On Tyranny

Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century


33917107Although a short book, this is a very important read.  Timothy Snyder is an American historian who is able to pull together lessons from history on how to recognise and resist dictatorships and facism.  Some reviewers feel that it is essential reading for all Americans.  I disagree.  I think it would be good if people of all nations could read it and learn from it.

Because it is a short book I don’t want to rob the author of his thunder by outlining all the content.  However, just to give you a flavour of what it contains, I will summarise the chapter that had most resonance for me – Chapter 10 Believe in Truth.

Synder states that submission to tyranny happens when you renounce the difference between what you hear and see and what is actually the case.  He then goes on to outline four ways in which truth has died in various societies, and how it is dying in America as you read this.

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The Americans Don’t Come Out Of This Too Well

For me, the genius of the book – the moment where I stopped reading and thought, “Wow, that’s clever! Why didn’t I think of that?” happens about two-thirds of the way through.

18635080I read thrillers on holiday for the same reason that people watch Soap Operas at lunchtime or of an evening.  I want to be entertained and temporarily drawn away from the demanding routine of my life into another world.  If I vaguely care about the people in that world, that’s a bonus.  If I learn something in the process, either about life or myself – well, that’s a double bonus.

The is book is the second in Jonathan Holt’s Carnivia trilogy and I bought it on the strength of really enjoying The Boatman (the first in the series).  It shared many of the qualities that brought me enjoyment of the first novel.

The reader is drawn into the book by a very skilful abduction of a teenager, and the attempts of the police to find her.  Straight away there is tension to be resolved.  The kidnappers keep ratcheting up the suffering they are imposing on their victim.  Two of the main police protagonists are at odds with their superiors about how to proceed, and also at odds with each other, making any successful resolution look difficult.  Finally, the straightforward kidnap starts to look less than straightforward.  In a sense we think we know who did it, but then that certainty also starts to unravel.  Continue reading “The Americans Don’t Come Out Of This Too Well”

Power Play: The Sex Games Are A Metaphor

I found myself laughing out loud at one point reading about the American reaction to a major event in the book, thinking it was so over-the-top to be absurd, and I had to remind myself that as a former BBC correspondent in America, the author knew precisely what he was writing about. It is this convincing detail of the political worlds involved that provided much of the pleasure for me.

13021847This is a very interesting and skilfully crafted book. If you enjoyed “The West Wing”, you’ll love this. It has so much more to offer. The author takes you inside Downing Street as well as the West Wing (and the British Ambassador to America moves seamlessly between the two). We see the see American security forces dealing with a crisis (as well as trying to instigate and/or avoid World War III), the British security forces dealing with terrorism, we visit a grouse shoot in Scotland, and make an historical journey to the British forces in Northern Ireland.

My previous reading of Gavin Esler had alerted me to his ability to deliver sharp, witty prose, with pithy observations about political life, and this book delivered in abundance. And the political worlds that he describes in such detail provide a fascinating and authoritative backdrop to the action. Continue reading “Power Play: The Sex Games Are A Metaphor”

Three Reasons to Leave

Saying that I should not vote to leave because of opinions about particular individuals is an argument ad hominem which doesn’t address the crux of the issue, and therefore is irrelevant to me.

510750075_eeee488cd6_zOn June 23rd, 2016, I will be voting to support the notion that Great Britain should leave the EU.  As an educated liberal and humanist, many of my friends and colleagues are surprised, even appalled at my decision.  Although I disagree with them, I respect their right to passionately hold different views.  However, I have set out my considered reasons for intending to vote for Brexit below.

Before coming on to reasons for voting to leave I need to comment on two reasons that are sometimes given for staying.

I am told that the people who are voting to leave are disreputable types whereas those wanting to stay are much more likeable.  I am sure that both camps have angels and devils.  Saying that I should not vote to leave because of opinions about particular individuals is an argument ad hominem which doesn’t address the crux of the issue, and therefore is irrelevant to me.

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