History can familiarize, and it can warn.
I was making my way through the fog this morning, both literally (hello, Karl the Fog) and mentally when suddenly, I got updates that martial law was declared in the entire island of Mindanao in the Philippines.
My first thoughts were: how could that be when Pres. Duterte was in Russia and what on earth compelled him to declare martial law?
As news are still developing in my homeland, my mind turned to Timothy D. Snyder’s book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (Amazon | Indiebound) which I finished last week. It’s a slim book, so handy that you can fit it in your pocket, on resisting tyranny specially in the age of Donald Trump (also a response to the wave of populist movements around the world?).
In founding a democratic republic upon law and establishing a system of checks and balances, the Founding Fathers sought to avoid the evil that they, like the ancient philosophers, called tyranny. They had in mind the usurpation of power by a single individual or group, or the circumvention of law by rulers for their own benefit.
Snyder is a historian well-versed in Eastern Europe history, and the book is abundant with references to Nazi Germany as well as other communist states. Broken down in 20 chapters which can also be read as a manifesto, Snyder uses history and provides practical tips on resisting tyranny with each point:
- Do not obey in advance.
- Defend institutions.
- Beware the one-party state.
- Take responsibility for the face of the world.
- Remember professional ethics.
- Be wary of paramilitaries.
- Be reflective if you must be armed.
- Stand out.
- Be kind to our language.
- Believe in truth.
- Make eye contact and small talk.
- Practice corporeal politics.
- Establish a private life.
- Contribute to good causes.
- Learn from peers in other countries.
- Listen for dangerous words.
- Be calm when the unthinkable arrives.
- Be a patriot.
- Be as courageous as you can.