This polemical thing from Timothy Snyder has been timed to coincide with the arrival of a certain individual in America, it seems. Either this, or it’s a staggering coincidence.
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century opens with the concept “history does not repeat, but it does instruct” and goes on to highlight how fascism during the 20th century led to the collapse of democracy and morality (with a particular emphasis, unsurprisingly, on the Nazi party).
This is common knowledge, of course, but Snyder has something else on his mind:
"When the political order seems imperilled, our advantage is that we can learn from [past] experience to rest the advance of tyranny. Now is a good time to do so."
The result is he highlights some 20 key moments from the 20th century and how we, right here in 2017, can avert being brainwashed by propaganda or becoming inactive witnesses to injustices.
Politics, eh? Whether it interests you or not, it affects your life – from the loaf of bread you purhcase to the person you throw a punch at when drunk, the results are all down to politics. This little tome doesn’t teach you about bread, but it does provide 20 nifty, simple ideas to avoid becoming a megalomaniacal psychopath.
Whilst the points Snyder raises can be easily contemplated from whatever political leaning you may have, there’s a tacit liberal leaning in the book which, of course, saves it from becoming a bigoted rant about why women and foreigners are the worst thing since… sliced bread.
Instead, the book encourages you with points such as “stand out”, “contribute to good causes”, and “be a patriot” (Snyder is American).
It’s in point 19 where he clearly has a right go at Donald Trump, indicating Americans should set a good example for future generations to avoid mayhem. In the UK, we have a pretty clear political divide – right and left-wingers.
These two sets of supporters spend most of their time arguing bitterly rather than solving any social issues, with right-wingers fondly labelling the left as “libtards”, “loony lefties”, or “lefty scum” (childish behaviour which we enjoy lampooning).
Wherever you may be from, Snyder’s book does provide a concise, if not exactly revelatory, look at how politics can corrupt and ruin society, with fundamental concepts on morality to steer you in towards a pleasant direction.
It’s a quick read at 120 pages, but an interesting one which could well influence your outlook on the world.
Political Convictions & Confusions
As a side note, and interestingly, we’ve come across many right wingers online who are convinced the Nazi party was a rampaging component of left-wing policies.
“Look at all those liberals” one lady commented on a picture of Hitler saluting his army posted on the notoriously horrific Daily Mail, whilst another confidently announced:
"There was absolutely nothing right-wing about the Nazi party".
It seems the name National Socialism (i.e. Nazis) has confused many and we saw these people invent a narrative to suit their agenda (the lady also argued, by having an animal rights policy, this most, mean the Nazis were well and truly loony lefty libtards).
Rrather than doing some research to discover Hitler ruled through a classic far-right fascist dictatorship and, indeed, the party remains the very definition of far-right politics and the antithesis of socialism.
It’s bizarre we’d ever have to explain this to anyone, but there’s a growing army of internet warriors who are convinced the Nazis were liberals.
The convictions of these people can be so strong it briefly has you questioning your knowledge of history (along with your sanity), until you remind yourself of the facts and leave these delusional sorts to their lunacy.
With facts and history being distorted, a book like this is pertinent in highlighting how politics caused a shift in social paradigms during the 20th century.
Right now, right-wing policies are making a comeback as multiculturalism and terrorist activities push the West, arguably, into the most volatile state it’s been in since the Cold War.
Although we’re sure many people out there also find politics extremely boring (judging by the amount of non-voters during the Brexit referendum and American election, a lot of people either don’t care or have given up on it all through exasperation), it’s an interesting intellectual playground if you fancy having an argument with someone online.