On Tyranny

On Tyranny

Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century

eBook - 2017
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#1 Washington Post BestsellerA New York Times BestsellerThe Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.
Publisher: 2017
ISBN: 9780804190121
Characteristics: 1 online resource

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Dec 11, 2018

Should be required reading for everyone-especially high school and college students. Too bad the people who most need to read it probably won’t. These are the same people who have no understanding of or interest in history and who think that politics and elections don’t matter to them. By the time they realize they DO matter, it will be too late.

Nov 07, 2018

the 20 Commandments of Democracy, if you're at all interested in your political future

Oct 31, 2018

'On Tyranny' is an excellent book. It is something we should all read to help us navigate the stormy waters of the political climate that we find ourselves in at present. By paying attention, we may be able to avoid the mistakes of the past and protect ourselves from falling into the traps that history tells us are so dangerous that they could destroy our value systems and take away our freedom.

Sep 17, 2018

This is a great book, and I wish it was required reading. Not just in this country, but everywhere. Some of it gets a little abstract, and I wish the writing was a little more direct, and less academic, but it is an excellent resource in guarding against tyranny, and a great handbook when one is living under tyranny.

Jun 13, 2018

I think Shamas has missed the point of this book. This book is a short, readable warning for the average Joe to watch out for signs that tyranny is taking over their societies and government systems. People who can't get past the view that their own little segment of society is the only important segment are going to be so busy navel gazing that they will miss all of those signs.

squib Jun 10, 2018

short, to the point, timely, necessary. Check it out, read it, remember it, share it.

Jun 07, 2018

Toni Morrison gave three lectures at Harvard University in 1991 entitled “Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination” (published in 1993).
She writes – There seems to be a more or less tacit agreement among literary scholars that, because American literature has been clearly the preserve of white male views, genius, and power, those views, genius, and power are without relationship to and removed from the overwhelming presence of black people in the United States…
The tacit agreement is made about a population that preceded every American writer of renown. With the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Willa Cather, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemmingway, and others, Toni Morrison illustrates how the consensus works. She also notes that some powerful literary critics in the United States have never read, and are proud to say so, any African-American text!

Fast foreword – 26 years later there is this book “On Tyranny: 20 lessons from the 20th century” by an American historian. Centuries of slavery are missing (Rosa Parks gets a mention). How many millions killed? Centuries of dispossession of Indigenous peoples are also left by the wayside. How many millions killed?
Apparently, there are no lessons to be learnt from American experiments in democracy on this continent. In any century. There is a list of recommended readings on pages 61-63 featuring nearly 20 writers and texts. Only two are women. The Bible concludes the list. There are no African-American writers, men or women. There are no Indigenous writers, men or women.

What happened to libraries filled with these authors? What happened to Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Ida B Wells-Barnett, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King? Apparently these writers/activists, some world-famous, have nothing to say about tyranny.

Try EPL for a start... Exploring Reconciliation is one gateway to people, books, talks, and web resources. Many thanks to EPL for this series. As Howard Zinn noted, there’s nothing like a library (in his lecture “Three Holy Wars”, 2009).

Here are a few suggestions that would make for a more enlightening conversation on tyranny. They are listed in alphabetical order by first name. Most are available at EPL.

>> Bryan Stevenson – Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
>> Cornel West – many books. Listen to his 2006 lectures – The Gifts of Black Folk in the Age of Terrorism
>> Dawn Lavell-Harvard and Jennifer Brant – Forever Loved: Exposing the Hidden Crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada
>> Lisa Monchalin – The Colonial Problem: An Indigenous Perspective on Crime and Injustice in Canada
>> Michelle Alexander – The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
>> Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele – When They Call you a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir
>> Reni Eddo-Lodge – Why I’m no Longer Talking to White People about Race
>> Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz – An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States
>> Tanya Talaga – Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City
>> Thomas King – many books including The Truth about Stories: A Native Narrative

There are others – Angela Davis, bell hooks, Bill Bigelow, Biloine Young, Brittney Cooper, Carl Anthony, Claudia Rankine, Colin Kaepernick, David Stannard, Eduardo Galeano, Edward Said, Franz Fanon, Harry Belafonte, James Anaya, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kimberle Crenshaw, Michael Eric Dyson, Muhammad Ali, Paul Gilroy, Paul VanDevelder, Serena Williams, Sylviane Diouf, Ta-Nehisi Coates, W.E.B. Dubois... this can be a long list. Add your own selections.

