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On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century Paperback – February 28, 2017
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From the Publisher
|ON TYRANNY GRAPHIC EDITION : Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century||OUR MALADY: Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary||THE ROAD TO UNFREEDOM: Russia, Europe, America||BLACK EARTH: The Holocaust as History and Warning|
|A graphic edition of the bestselling book, featuring the visual storytelling talents of renowned illustrator Nora Krug.||An impassioned condemnation of America's pandemic response and an urgent call to rethink health and freedom.||A stunning new chronicle of the rise of authoritarianism from Russia to Europe and America.||A brilliant, haunting, and profoundly original portrait of the defining tragedy of our time.|
"We are rapidly ripening for fascism. This American writer leaves us with no illusions about ourselves." —Svetlana Alexievich, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature
"Timothy Snyder reasons with unparalleled clarity, throwing the past and future into sharp relief. He has written the rare kind of book that can be read in one sitting but will keep you coming back to help regain your bearings. Put a copy in your pocket and one on your bedside table, and it will help you keep going for the next four years or however long it takes." —Masha Gessen
"Please read this book. So smart, so timely." —George Saunders
“Easily the most compelling volume among the early resistance literature. . . . A slim book that fits alongside your pocket Constitution and feels only slightly less vital. . . . Clarifying and unnerving. . . . A memorable work that is grounded in history yet imbued with the fierce urgency of what now.” —Carlos Lozada, The Washington Post
“Snyder knows this subject cold. . . . It is impossible to read aphorisms like ‘post-truth is pre-fascism’ and not feel a small chill about the current state of the Republic. . . . Approach this short book the same you would a medical pamphlet warning about an infectious disease. Read it carefully and be on the lookout for symptoms.” —Daniel W. Drezner, The New York Times Book Review
"As Timothy Snyder explains in his fine and frightening On Tyranny, a minority party now has near-total power and is therefore understandably frightened of awakening the actual will of the people." —Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
“Snyder is superbly positioned to bring historical thinking to bear on the current political scene. . . . These unpretentious words remind us that political resistance isn’t a matter of action-movie heroics, but starts from a willingness to break from social expectations.” —Jeet Heer, The New Republic
“The perfect clear-eyed antidote to Trump’s deliberate philistinism. . . . These 128 pages are a brief primer in every important thing we might have learned from the history of the last century, and all that we appear to have forgotten.” —Tim Adams, The Guardian
“On Tyranny demands to be read.” —The Forward
“The manifesto we need. . . . Snyder detects dangerous trends in American politics that may be less visible to most citizens who cannot believe that our country, with its system of checks and balances, could succumb to illiberalism or authoritarianism.” —Darryl Holter, Los Angeles Review of Books
“Bracing. . . . On Tyranny is a call to action. . . . A brisk read packed with lucid prose.” —Vox
About the Author
- Publisher : Crown; 1st edition (February 28, 2017)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 128 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0804190119
- ISBN-13 : 978-0804190114
- Item Weight : 3.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 4.32 x 0.4 x 6.23 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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By Hrnyhairy on June 18, 2017
If he were to draw conclusions on tyranny from the 20th Century he would look at North Korea, China, Russia, Germany, Italy, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, South Africa and the many other countries that have failed under the guise of socialism which devolves to autocracy and totalitarianism, not to mention economic failure.
Don't waste your time or your money on this one. Yale? Really?
This is not some idle "leftist-slanted" speculation or assertion
Note especially Chapter 10: "Believe in Truth," which is prefaced with this keynote:
"To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, the no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights."
What is more shocking than the assaults on our democracy is the amount of negative reviews evident here. Please, people, wake up and open your eyes.
The book’s chapter titles are warnings, like Do not obey in advance. Defend institutions. That is what cons believe they are doing when they resist the left. Cons think that liberals are tyrants and would like to become more so. When during the Obama administration, the IRS went after cons and even raided peoples’ homes, the right thought that was tyranny. SJWs are attempting to force us to believe that there is no such thing as biological gender. Some have even suggested that asking whether the baby is a boy or girl is a hate crime.
