Democracies are vulnerable at the best of times, but when presidents repeatedly get away with unethical, corrupt and tyrannical behaviour, they become precarious. Tyranny is associated with regimes such as that of Hitler or Pol Pot, but we are also facing tyranny in our time. Democracy is in danger globally. In his new book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Yale historian Prof Timothy Snyder presents lessons from history on how to defend democracy and the rule of law; which exist to enhance truth, justice and equality, and to protect citizens from the unchecked abuse of power by a politician-turned-tyrant. Frequently, laws are not enough when people with tyrannical leanings come to power. As Snyder explains, these leaders exploit people’s collective tendency to respond obediently, adapt to new rules and even harm others physically, verbally, legally or politically if instructed or intimidated to do so. He says the first lesson from history is "do not obey in ad...

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