Oct 19, 2021 • 12M

Lesson 4. Take responsibility for the face of the world (podcast)

On Tyranny, illustrated for the 2020s

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Timothy Snyder
The words we need for the politics of today.
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The text of lesson four reads:

“Take responsibility for the face of the world. The symbols of today enable the reality of tomorrow. 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 so.”

Now that Nora Krug has made On Tyranny a deeper and better book with her transformative art, this lesson is even closer to me than it was in the past. Like much of On Tyranny, lesson four is about recognition and defense: seeing a problem, resolving it, bearing responsibility. The illustrations in the new On Tyranny suggest a more hopeful reading: we can make the face of the world better, more enlivening, more suggestive of possibility.

I am not an artist; I am convinced, though, that we cannot make it as a democracy without art. We all need to be slightly less predictable versions of ourselves, which is one definition of what art does for us. Democracy needs a future; a future needs imagination; imagination needs art.

I hope you enjoy this podcast, in which I speak about what lesson four means to me now.