision of the automata. When you have no soul, your "virtue cup" needs to be very frequently recharged with expressions of compliance. The less "common sense" involved, the better!
Custine grasped that the propensity to deceive and to be (or to pretend to be) deceived lay at the heart of Russia's evident malaise. The maintenance of despotism depended upon this universal vocation for untruth, because without the fiction that the despotism was necessary, that it conduced to the happiness and well-being of all, and that any alternative would be disastrous, the subject population would cease to be controllable.
It really takes very few willing to stand up tyranny -- masks, gay celebration, transgender celebration, and increasingly, pedophilia celebration (like your Christmas ornaments, Epstein didn't hang himself). The problem is that humans have a built in urge to "fit in". Being Christian was once sufficient reason to be lion food, and Christianity grew. Then it became dominant, and actually following Christ became reason to be burned at the stake (an "advancement" from lion chow). Dominance breeds cruelty. The non-compliant must be punished "for their own good!" If the punishment is not creating compliance, then more severe punishment is required "for the good of all".
Thankfully, sometime around gas chambers, Gulags, trenches full of bodies, etc, the God given natural resistance tends to kick in and kill the totalitarian leviathan. Unfortunately, as in the case of disease, it can take quite a bit of time, and the body count can be high.
Sadly, mass media and technology in general allow despotism to prevail even in the face of significant resistance. In the 2020 US "election", 70 million people desired an end to the bureaucratic charade. No matter -- at least hundreds of thousands of manufactured "votes" allowed the tyranny to deepen. It very much appears that the tide of totalitarianism in Wokeistan will not be reversed by mere democracy -- it will require "other means".
For the whole elaborate charade of despotism to work, for the pretense that the despotism is both indispensable and conducive to the welfare of all, everyone must appear to believe in it—including the despot himself.
The bureaucratic / media complex was able to invalidate the votes of 70 million -- as of so far, the 70 million seem to believe that a continuation of what they voted against is not worth the "immune system cost" of killing the despotic infection.
Often, when infection is allowed to fester, the cost of destroying it becomes even greater. The Lord will prevalent is inevitable, however the wages of sin can be very costly.