Because life is a parody of something that must exist somewhere.

04 April 2017

On Tyranny: Lesson 1

Timothy Snyder published a very short (126 small-size pages) book in February called On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. It compares the evils of the current administration to the tyranny we saw in Twentieth Century Europe and gives us twenty practical lessons for what we can do to resist the rise of tyranny in our own country, no matter who the president is.

I was so impressed by it that I decided to write a small blog entry for each lesson in the book, connecting it to my own life and ideas. In general, I tend to write a lot rather than a little, but I will attempt to keep each entry short, hoping that my posts don't become longer than the book itself.

Lesson 1: Do Not Obey in Advance

This one was initially confusing to me. Why would someone obey a tyrant before he even gives the command? Snyder explains that, in the beginning, this could simply mean adapting to a new situation too easily. It's that moment we've almost all experienced where something feels weird or wrong to you, but you do it anyway because that seems to be the new way and what can you do about it? Going along with rules simply because they are rules, without questioning them or even understanding them. (This happened to me more in childhood than in my adult life.) Or maybe resisting at first but then going along eventually because everyone else is doing it.

The more extreme version is anticipating what the tyrant wants and giving it to him before he asks, which Snyder describes as "teaching power what it can do."

This is why, for the current administration, we have to constantly fight back against things we know go against our values. As has been said many times, we can never accept perversions as "the new normal." My biggest problem personally in this area is (1) it becomes tiring very quickly when I simply want to live my life and (2) like most humans, I am able to adapt to new situations (even bad ones) quickly. The two things are almost the same, of course. So I try to give myself daily reminders that we are currently living in Hell instead of saying "This is fine." This series of blog entries is one of those reminders.

This is a good time to decide what you stand for as a human being, then prepare yourself to never cross the line you have drawn for yourself. To do otherwise is to set yourself up for simply throwing up your hands (or worse) later, which is obeying in advance.

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