On Tyranny | Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century | Timothy D. Snyder | Book Summary




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On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy D. Snyder

A controversial, timely intervention in world affairs from one of the most acclaimed historians of the twentieth century

History does not repeat, but it does instruct.

In the twentieth century, European democracies collapsed into fascism, Nazism and communism. These were movements in which a leader or a party claimed to give voice to the people, promised to protect them from global existential threats, and rejected reason in favour of myth. European history shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse, and ordinary people can find themselves in unimaginable circumstances.

History can familiarise, and it can warn. Today, we are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to totalitarianism in the twentieth century. But when the political order seems imperilled, our advantage is that we can learn from their experience to resist the advance of tyranny.

Now is a good time to do so.


Not long ago, many Americans supposed that the future would slowly bring advancement for us to reach a globalized world of welfare and wisdom. The experience of Fascism, Nazism, and Communism in the twentieth century was like a cruel, difficult to remember past that could no chance to return. 

But things may be different dramatically in the future. It means that tyranny may be in the offing again. What should we do, then?

Fortunately, we can learn how to identify and withstand tyranny by what we have learned from the past. Based on the controversial thoughts of historian Timothy Synder, this summary will clarify the things that history can teach us about tyranny.

Chapter 1 – Oppose tyranny by involving in politics and being conscious of paramilitary forces.

You will know that America has aggressive attitudes towards foreign threats if you have been following the current news. But it is also better to keep a watchful eye on the threats from within if you are that worried about threats to democracy.

You will find that each of the democratic governments that have failed after the First World War fell to a one-party regime that took power from within the country.

Nazis, socialists, and fascists have used control and display conventionally to allow their takeovers. They were in the tendency to use salami tactics -the process of splitting away at the opposition, taking control in parts. The public is frequently too busy to consider the danger to their liberties.

Therefore you need to be careful and prop up the multiple party system. You should abstain from one power that controls every part of the state. And it is what occurs in the U.S. currently.

Your part is to go to the polls for local and state elections and become active in political issues. What is better is to support the usage of paper ballots because they are hard to tamper with, unlike the electronic ones. Plus, you can be a candidate in the election.

By the way, there is an important thing to be cautious of for us. It is paramilitary powers- which is a military existence that isn’t state or federally approved.

If anyone wants to take charge, she would probably prepare a severe body that acts as a paramilitary part of her party.

Almost none of Donald Trump’s candidates wouldn’t do what he did: organizing a security team to act by his instructions at political rallies. Security forces were there to expelling opposition voices from the meetings. And supporters were also allowed by the representatives to take out those who objected to the candidate.

Donald Trump’s order at a rally was shocking. He told his security team ”Get the remnant out!” After that person removed, he told the audience, ”Isn’t this more fun than a regular boring rally? To me, it is fun.”

It is the kind of attitude that should be noticeable for people.




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Chapter 2 – You shouldn’t disregard the dangerous language and metaphor and come out against it.

One of the first things they did in Germany was to start a boycott campaign against Jewish companies after the Nazi party acceded to power. This boycott didn’t take the population’s attention in the first place. However, store owners started to decorate shop windows with the words ”Aryan” and ”Jewish”. And bigotry drew interest soon after.

Initially, the terminology and symbolism used by a political party might look trivial or absurd. Yet, basic things like these may cause massive implications.

The action of tagging store windows in Germany was racism. And it was also the abuse of ambition and survival nature of people.

What other company owners and optimistic investors believed was that- a labeled store as ‘Jewish’ wouldn’t be in the business in a short time. That meant that they would lower the rivalry. And there would be the first quality commercial real estate obtainable soon. Such things took the interests of an audience full of passion was searching for ways out of their financial difficulties.

It’s critical to follow them literally and not permit them to grow and spread, even when the signals of tyranny seem innocent or superficial.

It is not just those who labeled the stores that can be held responsible. Those who tolerated and stayed silent for these practices as a common variance in the community were also responsible. They were guilty in the killings that quickly joined.

So, If you don’t want to give control to symbols, you shouldn’t show any imagery that reflects a political party that externalizes any group from society.

The year was 1978. Vaclav Havel, the political dissident and to-be president of Czechoslovakia, wrote The Power of the Weak, an article about a seller who placed a small sign in his shop window. That writing addressed to the Communist Party, and it said, “Workers of the world, unite!”

