Timothy Snyder encapsulates how lessons of the past can prevent tyranny of the future.
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• Where annual elections end, tyranny begins.
• Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. Remember Rosa Parks. The moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.
• Human nature is such that American democracy must be defended from Americans who would exploit its freedom to bring about its end.
• Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone else is saying. Make an effort to separate yourself from the Internet. Read books.
• When we repeat the same words and phrases that appear in the daily media, we accept the absence of a larger framework. To have such a framework requires more concepts, and having more concepts requires reading. So get the screens out of your room and surround yourselves with books.
• We find it natural that we pay for a plumber or a mechanic, but demand our news for free. If we did not pay for plumbing or auto repair, we would not expect to drink water or drive cars. Why then should we form our political judgment on the basis of zero investment? We get what we pay for.
• It is not that the man actually endorses the content of The Communist Manifesto. He places the sign in his window so that he can withdraw into daily life without trouble from the authorities. When everyone else follows the same logic, the public sphere is covered with signs of loyalty, and resistance becomes unthinkable.
• Hans Frank, Hitler’s personal lawyer, once boasted that there were not enough trees to make the paper for posters that would be needed to announce all of the executions.
• In the Great Terror of the Soviet Union, NKVD officers recorded 682,691 executions of supposed enemies of the state, most of them peasants or members of national minorities.
• The man who runs naked across a football field certainly disrupts, but he does not change the rules of the game. The whole notion of disruption is adolescent: it assumes that after the teenagers make a mess, the adults will come and clean it up. But there are no adults. We own this mess.