On Tyranny ~ by Timothy Snyder

I need some kind of highest praise word here – remarkable and extraordinary aren’t quite enough.   “Important”  is in the ball park but “vital”  is better.  One reviewer said, “Reading this book is imperative. You may not get another chance.”

This is a clear, timely, and very concise explanation of what tyranny is and how it could easily come to pass in the US at this point in time. Snyder is a historian from Yale with a specialty in German Nazism as well as Stalinist Russia.  He knows what he’s talking about.  This is a warning to all of us –  now.


On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
by Timothy Snyder
2017 / 130 pages
rating – 10

What he’s talking about is how tyranny comes into existence and how best to resist it.    Who,  how, when, where, why.  That’s why it’s vital, “imperative.”

The “Twenty Lessons” are very short essays on 20th century history and how it applies to the world – the US – today with our current president.  What happened that Hitler and Stalin should become the tyrants they were – that they accrued such power,  took so much freedom,  ended so many lives?  Can it happen here?  You betcha.  It’s inevitable unless we and the young people stand up and refuse.

Some of the lessons are only a few paragraphs long, others go on for several pages.  It’s like an introduction,  an overview, a summary,  a guide.

  1.  Do not obey in advance
  2. Defend institutions
  3. Beware the one-party state
  4. Take responsibility for the face of the worls
  5. Remember professional ethics
  6. Be wary of paramilitaries
  7. Be reflective if you must be armed
  8. Stand out
  9. Be kind to our language
  10. Believe in truth
  11. Investigate
  12. Make eye contact and small talk
  13. Practice corporeal politics
  14. Establish a private life
  15. Contribute to good causes
  16. Learn from peers in other countries
  17. Listen for dangerous words
  18. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives
  19. Be a patriot
  20. Be as courageous as you can
  21. Epilogue



Democracy Now: https://www.democracynow.org/2017/5/30/on_tyranny_yale_historian_timothy_snyder