Although the man was not a fan of the Communist Party, he took off the sign to keep himself safe against the officials. However, such servility is nevertheless dangerous, as the essay brightened.

What you do is always live in their hands and allow the play to go on by not being a rebel and agreeing with the governmental strategies like an expected thing.

Rejecting to cooperate is going to stop the oppression of the government of its so-called enemies.

Chapter 3 – Resist turning a blind eye to propaganda by educating yourself and acquiring knowledge.

Though you are not interested in politics, not paying attention to catchwords and speeches that political leaders say over to a sickening extent might be difficult.

You can get rid of getting affected by these speeches and stereotyped mindset by being yourself, searching out, and giving voice to your thoughts.

1984 by George Orwell is about a society that is overwhelmed by a strong media that uses unbearably limiting vocabulary for imagination and critical thought. Over time,  to undermine the minds of the people and their capacity to oppose the government’s proposals, the party in power has removed even more terms from the official dictionary. They would thus in a position where to embrace the misleading slogan of the party: “War is peace; freedom is slavery; ignorance is strength.”

George Orwell was right in his advice in the book. We should use the vocabulary to stand up against tyranny and to keep free thinking alive. If we choose to listen to politicians’ limited thoughts, catchwords, and stereotypes, unfortunately, we are going to miss the opportunity to get informed from the past, to consider now, and to imagine what the future is going to look like.

Reading books is the greatest way to cut yourself off from the internet and social media and consider yourself clearly.

Ignoring social media may sound impossible to you. If it is, you have a chance to widen your information sources. Getting information from limited sources or trusting the popular media blindly would cause you to hear the same slogans and speeches of politicians again and again.

Reading is the wiseliest action to get educated and consider one’s self because books have contents that make it easier to choose between the right and wrong. Also, it provides information about other’s lives which is an important knowledge to get nowadays.

Best known books like Harry Potter gives us big lessons to consider a lifetime. Maybe you missed it in the past. However, the Content of Harry Potter is mostly about the opposition to tyranny.




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Chapter 4 – To keep the public alive and well, you should break the social barriers.

Think about this: Does making eye contact have a relation with politics?

The connection is the key. We wander around staring at our screens a lot and not looking at each other. It is not relating to being friendly, it is about being a decent person who is a related member of society.

Tyranny becomes successful when it divides groups by building social barriers that separate and confuse people. But by overcoming these barriers and getting different people from different pasts to share thoughts on how to progress, the resistance may be achieved.

So, resistance against tyranny begins with varied social environments gather together.

After the Solidarity labor act set a coalition with different people, an accomplished resistance against Communism became possible in Poland. By acting together, Catholic employees and professionals from secular groups won a chance to be in the Polish government.

The Communist government had turned staff against students protesting for reform in 1968. And in 1970, protesting workers were faced with brutal repression in Gdansk.

It took academics and employees to gather together in 1976, to eventually reform the government. Religious faith or political affiliation did not unite these individuals; rather, they united over shared goals.

In 1980, when Polish workers in Gdansk showed themselves on protest again, the coalition gained strength. However this time, they had students, lawyers, and other staff who had a strong influence on their advantage. It was soon joined by a free trade union, and the Solidarity movement gained so much power.

It took sixteen months. To quell the movement, the Communist government in Poland eventually proclaimed a stage of siege. Oddly, with the government in chaos in 1989, the Communists were forced to search for help from the leaders of Solidarity, who won free elections in exchange for their alliance.

For Communism in Poland, this marked the beginning of the end. And eastern Europe and the Soviet Union followed in a short time.

Chapter 5 – Freedom relies on controlling your information, that’s why you should protect your privacy.

You may not have a problem with sharing such details on Facebook, but it’s significant to remember to what process your private details going into being accessed by others.

Imagine just that. The more people have ownership of searching your private information and communications, the further you despair your existing liberty.

It does not matter who ingress the information, whether it be the authority, Google, or a country’s administrative unit. One has to secure back what is rightfully one’s, otherwise, it won’t be counted personally identifiable, as well as other privileges that once assumed were innate would also be stripped away immediately.

We recognize that it could demean as well as cause some serious chaos to break into personal conversations.

