“On Tyranny” by Timothy Snyder – Recommended Reading

Reprinted from May 12, 2017

Tyranny – Entered as Easily as a Warm Bath

Do you love studying history? I do hope so. Understanding what is in our past can help us safeguard the future. Changes can be subtle. So subtle that you can wake up one morning to find yourself in a pot of hot water, only to discover it’s too late to escape. Are we destined to be served up as fodder for a government based on tyranny? Is democracy on its way out? Whether you think so or not, it doesn’t hurt to know the signs.

There’s an old morality tale with many versions about boiling a frog.  This is mine.

Frog for Dinner

The frog laughed as the man tossed him into the pot of boiling water. It took him all of two seconds to leap to safety. The man tried again, but still the frog jumped out.

The man scratched his head and then there was a gleam in his eye. He turned his back to the frog and set to work. He tossed the pan of boiling water and brought out a  beautiful piece of heat-proof crockery. He filled it with cool water from the pump and set a lily pad in the middle of it. Just to set the right mood he lit some candles and placed a plush towel and small slippers by the new “tub”, tucking more towels around the bottom.

The frog watched curiously. The man had captured him a few days ago and that tub looked oh so inviting.

“Forgive me, Mr. Frog,” the man said. “I’ve been remiss as a host. I have plenty of food and there’s really no need for me to make a meal of you. Let me make it up to you if I may. May I offer you a nice cool bath to wash the road from you? Then, you can join me for dinner.”Boil-a-Frog_004

The frog cocked his brow and dipped one toe into the water. He smiled. “Indeed, sir. It would be a great pleasure.” He slipped into the tub and lay back. He was justifiably exhausted from the ordeal of the past few days and in no time at all, he drifted into sleep.

The man pulled the towels away from the bottom of the bowl, revealing a wood pile ready for the lighting. The water grew warmer and warmer and the frog fell deeper and deeper into blissful sleep.

The sounds of a knife slicing through carrots and the scent of onion and garlic filled the air. The frog awakened, but by then it was too late. He couldn’t move as already he was being cooked. The man tossed the aromatics into the simmering pot — I mean bowl — and added some salt and pepper. The frog was too far gone to even sneeze, although he powerfully wanted to.

That night, the man chuckled at his own cleverness as he poured a lovely Cabernet and toasted his dinner guest.

As with any morality tale, there is a lesson. Be aware of what’s happening around you so as not to be a boiled toad.

I ran across this book as I was conducting my daily blog research. The title was eye catching, but even more so was the tagline — Twenty Lessons From the 20th Century. It didn’t hurt that it came highly recommended and quoted by many reliable media sources.

On Tyranny is a fast read and is only $3.99 on Amazon Kindle . If you’re expecting professorial high-speak, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Snyder’s writing style is straightforward and, as such, is powerful. He seems like the kind of man I’d like to know. He isn’t overly enamored with the sound of his own voice. Snyder says the book is, “. . . an attempt to distill what I have learned about the 20th century into a guide for action today.”

The book entails twenty key points and are well documented. It’s hard to say I have favorites as they are equally important, but here are a few.

Do not obey in advance.


Listen for dangerous words

Take responsibility for the face of the world

Without dissolving into fear, we are well advised to recognize the signals that foretell the rise of tyranny in our world.

Kylie Addison Sabra



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