Tuesday, September 25, 2018

ON TYRANNY, short and wry lessons from the 20th Century to preserve your liberty



"... the precedent set by the Founders demands that we examine history to understand the deep sources of tyranny, and to consider the proper responses to it. Americans today are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to facism, Nazism, or communism in the twentieth century. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so." --Tim Snyder

"Mr. Snyder is a rising public intellectual unafraid to make bold connections between past and present." --The New York Times

This little book of 126 pages succeeds in connecting our time with what went before. In short essays astute, wry and instructive, it lets you know what has happened, where we are and what one person of conscience can do. Here are snippets from Topics.

 1. DO NOT OBEY IN ADVANCE
Aticipatory obedience is a political tragedy.

2. DEFEND INSTITUTIONS
Do not speak of "our institutions" unless you make them yours
by action on their behalf.

3.  BEWARE THE ONE-PARTY STATE
The parties that remade states and suppressed rivals were
not omnipotent from the start.

4. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE FACE OF THE WORLD
The symbols of today enable the reality of tomorrow. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away, and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.

5.  REMEMBER PROFESSIONAL ETHICS
Political leaders set a negative example, professional commitments to just practices become more important.

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 and pictures of a leader, the end is nigh.

7.  BE REFLECTIVE IF YOU MUST BE ARMED
If you carry a weapon in public service, may God bless you and keep you. But know that the evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no.

8.  STANDOUT
Someone has to.

9. BE KIND TO OUR LANGUAGE
Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying.

10. BELIEVE IN TRUTH
To abandon facts is to abandon freedom

11. INVESTIGATE
Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media.

12. MAKE EYE CONTACT AND SMALL TALK
Small talk is not just polite. It is also a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down social barriers, and understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.

13. PRACTICE CORPOREAL POLITICS
Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.

14. ESTABLISH A PRIVATE LIFE
Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware on a regular basis. Remember that email is skywriting.

15. CONTRIBUTE TO GOOD CAUSES
Be active in organizations, political or not, that express your own view of life. Pick a charity or two and set up autopay.

16. LEARN FROM PEERS IN OTHER COUNTRIES
Keep up your friendships abroad , or make new friends in other countries.The present difficulties in the United States are an element of a larger trend.

17. LISTEN FOR DANGEROUS WORDS
Listen to the use of extremism and terrorism. Be alive to the fatal notions of emergency and exception. Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.

18. BE CALM WHEN THE UNTHINKABLE ARRIVES
Modern tyranny is terror management. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that authoritarians expoit such events to consolidate power.

19. BE A PATRIOT
Set a good example for generations to come. They will need it.

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.

ON TYRANNY is a Tim Duggan book available on audio from Penguin Random House.
Snyder Professor of History at Yale and author is a member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museumand a permanent fellow of the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.

Read this book, know the landscape, update your passport!

S.W.