On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder made me believe in the power of small books and was the best book I read in the summer of 2018.
It said a lot without a lot of words.
This book is a direct response to the Trump administration and a warning of how history can repeat itself if we are not careful. I finished it in one sitting because the writing was so clear and engaging.
I would recommend this book to everyone but if you care about politics this is a must-read. I may have changed some wording, but you can assume every highlight below is a direct quote from the book.
Life is political, not because the world cares about how you feel, but because it reacts to what we do. The minor choices we make are in themselves a kind of vote.
Think of your own way of speaking, even if to only convey what you think everyone else is saying. Separate yourself from the internet. Read books.
Every news story is breaking, everything happens fast, but nothing actually happens. We are hit by wave upon wave but never see the ocean.
Visual media\’s language is constrained, to starve the public of concepts required to think about the present, remember the past, and consider the future.
You submit to tyranny when you renounce the difference between what you want to hear, and what is actually the case.
The renunciation of reality might feel nice but it is your demise as an individual.
\”Post-truth\”- scorn of everyday facts and construction of alternative realities allows us to be controlled and maneuvered in tyrannical ways.
Our ability to discern facts makes us an individual, and our collective trust in common knowledge makes us a society.
In the age of the internet, we are all publishers, each of us bears some responsibility for the public\’s sense of truth. If we are serious about seeking the facts we can make a small revolution about how the internet works.
We do not see the minds we hurt when we publish falsehoods, but that does not mean we do no harm.
We are only free so far as we exercise control over what people know about us.
Politics of inevitability
- we imbibed myth of \”end of history\”(Fukuyama), lowered our defenses, constrained our imagination, and opened the way way to regimes we told ourselves could never return.
- The present is simply a step toward a future we already know, one of expanding globalization, deepening reason, and growing prosperity.
- Teleology- a narration of time that leads toward a certain desirable goal (think Marx with communism and Proudhon with anarchism)
- Rather than rejecting teleologies when communism shattered, we imagined our own story was true
- self-induced coma where we tell ourselves that history is no longer relevant.
Politics of eternity
- longing for past moments that never really happened in time periods that were actually disastrous.
- every reference to the past seems to involve an attack by an external enemy of the purity of a nation
- seduction of mythicized past prevents us from thinking about possible futures, like a hypnosis
In between the politics of inevitability and the politics of eternity lies a careful study of HISTORY
- History allows us to see patterns and make judgments.
- It sketches for us the structures within which we can seek freedom.
- It reveals moments, each one of them different, none entirely unique
- To understand one moment is to see the possibility of being the co-creator of another.
- History permits us to be responsible, not for everything, but for something
- History gives us the company of those who have done and suffered more than we have
- In order to make history, young Americans will have to know some