Patrice Riemens on Tue, 22 Nov 2016 04:06:09 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Timothy Snyder: Twenty Lessons from the 20th Century

"Sheldon Wolin Wrote that even looking forward to an assured defeat 
[-which has happenend in the meanwhile -PR] we do have the 'terrible 
resposibility' to fight on for justice, equality, andfreedom. "You don't 
win, or you win rarely. And if you win, it’s often for a very short 
time", he said in a long conversation with Chris Hedge (*), a few months 
before his death. He went on quoting German political economist Max 
Weber to the effect that he called for a very different conception of 
politics than the one we are accustomed to, where the issue is for which 
candidate or political party to vote, or about which issue one finds 
really important.  He wanted us to take one step back and ask ourselves 
for which kind of political orders and the values that go with it were 
we prepared to bring the ultimate self-sacrifice".
(Mars van Grusnven in 'De Groene Amsterdammer' November 3, 2016)

(*)  (almost 3 hrs!)

context: Chris Hedge on Sheldon Wolin and Inverted Totalitarism:

(here too, a 'tl;dr' warning applies ;-)


Twenty Lessons from the 20th Century

    by Timothy Snyder, Housum Professor of History
    Yale University

    “Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield 
to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might 
learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are 
twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances 
of today
    1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is 
freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a 
more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without 
being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory 
obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates 

    2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court 
or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making 
them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect 
themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the 

    3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a 
negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much 
more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, 
and it is hard to have show trials without judges.

    4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look 
out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.” Be alive 
to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.” Be angry about 
the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.

    5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack 
comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or 
plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag 
fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, 
the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the 
Hitlerian book. Don’t fall for it.

    6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone 
else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey 
that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don’t use the internet before 
bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to 
read? Perhaps “The Power of the Powerless” by Václav Havel, 1984 by 
George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert 
Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is 
True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.

    7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to 
follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But 
without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an 
example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.

    8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If 
nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no 
basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. 
The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

    9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with 
long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to 
print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to 
harm you. Bookmark PropOrNot or other sites that investigate foreign 
propaganda pushes.

    10. Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in 
your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put 
your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends 
and march with them.

    11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is 
a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary 
social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not 
trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the 
psychological landscape of your daily life.

    12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the 
swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get 
used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do 

    13. Hinder the one-party state. The parties that took over states 
were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make 
political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state 
elections while you can.

    14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and 
set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that 
is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.

    15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know 
about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember 
that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the 
internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. 
For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble.
    Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on 
which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.

    16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships 
abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an 
element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution 
by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.

    17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who 
have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and 
marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. 
When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military 
intermingle, the game is over.

    18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in 
public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the 
past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing 
irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this 
means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about 
training in professional ethics.)

    19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die 
for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.

    20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example 
of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.“

    Timothy Snyder
    Housum Professor of History
    Yale University
    Author: "Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning”

(original to:

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