Snyder’s Tyrant A-Z

My first impression after reading Tim Snyder’s book on Tyranny was that Tyranny does not arise out of the actions of one person seeking power. It is a collective effort of the aspiring tyrant and the people of that country. Conversely, there is thus so much that an individual can do to stop their country from descending into Tyranny: stand out, speak out, see the bigger picture. Although one person alone seems insignificant, a whole country committed to these ideas would make a difference. Snyder accentuates that we are the ones that can ensure our own freedom by limiting our use of the internet (ensuring our private lives are private), by reading books, by recognising untruthfulness- the list goes on.

Point 18 is something that really struck me: that totalitarian leaders use awful events to consolidate power in their country. People become scared of a exterior force, and unite under one person to ensure its eradication. This is a basic human extinct. Putin has done this in Russia- he has made himself indispensable to the Russian people by victimising Russia against the West. Trump could reactively do this in America. It would not be surprising. Snyder is right that in the current climate we must be measured in our response. If we are erratic, we could reignite the Cold War or even start a nuclear war.

One criticism of the book is that Snyder makes it seem easy; if people would have known these 20 things in the 1930s, hitler would not have come to power and started WW2. Everyone who reads his book will be well aware of the importance of each of his points. However, in practise, it is more difficult that he lets on. Our human nature gets in the way. Fear gets in the way. For example, point 8 asks people to stand out. I agree with what he is saying, but most people who stood out in Stalin’s Russia or against the Nazi party probably ended up dead.

Snyder’s book was effective in clearly pointing out the tyrannical features of Trump’s presidency and his election campaign. I think he is right about many of the points: that we need to uphold a multi-party system and preserve our institutions to save democracy and that recognise Trump is using tactics used by Hitler (particularly) to consolidate power (firing colleagues who did not agree with him is effectively salami tactics) . I realised from Snyder’s book that one of the main things that differed Trump was the fact that he has no military backing. He does not have the full support of the FBI- who recently subpoena’ed his lawyer to find out more about Stormi Daniels and the role of Russia in the 2016 election. This makes it far more difficult for him to go down the same route as tyrants such as Hitler. But he has mobilised people not previously interested in politics through his use of simplistic and repetitive vocabulary.

Snyder is right to draw these 20 factors to our attention. It gives us a chance to avoid the repetition or the utilisation of history to destroy our democracy as it did in Europe in the 20th century numerous times.

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