Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
Author, historian and Yale University Professor Timothy Snyder specializes in the history of Central and Easter Europe, an area where democracies rise and fall and then repeat the process with depressing regularity. Snyder applies his knowledge of this region to his book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. This is a small, but important book especially for times like these when tyranny threatens democracy everywhere and is now growing in the United States. Snyder's book identifies the warning signs - and there are many to reflect on, but he also identifies things to do and chips away at our feelings of helplessness. Snyder hammers home the idea that "Most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given." Snyder describes and provides examples how as authoritarianism tightens its grip, people anticipate how they think the government wants them to act and behave accordingly. He urges us not to obey in advance. We have institutions established to preserve decency - Snyder urges us to defend them. We must support our newspapers, courts, laws, labor unions and other institutions. He warns us against the one party state and urges us to vote and participate in the political process. When we see symbols of tyranny, remove them. Professional ethics within government and business help hinder the growth of tyranny, practice ethics and encourage others to do so. Paramilitaries that support the leader are a sign the end is near. If your job requires you to wear a gun, be reflective and don't be afraid to not use it. People who stand out like Rosa parks create cracks in the wall of tyranny Snyder urges us to stand out. Avoid the language of tyranny, separate yourself from the Internet and read books. Believe in and defend the truth and stick to the facts. Investigate and figure things out for yourself. Read the long articles and support investigative journalism. Don't spread BS. Connect stay in touch and with people. Protest and get political. Totalitarianism erases the boundaries between public and private life. Use the Internet less, protect your identity, and protect your private life. Be active and support good causes. Learn from people in other countries. if you have friends abroad, maintain your friendships. Keep your ears open for dangerous words such as extremism, terrorism, emergency and exception. When the shit hits the fan, be calm. Authoritarians use acts of terror to consolidate power. Snyder urges us to be a patriot and to set good examples for the next generation. Finally, Snyder urges us to be as courageous as possible: "If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die under tyranny." I found this book scary but also uplifting and it is one of the most important books I have read in quite a while. Its short. Its cheap. Buy it and read it.