Tuesday, June 27, 2017

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

On Tyranny:  Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
NY:  Tim Duggan Books, 2017
ISBN 978-0-8041-9011-4

(12)  Both fascism and communism were responses to globalization:  to the real and perceived inequalities it created, and the apparent helplessness of the democracies.
NB:  as was American Revolution

(29)  Any election can be the last, or at least the last in the lifetime of the person casting the vote.

(30-31)  Much needs to be done to fix the gerrymandered system so that each citizen has one equal vote, and so that each vote can be simply counted by a fellow citizen.  We need paper ballots, because they cannot be tampered with remotely and can always be recounted.  This sort of work can be done at the local and state levels.  We can be sure that the elections of 2018, assuming they take place, will be a test of American traditions.  So there is much to do in the meantime.

(43)  Most governments, most of the time, seek to monopolize violence.  If only the government can legitimately use force, and this use is constrained by law, then the forms of politics that we take for granted become possible.

(44-45)  Because the American federal government uses mercenaries in warfare and American state governments pay corporations to run prisons, the uses of violence in the United States is already highly privatized.

(63)  Some of the political and historical texts that inform the arguments made here are “Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell (1946);  The Language of the Third Reich by Victor Klemperer (1947);  The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt (1951);  The Rebel by Albert Camus (1951);  The Captive Mind by Czeslaw Milosz (1953);  “The Power of the Powerless” by Vaclav Havel (1978);  “How to be a Conservative-Liberal-Socialist” by Leszek Kolalowski (1978);  The Use of Adversity by Timothy Garton Ash (1989);  The Burden of Responsibility by Tony Judt (1998);  Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning (1992); and Nothing is True and Everything Is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev (2014).

(66) As observers of totalitarianism such as Victor Klemperer noticed, truth dies in four modes, all of which we have just witnessed.

The first mode is the open hostility to verifiable reality, which takes the form of presenting inventions and lies as if they were facts.

(66-67)  The second mode is shamanistic incantation.  As Klemperer noted, the fascist style depends upon “endless repetition,” designed to make the fictional plausible and the criminal desirable.

(67)  The next mode is magical thinking, or the open embrace of contradiction.

(68)  The final mode is misplaced faith.  It involves the sort of self-deifying claims the president made when he said that “I alone can solve it” or “I am your voice.”  When faith descends from heaven to earth in this way, no room remains for the small truths of our individual discernment and experience.
(71)  Post-truth is pre-fascism.

(76) Before you deride the “mainstream media,” note that it is no longer the mainstream.  It is derision that is mainstream and easy, and actual journalism that is edgy and difficult.

(82)  In the most dangerous of times, those who escape and survive generally know people whom they can trust.  Having old friends is the politics of last resort.  And making new ones is the first step toward change.

(84)  Protest can be organized through social media, but nothing is real that does not end on the streets.
NB:  The core of Gandhian nonviolence was swadeshi, local production, protest does not have to end on the streets but continue into the home and neighborhood to become a nonviolent economics, a Gandhian economics

(86)  The choice to be in public depends on the ability to maintain a private sphere of life.  We are free only when it is we ourselves who draw the line between when we are seen and when we are not seen.

(88)  What the great political thinker Hannah Arendt meant by totalitarianism was not an all-powerful state, but the erasure of the difference between private and public life.  We are free only insofar as we exercise control over what people know about us, and in what circumstances they come to know it.
NB:  Facebook, Apple, Google to Cambridge Analytics - the online world as a totalitarian state

(100)  The most intelligent of the Nazis, the legal theorist Carl Schmitt, explained in clear language the essence of fascist governance.  The way to destory all rules, he explained, was to focus on the idea of the _exception_.  A Nazi leader outmaneuvers his opponents by manufacturing a general conviction that the present moment is exceptional, and then transforming that state of exception into a permanent emergency.  Citizens then trade real freedom for fake safety.
NB:  Living in crisis is a sign of an addictive system

(103)  Modern tyranny is terror management.

(110)  For tyrants, the lesson of the Reichstag fire is that one moment of shock enables an eternity of submission.  For us, the lesson is that our natural fear and grief must not enable the destruction or our institutions.  Courage does not mean not fearing, or not grieving.  It does mean recognizing and resisting terror management right away, from the moment of the attack, precisely when it seems most difficult to do so.

(113)  The point is that patriotism involves serving _your own country_.

(114)  A patriot says that it could happen here, but that we will stop it.

(115)  If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die under tyranny.

(123)  When exactly was the “again” in the president’s slogan “Make America great again’?  Hint:  it is the same “again” that we find in “Never again.”

…The habit of dwelling on victimhood dulls the impulse of self-correction.
NB:  Apologies without behavioral change, redemption demanded only to repeat the sin, permanent adolescence

(124)  Since the crisis is permanent, the sense of emergency is always present;  planning for the future seems impossible or even disloyal.
NB:  addiction

(124-125)  The path of least resistance leads directly from inevitability to eternity.  If you once believed that everything always turns out well in the end, you can be persuaded that nothing turns out well in the end.  If you once did nothing because you thought progress was inevitable, then you can continue to do nothing because you think time moves in repeating cycles.

(125)  History permits us to be responsible:  not for everything but for something.  The Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz thought that such a notion of responsibility worked against loneliness and indifference.  History gives us the company of those who have done and suffered more than we have.

Timothy Snyder talks at Harvard

Amazon UK was hacked on his book, with a Russian slogan "Make the world great again"
3 groups got Trmp right:  Eastern Europeans, students of propaganda, anti-totalitarians
"In politics, being deceived is no excuse." - his adviser, survivor of Holocaust and Red internment
Founding Fathers were the opposite of American exceptionalists
Thinkers and the ideas of the 1930s are being cited more and more by those who think that it wasn't a bad decade
Totalitarianism is about the elimination of the private life and its overtaking by the public life - hacked private emails
If we can't handle inequality, we can't offer a real political alternative to Trmp
"Democracy is aspirational in this country"
"Trmp is a walking offering of fragile masculinity"
The younger generation is more authoritarian than their elders, in the USA and the world.
"The polarization is not about views but more about just having to talk to another person."