Thieved data from both the DNT (Democratic National Committee) and Clinton administration officials plunged the campaign into turmoil throughout the 2016 US Election and took the community a step nearer to totalitarianism.

From a large perspective, by merely portraying this security breach like some of the other news reports, which just helped to divert citizens from what was occurring, the press made this situation get a lot worse.

The press is open to manipulating the sense of curiosity in speculation about everyone else. One of several leading thinkers of the 20th century, Hannah Arendt, acknowledged the common hunger for mysteries along with its hazards.

Arendt observed that falsehoods sometimes appear quite appealing to individuals than the mundane truth and realities of policy. The promise of hidden mysteries and outrageous discoveries quickly seduces everyone. The concern is that we are diverted from much more realistic social matters by our involvement in such rather contradictory ideas.

Certainly, nearly everyone is actively scanning phones for social alerts and posting their private info glibly, however that doesn’t imply you must as well do it. Currently, as someone joins in much the same conduct, it’s a red flag that perhaps the community is falling prey to the unreasonable crowd.

Therefore, make your independence sealed by preserving your seclusion.

Ease up from using the web, rather than using unbiased observer apps, chat directly while you are still able to do it. And question this, when did you last search for malware?

Authoritarian regimes can use all methods to keep the people afraid, thus by keeping your private info winnable, don’t hand them power.




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Chapter 6 – Stay alert for the numerous ways that oppressive rulers misrepresent the facts.

The “post-truth” period has indeed been dubbed presently, a period where truths are constantly ignored in favor of current models. It may sound ridiculous, but this is a very serious risk because once the reality expires, liberty would follow.

In the course of the reality is so distorted where it no longer in existence, there are four phases, the first being overt opposition to provable facts and actuality.

Tales are portrayed as evidence throughout that process, and that’s something Donald Trump happens to do surprisingly much. One analysis found that 78 % of his statements appeared misleading throughout the referendum in 2016.

The second phase is characterized by a constant regurgitation of the very same stories, the idea suggests that people will generally believe it more if you repeat this often.

Sayings such as “Crooked Hillary” and “Throw her in jail!” on Twitter and also in speeches once again, pop up. The persistence tends to revise it even if the evidence is easily accessible.

Inconsistencies are freely accepted in the third phase.

Trump vowed to slash taxes, reduce the budget deficit, and to increase spending on defense services. These statements dispute one another explicitly. It would be to lose all justification to believe that the person creating these was not conscious of such inconsistencies.

The fourth step is described by blind confidence in politicians who declare themselves as the “representatives of the majority” or the salvation of the real beliefs of a country. There wasn’t even a rather expression, a very hero. Thus accepting these lies is perhaps putting the facts in danger; it is indeed hacking away at individual independence.

It’s the identical vocabulary that followed the 1930s fascist revolution, and Eugène Ionesco, the famous Romanian writer, has seen many of his associates come underneath the influence. This confusion has become the foundation of his surrealist work, Rhinoceros, where humans who embraced deception as reality were turned into the certain tusked creature.

Many would claim they were against the Nazi regime at the beginning if you asked the public about their thoughts. In a while, one after the other, almost all of them accepted it over some time. The opposition had been very weak in the end. Yet, the past really shouldn’t repeat.

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder Book Review

Realizing what and how to search for would be the question of fighting for your country against dictatorship. The gradual loss of personal liberties, risks to your anonymity, and a disdain for honesty are the classic symptoms. Sadly, in the U.s now these signals have become too obvious. In preserving truth, justification, and reverence for basic humanity, we would have to be intense.

Do not lose time in defeatist consideration and study up on roots of totalitarianism.

A lot of people would say, “I’m not sufficient to change something, and why would I worry about taking a role in politics?” This is a comprehensible feeling, but it’s still a rather faulty one that struggles to recognize how progress happens.

Changing may not happen instantaneously, it takes time. whether it’s for the best or the worst, it happens in slow motion. Just recognize: any little touch saves you from getting into the circle of defeatist consideration.

For detailed information on tyranny, read the book The History of Totalitarianism (1951) by Hannah Arendt, which explains the rising of anti-Semitism, Nazi ideology, and Soviet communism, and relates these to the advent of discrimination as a philosophy.




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