The other day or was it last week? I don’t know, the days and weeks all seem to blur together into one long run-on nightmare in the #GOPDystopia of fascism, incompetence, and fantasy-make-believe world, which is engorging like a seedy 70 year-old’s erection at a Bangkok hostess bar after dropping two Viagra before leaving the hotel room. It just seems to be more inflamed by the minute. Anywho. Sometime in the recent past, I saw Rachel Maddow pimp Timothy Snyder‘s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, when she interviewed him about the paramilitary forces the Ol’ Pussy Grabber had deployed to Portland. Between the book and the interview there are many lessons to be learned, and I’ve written four blog posts to learn ’em! Be sure to check out the other three:
- On Tyranny Or How to Tell If You’re Living in an Authoritarian Regime and What to do about It — When you’re government deploys nameless, insignia-less, and faceless paramilitary forces in the name of maintaining the peace, you know you are sliding down that slippery slope to authoritarian tyranny.
- On Tyranny: From Inevitability to Eternity or How Tyranny Came to America — An examination of the role of the politics of inevitability and the politics of eternity in getting us into our current authoritarian tyrannical pickle.
- #RESISTANCE: Non-Violent Resistance, the Gandhi, edition — It is about the use of mass non-violent protest to counter authoritarian tyrannical regimes. Spoiler: it works!
In this post, I want to highlight some of the more alarming, pertinent, and amusing lessons that Snyder has derived from the slide of past European democracies into single-party pseudo-democratic minority-rule authoritarianism like what Putin seems to have sold #MoscowMitch and the Repubes on.
Snyder starts with those two rascally old early democrats, Aristotle and Plato. Aristotle thought that inequality brought about instability. Many of the punditry class have noted how inequality is greater now than it has ever been in the history of human kind or at least recorded history. Ergo pop tarts sum cum loud, we must be living in very unstable times. Given the existential angst that has gripped the country in the face of #COVID19 and the #BLM protests, someone seems to be the very model of a modern unstable idiot, don’t he? Plato told us that demagogues used free speech to lift themselves to the status of tyrants. How many times have various WH spokes asses defended the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s lies as exercises of free speech and suggested that the liberal press was trying to deny him his right to free speech? It seems like a lot. It seems the ancients had us pegged. We would be doing well to learn their lessons on how to keep a republic, don’tcha think?
Next, Snyder observes that in modern European history, there were three democracy spawning events: WWI, WWII, and the end of the cold war. And, many of the resulting democracies have crash landed into autocracy. He goes on to show us how similar our times are to those.
- Globalization was on the increase at the ends of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries whispering sweet nothings about progress and wealth into the ears of the proletariat while the inequality between the acquiring class and the aspiring classes widen into an insurmountable gap. In each case, democracies struggled to rein them in even while the acquiring class acquired the wealth of the nation as quickly as possible. Learning the lesson of how not to deal with globalization-led increasing inequality seems like a good lesson to learn.
- Fascism and communism infamously descended upon the countries of Europe using elections to win and then subverting their democracies from within. The parties claimed to speak for the people and filling the gap that the inequalities left with authoritarianism. If we get any lesson any lesson from this, it is to fill the inequality gap with democratic rhetoric rather than authoritarian rhetoric from the left or the right.
The history of Europe in the early twentieth century showed us that (a) democracies can fail, (b) their dedication and belief in human rights can collapse, and (c) regular average folks will happily participate in mass murder and atrocities, see Milgram’s obedience research. The fascism from the time was characterized by (a) a rejection of reason, (b) a dedication to using “will,”and (c) a denial of objective truth. Sound like anyone you know? The lesson is clear: it can and will happen hear unless we stop it and then remain ever vigilant against it.
#2 Defend Institutions
I think we’ve already learned that our institutions will not save us; we must save them. We’ve watched in horror as the Ol’ Pussy Grabber has attacked each and every agency and office of the executive as well as the press, judiciary, and state and local governments as well as watching #MoscowMitch and Kevin McCarthy (R-Putin’s ass) surrender Congress. We know that institutions are only as reliable as the people who occupy their offices.
Lesson #1: We must elect people who believe and support democracy, our Constitution, and the rule of law.
Snyder recommends that we each pick an institution to defend, but I think by know that it is obvious that the only institution left to defend is the election.