Believe in truth. Starting in the sixties, liberals said there was no truth, no facts, it was all relative, everyone had their own truth and reality, what Americans thought was truth was the lies of their hideous culture. There were “alternative ways of knowing” and it was okay to “lie” for the sake of “justice.” Alinsky wrote his book urging liberals to say anything that would serve their cause. So it is evil to tear gas the borders, but not when Obama was president. For some this is “truth.” Liberals like the author are upset, not about the loss of the western notion of universal objective truth (which they despise) but because their truth is not the one universally accepted.
Have a private life. He means the private life that he chooses for us. Libs destroyed the Boy Scouts, in Connecticut are harassing home schoolers, won’t let Christians (only them) worship at colleges, mandate that a boy who says I feel like a girl can compete in girls sports (the boys always win). Judges rule that men who refuse to refer to their sons as “she” cannot see their children. In the sixties, the left said that the personal is political. They believe that “private life” is a detestable bourgeois anti marxist concept. Every part of humans must belong to the state. Snyder does not believe in having a private life.
Be calm when the unthinkable happens. Be as courageous as you can. The author talks a lot about the persecution of Jewish people in the thirties and forties. It did not happen all at once. First there were verbal attacks, then physical attacks and one day the Jews were no longer there. He gives the impression it could happen in America and ignores the anti Jewishness in Europe, especially France, where an identifiable Jew can hardly walk on the street without some kind of verbal attack or being spat upon, where Jews are regularly beaten and some have been murdered, where every synagogue and Jewish school and market must have armed guards to protect them against Muslims. Even the leftwing NYT reported this so it must be really bad. The European police say they can do nothing. The left is silent and when others raise it accuses them of racism. The UK Labor refused to condemn the Pittsburgh murders at the synagogue and is openly anti Jewish. Silence from the left. The author says Americans should get passports - to escape the USA. Jews in Europe are getting passports and leaving. The author does not care about these unthinkable things. The heads of the women’s march and the DC government are openly anti Jewish. There are openly anti semitic members of Congress saying the same things that Hitler said. But the author will never talk about this and may even defend it. The left is doing that. The author says not to look away from signs of tyranny but he looks away from the persecution of Christians in Islamic countries and in the west. In England, the government is attacking Sunday schools, on the ground that they are exclusive because they are for Christians.
One principle of western culture for some centuries has been that bigotry is wrong. Now the left says it’s not wrong against certain groups. In other words, it is no longer wrong in principle. Most anti Jewishness now is from the left, but the fact that people like Snyder don’t openly and firmly say that is wrong is helping bigots on the right.
Bigotry seems to be a natural part of human nature. Only in the west is bigotry towards the other resisted. Outside of the west, peoples think their bigotry towards the other is perfectly reasonable. Western liberals are adopting this viewpoint.
Learn from peers in other countries. good idea but he should keep in mind that outside of the west no one is liberal. People everywhere are nice, we all love our families and a sunny day and a good laugh, we all have much in common. But in other cultures people are uncritically loyal to their identity.
Non western cultures can teach about identity loyalty religion. They cannot teach how to be liberal or tolerant or self critical. They cannot teach reform or acceptance of differences. Every American should make an effort to see how different cultures treat minorities or criminals or dissenters, their ideas about sexual morality, modesty, religion, raising children. It may be that other ways are better than ours, but it will not be because other ways are more liberal because they are not liberal.
Top reviews from other countries
This brief 128-page book is a guide for the responsible citizen to help maintain their democratic society’s institutions and norms in the age of rising authoritarian populism, in 20 short chapters with titles like ‘Beware the One-Party State’, ‘Remember Professional Ethics’ and ‘Believe in Truth.’ Snyder illustrates each chapter with examples from history of how autocrats took control in stages in Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia and communist states in eastern Europe such as Czechoslovakia and Poland.
The writing is punchy, literate and of impressive brevity. There may be little new here for the intelligent and history-aware reader, but Snyder nevertheless reveals some gems: an explanation of the autocratic practice of ‘terror management’; the mechanism of how ‘truth dies in four modes’ (i.e. stages, each with a name and defining characteristics), and the subtle but important differences between a narrative based on “the politics of inevitability” and one firmly rooted in “the politics of eternity”; both are essentially ahistorical, but the latter far more dangerous.
Some reviewers claim the book is about Donald Trump as president. In fact, Trump is hardly mentioned and this book is not about Trump as president per se, but about principled actions each citizen might undertake to support democracy in the face of those in power who would seek to undermine or destroy it. If many of these calls to action are more pertinent in the age of Trumpism, the timing of the book’s publication may be no coincidence.
In his chapter on how nationalism is different to patriotism, the author explains that a nationalist fooled by an aspiring autocrat/tyrant ‘will say “it can’t happen here”, which is the first step to disaster. A patriot says that it could happen here, but that we will stop it.’
The book was published primarily in response to the presidency of Trump, but also in response to the many populist and far-right movements that seem to be springing up all over the globe. Trump is not a dictator, and there is every possibility that he will get bored and go away of his own volition, but the precedents that he is setting in his time in office are already starting to erode American – and indeed world – democracy: the aggressive nationalism, the cries of ‘fake news’, the demonising of minority groups, foreigners and experts, … If Trump goes, will that necessarily mean a return to sanity and a free country? Or will the damage already done be too deep? What could come next?
Likewise, in Britain a populist movement encouraged by lies, misdirection and a vain hope that any change will be better than the status quo, has lumbered us with an ill-conceived Brexit that will damage the country for at least decades to come – economically and spiritually. As Remoaners, we, who oppose Brexit, are daily, forcefully reminded that ‘the PEOPLE have spoken’, and that it is undemocratic to question the WILL OF THE PEOPLE. There is talk of there being riots and civil war if the WILL OF THE PEOPLE is not obeyed. Unfortunately, nobody actually knows what the will of the people is, apart from a nebulous desire of 38% of the potential voting public to leave the EU – but not how nor why we should leave.
Two quotes I particularly liked were: “To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true then no-one can criticize power”, and “A nationalist will say ‘it can’t happen here’, which is the first step towards disaster. A patriot says that it could happen here, but that we will stop it.” To oppose tyranny requires many, many people being aware of the danger signs and acting on them.
I am reminded of a poem by Pastor Niemöller, who was imprisoned in Dachau:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
I only have one problem with the book. It perpetuates the myth that “When Winston Churchill became prime minister in 1940, Great Britain was alone”. NO IT WAS NOT. It was fully backed by the Commonwealth: New Zealand, Australia, Canada, India, and many African and Pacific nations, … That is not to forget the Free French under de Gaulle, the large remnants of the Polish military stationed in Britain, and the resistance movements across Europe. Winston Churchill was an imposing and inspirational leader – but he was never alone, and neither should anyone be, who is fighting against tyranny in all its guises.
The book is well-written and very thought-provoking. It needs to be widely read and acted on, but – as one other reviewer pointed out, the people who most need to read this book, probably won’t. It is a call to watchfulness and a reminder of the dangers of apathy.
No one I spoke to thought Brexit would really happen. It did. (This has done more to split Britain than I ever thought possible)
No one I spoke to thought Trump would really win. He did.
The last few years have seen Twitter being used as a platform for hate and propaganda, not reasonable debate. Journalists have been derided for spreading 'fake news' for doing their job - and our duty as human beings - which is to question, challenge, verify, find the fact instead of just repeating what someone said and blindly believing it because it suits how you wish the world to be, not how it is.
We are all responsible for what happens. Collectively. Timothy Snyder presents so clearly our willingness to hide under the covers and think that what happens to our neighbour does not concern us.
Please read this book. Examine how it makes you feel. How you communicate. How you consider your friends, authority, government, your role in society. How important we all are. How every small thing that we do, no matter how insignificant, has vital importance.
Every thing Snyder describes to me I have been living through in England since at least 2010, when the right wing reactionary Tory Government came to power after New Labour.
Even how austerity has increased inequality and how that destabilises societies - Snyder points it all out succinctly and with devastatingly simple language.
This book is also a validation for me of my approach to this neo-liberal dominated world I live in as I already practice many of Snyder's suggested defences.
This book however, seems chiefly written for Americans. One thing I would suggest is missing therefore is the problem of hypocrisy, and how that too can help democracy to be undermined.
Let's face it, the English are past masters of it and that means the art of convincing ourselves that we are somehow 'exceptional' and better than other people even though 'one' is just more discrete about doing what 'they' are doing. And that's good enough apparently!!
Other than that, this is still an indispensable read and I recommend it unreservedly.