On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
Timothy Snyder begins his small volume with the aphorisms (playing off History never repeats, but it does rhyme): “History does not repeat, but it does instruct,” and “History can familiarize, and it can warn.”
This book is loaded with prime historical examples documenting the ladder of tyranny, most notably from the Nazi regime and then the corresponding Stalinist regime. It transitions into the current American timeline. A mentally lazy nation that believes in conspiracies over facts is doomed to fall:
“The habit of dwelling on victimhood dulls the impulse of self-correction. Since the nation is defined by its inherent virtue rather than by its future potential, politics becomes a discussion of good and evil rather than a discussion of possible solutions to real problems.”
Where does ethics stand in this? Britannica defines ethics as “the discipline concerned with what is morally good and bad and morally right and wrong … How should we live? Shall we aim at happiness or at knowledge, virtue, or the creation of beautiful objects? If we choose happiness, will it be our own or the happiness of all? And what of the more particular questions that face us: is it right to be dishonest in a good cause? Can we justify living in opulence while elsewhere in the world people are starving? … What are our obligations, if any, to the generations of humans who will come after us and to the nonhuman animals with whom we share the planet?”
The obligation of a nation is to each of its citizens, not a select few. Morally, the well-being of every citizen should be considered, otherwise the ethics of the nation has failed.
“We find it natural that we pay for a plumber or a mechanic, but demand our news for free … Why should we form our political judgment on the basis of zero investment? We get what we pay for.”
Snyder includes a book reading list, helpful to the reader to begin engaging and learning on their own, and as a defense against regurgitated internet news feeds or agenda-driven news media companies.
It’s important that none of us look away. Those in good conscience should be prepared to say No to what they deem is unjust.
We are each of us free to determine between right and wrong. An election is our voice in choosing right over wrong.
Check your voter registration here.