On Tyranny (Tim Snyder)

On-Tyranny-cov“The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.

On Tyranny is a call to arms and a guide to resistance, with invaluable ideas for how we can preserve our freedoms in the uncertain years to come.”

[Text from publisher’s website ; see also the backcover]

This is a tinny and short book (almost a pamphlet) that warns democracy in America is in danger, compares the current situation with how democracy died in Europe and, through twenty lessons of history, teaches us how to fight to protect it. The book opens with a quote by Leszek Kolakowski: “In politics, being deceived is no excuse.”

After a brief introduction about “History and Tyranny”, Snyder offers us twenty lessons: 1. Do no obey in advance: “most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given (…) a citizen who adapts in this way is teaching power what it can do”; 2. Defend institutions: “It is institutions that help us to preserve decency (…) choose an institution (…) an take its side”; 3. Beware of the one-party state: “The parties that (…) suppressed rivals (…) exploited a historic moment to make political life impossible for their opponent. So (…) support (…) the rules of democratic elections”; 4. Take responsibility for the face of the world: “Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate”; 5. Remember professional ethics: “When political leaders set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become more important. (…)authoritarians need obedient civil servants”; 6. Be wary of paramilitaries: “When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching with torches (…), the end is nigh. When the pro-leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the end has come”; 7. Be reflective if you must be armed: “If you carry a weapon in public service (…) be ready to say no”; 8. Stand out: “The moment you set an example (…) others will follow”; 9. Be kind to our language: “Think up your own way of speaking (…) separate yourself from the internet. Read books”; 10. Believe in truth: “To abandon the facts is to abandon freedom”; 11. Investigate: “Figure things out for yourself (…) subscrib[e] to print media”; 12. Make eye contact and small talk: “stay in touch with your surroundings, break down social barriers, and understand whom you should and should not trust”; 13. Practice corporeal politics: “Get outside (…) Make new friends and march with them”; 14. Establish a private life: “Consider using alternative forms of the internet (…) Tyrants set the hook on which to hang you”; 15. Contribute to good causes: “Be active in organizations (…) pick a charity or two (…) you will have made a free choice that supports civil society and helps other to do good”; 16. Learn from peers in other countries: “no country is going to find a solution by itself”; 17. Listen for dangerous words: “extremism, terrorism, emergency, exception (…) the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary”; 18. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives: “Modern tyranny is terror management (…) terrorist attacks (…), disaster, (…) suspension of freedom of expression, (…) right to a fair trail”; 19. Be a patriot: “set a good exemple (…) for the generations to come”; 20. Be as courageous as you can: “If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die under tyranny.” He concludes with an epilogue about “History and Liberty.”

In other words: Complacency is the death of democracy. Hear that republicans? Wow. Everything in this book is so true. It should be read by everyone because the fight for our life is not over yet… It is a short but quite interesting reading. Well worth the time. 

On Tyranny; Twenty Lessons From The Twentieth Century, by Timothy Snyder. New York: Tim Duggan Books (an imprint of Crown Publishing, a division of Penguin Random House), February 2017. 128 pg., Softcover, 4-3/8 x 6-1/4, 9.99 US / $13.50 Can. ISBN: 978-0-8041-9011-4. stars-3-0

For more information you can check the following websites:

[ AmazonBiblioGoodreadsGoogleWikipediaWorldCat ]

© 2017 by Timothy Snyder

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