Finally, the focus of “On Tyranny” on European tyranny in Europe also leaves out the European powers’ exercise of tyranny in Africa, Asia and South America. But then why should writers from all those countries with visible minorities be allowed to have a voice in this little book?

Feb 21, 2018

So I picked up this book after seeing a (too) short interview that The National did with him. I found it rather interesting. It is certainly thought provoking; he has packed a lot into a few pages on each of the twenty lessons. Because of this, I am curious to read some of his other works where I suspect the details leading to him to his conclusions are expanded.

It is not time-consuming to read, but because of the the essence of each distilled lesson, there is lots to think about, discuss, and consider. Even when he is drawing comparisons or mentions a few books that he feels are worth reading (some of which I probably would never pick up), it was interesting to realize how some of the same points play out in the fictional worlds of books and movies (the rise of Palpatine in Star Wars came to mind).

Whether you agree with him or not, it is a booklet that can challenge you to understand the influences that want to shape your opinion and compliance. If you read it, perhaps you will be inspired to examine what your stances and beliefs are founded on and solidify that foundation.

Jan 30, 2018

Just one word: WOW!

Jan 18, 2018

This cautionary book is in the form of a little handbook. The title of each of the 20 short chapters is an instruction for protecting against one aspect of approaching tyranny. The chapter then cites historical examples from the 20th century (Stalin, Hitler and Putin) of the consequences of ignoring these warnings.

The book is obviously a response to the success of Donald Trump in achieving the presidency. While many of us have observed Trump’s obvious tendencies towards nationalism and tyranny and the parallels with Nazism, fascism and communism, this book explores the subject in well-informed, well-organized and easily-digestible detail.

Anyone who thinks “it can’t happen here” needs to read this book and take its admonishments seriously. It is an excellent handbook for thoughtful and vigilant citizenship in a democracy.

5 stars.

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Apr 18, 2018

Since in the age of the internet we are all publishers, each of us bears some private responsibility for the public's sense of truth.

Apr 18, 2018

Modern tyranny is terror management. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that authoritarians exploit such events in order to consolidate power. The sudden disaster that requires the end of checks and balances, the dissolution of opposition parties, the suspension of freedom of expression, the right to a fair trial, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Do not fall for it.

Apr 18, 2018

People who assure you that you can only gain security at the price of liberty usually want to deny you both.

Apr 18, 2018

Our appetite for the secret, thought [political writer Hannah] Arendt, is dangerously political. Totalitarianism removes the difference between private and public not just to make individuals unfree, but also to draw the whole society away from normal politics and toward conspiracy theories. Rather than defining facts or generating interpretations, we are seduced by the notion of hidden realities and dark conspiracies that explain everything.

Apr 18, 2018

Protest can be organized through social media, but nothing is real that does not end on the streets. If tyrants feel no consequences for their actions in the three-dimensional world, nothing will change.

Apr 18, 2018

Post-truth is pre-fascism.

Apr 18, 2018

"Professions can create forms of ethical conversation that are impossible between a lonely individual and a distant government. [...] Professional ethics must guide us precisely when we are told that the situation is exceptional. Then there is no such thing as 'just following orders'."

Jul 21, 2017

The mistake is to assume that rulers who come to power through institutions cannot change or destroy those very institutions.


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MichaelECasey Apr 25, 2017

MichaelECasey thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


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Jul 21, 2017

In On Tyranny, Yale History professor Timothy Snyder offers twenty principles for resisting authoritarian government, drawing cautionary examples from twentieth century European history. It grew out of a Facebook post Snyder made in the aftermath of America’s 2016 election. In it, he attempts to bring his wide knowledge of European history, and the collapse of democracies, to bear on the current political moment.


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