Lesson #2: Defend the institution of elections. Make sure they are safe, free, and fair.
#3 Beware the One-Party State
we here at e Ye Olde Blogge have been warning for some time that the #GOPDystopia goal has been to create a single-party pseudo-democratic minority-rule state whose only function is to transfer the nation’s wealth to the 1% as quickly as possible while the rest of us live in Cancer Ally, drink Flint water, and die as quickly and quietly as possible when we no longer contribute more than we cost.
Snyder points out that historically, the aspiring fascists have exploited a “moment” of manufactured crisis to create an exception in the rule of law. Oh my goodness, whoopsie, it is a bona fide emergency, I can haz all of the state power now please? Kinda like the Ol’ Pussy Grabber and the power-hungry #MoscowMitch Repubes are doing with the covfefevirus pandemic.
Hitler used the Reichstag fire. The Ol’ Pussy Grabber is using the pandemic and widespread protesters.
Lesson #3: Vote blue no matter who up and down the ticket to keep the Democratic party, the only viable opposition party we have, strong and well represented in governments around the country. It is the only way to defend the institution of free and fair elections.
#8 Stand Out
Authoritarian regimes rely upon their constituents being too meek and scared to protest and oppose them. By making your voice heard by (a) voting — remember we are defending the institution of elections by participating in them; (b) calling your MoC; (c) joining local groups like Indivisible or #BLM chapters; (d) writing letters to the editor of your local paper; (e) social mediaing your views and tagging your MoC and other elected and appointed office holders; and F) PROTESTING.
Lesson #4: If you resist, others will follow. We’ve seen examples of this around the country whether it is standing up to Karens or groups like The Wall of Moms forming to fill a niche in protesting
#10 Believe in Truth
Post-truth is pre-fascism.
We all remember the jaw dropping Kellyanne Conway moment when she announced the arrival of the alternative facts of Trump-world. Fascism relies on creating a mythological past and fantasy present as an opiate of the masses.
The covfefevirus is pulling double duty: it is giving the Ol’ Pussy Grabber his manufactured crisis to try and snatch democracy out from under us and, simultaneously, showing us just how full of shit he is. His mental illness is flagrantly and elegantly put on display for all who care to look.
Truth is power, and if the Ol’ Pussy Grabber can take our truth, he will have taken our power.
Lesson #5: Find your own reliable independent sources of information to check whatever the Ol’ Pussy Grabber is pulling out of his ass and smearing on the country that day.
#12 Make Eye-Contact and Small-Talk
One of my favorite ideas. I will always remember an interview with Gwyneth Paltrow in which she said she had worn her fat-suit in public to prepare for her role in Shallow Hal. Her one take away was that when she was in the fat-suit, no one would look at her. Maybe that is what gooped her.
In times of uncertainty and fear, feeling connected and a part of something is even more important than it usually is. In the age of the covfefevirus and social distancing, making personal contact has an even greater importance.
Lesson #6: If we descend even further into authoritarianism and persecution of targeted groups, like immigrants, and Black and Brown peoples, acts of support and kindness are going to be even more necessary.
#13 Practice Corporeal Politics
Snyder means this rule as getting out of the house and meeting people, especially like minded people, as a way of maintaining our sanity. He rightly points out that isolation — like the social distancing necessary for fighting t#COVID19 — makes us more vulnerable to believing authoritarian propaganda and lies.
I would add that social mediaing with hashtags and memes is not sufficient to defeat the growing fascism in our country.
Lesson #7: We have to get our of our comfort zones and work with strangers and people from groups we might not otherwise mix with in order to effectively and sufficiently resist the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s authoritarianism.
#20 Be as Courageous as You Can
The times ahead are going to be tough and challenging. Probably tougher and more challenging than any of us can imagine. Realize that we all will rise to the challenges that life presents us. We will rise to this challenge, too.
Lesson #8: If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die under tyranny.
That is my take on Tim Snyder’s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. It is a slim little book. A quick interesting read. I urge you all to go out, get a copy, and read it yourself. And, please leave a comment on the lessons or suggest one of your own, give us a sign of life at least like a like or a star vote review thingee.
The image is by the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance from WikiCommons Media licensed as Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic