Stoicism, Brexit, Cosmopolitanism, and Possibly Dissolving the United States for the Public Good

Why did Brexit happen?  God only knows all the reasons but a lot of it had to do with fear of open immigration and fear of the EU as an anti-democratic nightmare issuing bureaucratic decrees on its member nations.  I honestly don’t know a whole lot about the European Union and its politics but I definitely know the UK politician Nigel Farage liked to yell about the EU being an anti-democratic nightmare.  Also, I know German Chancellor Angela Merkel is very controversial for letting so many refugees into Germany.

Brexit is a nightmare for liberal cosmopolitans everywhere because it means dream of cosmopolitanism, unity, and social justice is being dismantled forcefully by reactionary forces built on distrust, xenophobia, and tribalism.  Despite this, I believe everything has a grain of truth to it so what if the reactionaries have some important thoughts?

What if the dream of cosmopolitanism that is the European Union is an artificial, naive, and unrealistic form of cosmopolitanism that modern Stoics might not agree to?  What if dividing states rather than unifying them is actually paradoxically the best way to get to cosmopolitanism?

Before I go into detail about why this might be let’s focus on the United States for a bit.  In the United States political cynicism has grown exponentially since Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook!” speech.  If you look into the growing trend, partisan divides keep growing and growing and they’re expected to keep growing.  This is problematic because if Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on anything, then the US Congress won’t be able to accomplish anything useful for anyone.  This will lead to gridlock and it has led to gridlock.  As a result, anti-democratic agents like the President (put into office by electors in a college) and anti-democratic institutions like the US Federal Courts will become agents of fiat.  Issuing their executive decrees on all of us.  The Courts will make new laws and the President will either enforce or not enforce laws arbitrarily.

Honestly, the whole system looks hopeless.  The system is nothing more than two gears grinding against each other with absolutely excruciating pressure but neither gear will move.  It’s a stopped clock of doom.  Doom doom doom.

So how might a modern Stoic approach this?  What if the Stoic sees the failed cosmopolitanism of Europe and begins to wonder if the United States is also a kind of failed cosmopolitanism.  What if “one out of many” is the wrong way to go about things at this point in history?  What if “the many out of one” is the right way to go?

What if true cosmopolitanism has nothing to do at all with nation states, how they arrange themselves, and how they unify or divide?  What if true cosmopolitanism is about viewing each other as brothers and sisters and has less to do with trying to create an artificial one world government.  After all, aren’t the liberal cosmopolitans of today just trying to take Plato’s Republic and apply it to the world?  What if we took Zeno’s Republic and applied it to the world?  Plato’s Republic was top-down authoritarian.  Zeno’s Republic was bottom-up anarchy.

Perhaps, as Stoic cosmopolitans, we shouldn’t be trying to unify states but continue to dissolve them into atoms.  Keep dissolving them until they’re closer and closer to city states.  And if we possibly can dissolve them into 7 billion individual states, that would be super!  What if that’s the right way to be cosmopolitan?  What if the right way to be a cosmopolitan is to try to approximate Zeno’s form of anarchism as close as we possibly can.  Sure, we’ll probably always need a little bit of top-down control over our lives but the more control we have over ourselves, the better we shall be.

So, as a student of Stoicism, I propose that we should dissolve the United States into red states and blue states.  This will immediately end the gridlock.  Red states will get to create their political agendas and blue states will get to create their political agendas.  If any future problems begin to assert themselves in the form of gridlock, then the states could dissolve even further.

Without unified states, how will people unify?  They’ll unify much more on a voluntary basis like they do on Facebook.  Perhaps the Internet is now the true cosmopolis.  As physical political geographies begin to dissolve down into tribes, the Internet may be where we can find unity or an attempt at real unity.  Let’s face it, large republics made up of 300+ million people don’t look sustainable.  I don’t exactly know why but it’s looking pretty bleak.

Sorry globalists but your cosmopolitanism is all style and no substance!

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Stoicism, 2nd Amendment, and Right to Bear Arms

In the United States, the 2nd Amendment is here to stay.  I couldn’t imagine anyone taking that amendment away any time soon.  In fact, it’s hard to to imagine the 2nd Amendment being infringed much either.

The 2nd Amendment reads,

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Legal scholars have spent a lot of time interpreting exactly what that amendment says and what the US Founding Father’s meant but it’s basically been interpreted to allow people to own firearms.

So how do modern Stoics deal with the issue?  I think wisdom would tell them that the 2nd Amendment is here to stay, unless unlikely repealed, and we have a Constitution to follow so we might as well as make the best of the right.

One could argue that Stoicism provides a framework for self-defense.  If a home invader tries to take your life (a preferred indifferent), as a matter of justice, you have a right to pull out your AR-15 Rifle and defend your life.  Police are a preferred indifferent but sometimes they take a while to get to your house which would be a total dispreferred indifferent.

One particular preferred indifferent is having a country free from government tyranny.  The US Federal Government will have a significant greater difficulty disarming people and seizing their property through Martial Law with the 2nd Amendment fully protected and not infringed.  Also, the United States would be harder to invade with a well armed citizenry.

The only issue with right to self-defense is it’s not applied fairly throughout the United States.  A modern Stoic might think it’s time that the government issues some kind of gun welfare system, where guns are given to impoverished communities at super low prices or for free.  Also, the black and hispanic community deserve to protect themselves just as much as the white community and many of our social attitudes have to change.  After all, everyone deserves a right to the preferred indifferents, security and life.

A modern Stoic would be free to consider what kind of sensible gun laws might need to be implemented to stop mass shootings.  One of the things they might consider is limitations on magazines and clip sizes.  We already have a ban on fully automatic weapons, so it might be prudent to ban bump stocks on semi-automatic rifles.  Also, criminal and mental background checks should be enforced.  Some consideration might also be given to the “gun show loophole.”  Also the Center for Disease Control needs to be able to study gun related deaths, so that we know how to better prevent unnecessary deaths from gun-related violence.

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Stoicism, Temperance, and the Role of the Paternalistic State

Libertarians often complain about the role of a paternalistic state, whether it’s seatbelt laws, limits on the size of soft drinks, higher taxes on beer and cigarettes, gun control, and many other laws the state will enforce to protect us.  Libertarians do have some reason to fear a protective state because some free choices will have to go.  But are free choices inviolable?

I can’t help wonder what the ancient Stoics might think.  Perhaps they would agree strongly with some protections and regulations on our behavior.  After all, they valued temperance for individuals, so why not temperance on a societal level?  This is all speculation but the ancient Greeks often liked to think of the self as a microcosm that reflected the larger macrocosm.  So maybe our own self-regulated behavior should reflect a self-regulating society.

In the name of the virtue of temperance we shouldn’t out-right ban everything.  We shouldn’t outright ban externals because that would be treating externals as bad.  Instead, maybe we should be lawfully limiting the extreme behavior with regard to externals.  For example,  we can drive cars fast but there has to be a speed limit that keeps vehicles from driving too fast.  We can drink caffeine but our drinks will have an upper limit of caffeine in them.  Heck, maybe all drugs could be legalized since drugs aren’t evil in themselves but they can be regulated and taxed more than other things that are preferred for our health and safety.

In the name of temperance, the amount of greed on Wallstreet would certainly need to be regulated.  Too much greed and concentration of wealth can’t be good for the health of the state.  We saw what Wallstreet speculation did to the economy during the housing and lending crisis of 2008.  Perhaps, this idea of a paternalistic state is beginning to sound more like Plato’s Republic than Zeno’s Republic.  But one must remember, Zeno’s Republic might’ve only been limited to the role of an anarchy for well-seasoned Stoics.  If people in your society are all Stoics, then there wouldn’t need to be courts, currency, and temples.  But in the case of a civilization made up of only an insignificant amount of Stoics, perhaps Stoic principles would need to be more lawfully enforced.  Also, Plato’s Republic was far far more authoritarian than what’s being proposed so far.

What’s more, laws are just a mean to keeping society self-regulated but individuals need to educated to be self-regulated as well.  After all, laws aren’t always there to keep ourselves in check.  So, we’d have a national curriculum applied to all our schools and universities to teach Stoic temperance from kindergarten to secondary school and beyond.  The schools would not only teach self-discipline but practical wisdom, justice, and courage.

In the Stoic state, there would be no outright prohibition on goods and services but there would be limits on excess.

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My Stoic Way of Dealing with Alcohol

I’ve never been exactly an alcoholic.  But no one really is.  I mean, it’s really more of a continuum than a simple categorical statement like, “I’m an alcoholic.”  For me, I had a drinking problem but not enough to really interfere too much with my life.  But it was still a concern so here are some things I did to figure out how to deal with this.

1.  Whiskey was too much for me.  So I switched to beer.  You don’t have to completely quit alcohol but you should try to make it more manageable.  Drink beer instead of hard liquor so that your belly fills up faster and you don’t get as inebriated.  This isn’t exactly a Stoic technique but it is rational and it will save you some trouble.

2.  Remember, to drink water between beers.  This helps to make the effects of alcohol even less potent than otherwise.  Drinking water will also fill your belly faster and keep you from drinking as much and as often.  It will also keep you more hydrated and you’ll avoid feeling as much of a hangover in the morning if you have too many beers in one night.

3.  Never drink on an empty stomach.  Also make sure you eat something as well as drink something in between beers.

4.  Now that you’ve done 1-3, you’ve definitely achieved some success; you might be drinking more than a moderate amount but you’re helping your liver a lot more and your liver is thanking you.

5.  If alcohol is still a problem by this point you’re probably still drinking too many beers even though you’re taking water and food breaks in between.  You should probably not be drinking 12 beers in a day, even beers that don’t seem to have much more alcoholic content than water like Budlight.

6.  If you’re drinking too many beers, here’s where the Stoic advice should come in handy.  You’re not drinking too much because of weakness of will, you’re drinking too much because you’re suffering from a lack of wisdom.  You think alcohol is the ultimate good in your life and it can really seem that way because it feels like a shortcut to tranquility.  But really, the best way to tranquility is virtue.  That means you should know what’s truly in your control and not in your control.  Your choices are in your control but whether those choices yield actionable results is not truly in your control.  You should also know that less alcohol means you can do more good for those around you.  If you let alcohol be your only good in life, you’ll forget the true good you can do for others.  Instead of staying home and drinking you can go to your daughter’s soccer game.  That does so much more true good for you and your daughter than sitting at home drinking alone.

7. If you’re drinking too many beers, it could be because you’re avoiding something.  You have social anxiety, you have depression, you might even have generalized anxiety.  If any of these are the case, seek professional help.  Psychological therapy can go a long way to helping you get over your issues, especially when a psychologist is helping you.  You can also practice Stoicism.  All our fears tend to be magnified because of our judgment that externals are bad.  Try to help yourself get rid of the judgment that things external to you are bad and you might find that some of your fears dissipate.

8.  Remember, you’re never a failure if you find yourself running back to the bottle.  Don’t ever hate yourself.  You’re mistakenly covering up for fear or depression by pursuing something you misjudge as a good way to dissolve those fears or depression.  The best way though is through some kind of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy used by a sufficiently trained CBT Ph.D. Psychologist.  And of course supplementing that with a life philosophy like Stoicism.

9.  You are not an alcoholic.  You may have a drinking problem but you are not defined by that problem.  You are simply drinking beyond moderation.  It’s interfering with your desire to pursue virtue.  Don’t let it.  Try to remember your last taste of what it was like to do good and do that thing.  Do the good.  Be the good.  You can be a good person.  But you are not an alcoholic.  You just drink too much.

I hope this helps someone like it did me.

Stoicism, Broicism, and $toicism

About Broicism

As feminism has gone more mainstream, and has become more popular, a counterculture of young white men has arisen expressing their concern that men’s rights are being overshadowed. Angry that they no longer feel represented they have banded together to create what is called Men’s Rights Activism. The counterculture has unfortunately tried infiltrating Stoicism, hijacking it, and pretending Stoicism is all about being a man and manning up. I like to call their form of Stoicism, “Broicism.”

Stoicism was a philosophy progressive for its time because it saw all humans the same, capable of using reason and being capable of living a virtuous life. Zeno’s Republic actually mentions women as being members of his society of virtuous Stoics. The Stoics believed women were equal to men in their ability to use reason. Broicism tends to try to undo this history or has no interest in this history of Stoicism. Broicism tends to use quotes from Stoics selectively and ignores the cosmopolitan elements of Stoicism.

Stoicism is about trying to eliminate negative passions such as anger and sorrow and replace them with positive passions of joy and compassion. Unfortunately, Broicism tries to replace this with toxic masculinity, the belief that all emotions in men should be suppressed except for violent expressions of anger/outrage.

Stoicism emphasizes Hierocles’s Concentric Circles that there is self-love and out of self-love comes love for family, then love for community, then love for humanity. Broicism emphasizes self-love only and thinks that virtue means doing what’s in one’s best self
interest. The attitude is usually, “I got my virtue now screw you!”

On Facebook, when a question is asked why there are so few women in the Stoic Group, the first people to pop up and say, “it’s because Stoicism emphasizes rationality but women aren’t very rational and are more emotional” are Broics. They tend to think of Stoicism as a men’s only club and so subconsciously de-legitimize women from also being capable of being Stoics and using reason. Real Stoics understand that women have had a history of dealing with such stereotypes and it may take a while for the culture to
change its view of women in the Stoic group and outside.

Broics tend to be alt right or “cultural libertarians”. They tend to see any kind of liberalism as feminism run amok. Liberal values such as cosmopolitanism, diversity, open dialogue, even free expression that Stoics should embrace are a threat to their worldview. Stoicism is fine with feminism. It may not agree with all feminists on all issues but it’s perfectly fine with liberalism and feminism. In fact, Stoicism tolerates conservative views as well. It’s a very tolerant philosophy, whereas Broicism is not. Broicism usually expresses its intolerance through cheap jokes, trolling, and derailing charitable discussion.

About $toicism

Stoicism has really grown in popularity over the years. The Facebook group Stoicism Group (Stoic Philosophy), hosted by Donald Robertson, has grown to 40k members and is still growing. Stoicism is pretty much the largest growing philosophical school on the Internet. But as Stoicism grows so does making money off of Stoicism. Also Stoicism is being branded as a lifehack that will help you succeed in the business world. I call this kind of Stoicism, “$toicism”.

Stoicism is a philosophy that helps you be resilient in tough situations. $toicism uses this feature to try to sell you success. In fact, $toicism tells you if you try living by the wisdom of the Stoa, you’ll likely be very successful in the business world and you can have the Stoic insights to build your business from the ground up into a mega corporation. Stoicism doesn’t get your hopes up like this. Stoicism tells you that it’s ok to be poor and you’re not a loser for being poor, sometimes shit happens.  Stoicism just teaches you how to deal with your circumstances and make the best of them.

$toicism tends to try to sell you Stoic merchandise with notable Stoic quotes. Real Stoicism only tries to sell you wisdom with the only price being that you try. If you try at achieving the virtues, you will have a more just, wise, and benevolent character.

$toics only seem to care about the preferred indifferent wealth. The $toics think that this means greed is a good passion to have in such circumstances. But greed is just another negative passion that grows from the wrong judgment that wealth is good. Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus clearly tell us that very little is required for happiness in this life and wealth doesn’t make you good, it just makes you wealthy.

Since $toics only seem to care about Stoicism in terms of a successful life, only for themselves and nobody else, they tend to downplay the virtue justice. Stoicism emphasizes the role of justice, in fact, Marcus Aurelius believed that justice was the chief virtue among the four virtues. It’s important to cooperate with others and not merely compete with others in the greater society.

$toics can’t seem to figure out why Ayn Rand is a bad guy. They think her philosophy of Objectivism is completely compatible with the philosophy of the Stoa. But little do they realize that Objectivism is a selfish philosophy. I’ve pointed this out to supposed $toics but they’re in denial. Finally, I pointed out that Ayn Rand specifically wrote a book called The Virtue of Selfishness and they were still in denial. That’s not particularly a very Stoic attitude for those people to have.

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Stoicism and US National Healthcare

One of the contentious issues, whether you’re on the left or the right politically, is whether healthcare should be a right given to citizens by their government.  The Stoics believed that everyone had a preference for health.  Also, with this in mind, they had the idea that everyone had the right to be treated fairly and equitably.  We all have a duty to treat each other fairly and equitably.

Since health is a preferred indifferent and we should all treat each other fairly and equitably, we should be ensuring that everyone has their fair share of health preferences met.  Everyone deserves a right to healthcare.  The Stoics couldn’t have imagined such a national healthcare system in place in their day because they didn’t have the technology, science, and knowledge of civil engineering we now possess.  But now that such a system can be run via public taxation, it makes sense that, as a course of justice, we should be supplying everyone with healthcare.

One could argue that a free market system for healthcare would be better but so far it is subpar.  People spend tremendous amounts of money if they don’t have the insurance or they spend tremendous amounts of money just to meet their astronomically-sized deductible.  Some people live paycheck to paycheck and can barely meet their premiums.  Healthcare is just tremendously expensive and unfortunately hospitals do have to make money even if they’re non-profit.  If the money funding the hospital isn’t efficiently and equitably being taxed from everyone throughout the population, whether healthy or sick, the sick are the ones who have to pay the bill in a free market system.

The only alternative from a Stoic point of view is some kind of public system that covers the poor and wealthy, the young and the old by money that is collected evenly and efficiently through taxation of both the sick and healthy alike.  This is how our preference for health is met in a just and fair Stoic society.

I use the following argument to support my conclusion.  It’s kind of rough right now but I’ll work to make it better later.

1.Justice has a connection to a fair distribution of preferred indifferents.
2. One of these preferred indifferents is health.
3. Therefore in the name of justice health as a preference should be met for everyone throughout the society if it can be met.
4. It can met through efficient and fair taxation.
5. Therefore a public healthcare system should be established.

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Stoicism and the US War on Drugs

The War on Drugs is the name given to the campaign by the US Federal Government of prohibiting drugs and giving military aid and intervening to disrupt the illegal drug trade.  Stoicism isn’t a philosophy that sells an effort that is ultimately futile. The War on Drugs is usually criticized because it doesn’t appear to be helping people stay off drugs. Instead it might be exacerbating the situation and is costing the US taxpayers $500 million dollars per year.

In the 1980s, while arrests for all crimes rose 28% , the number of arrests for drug offenses rose astronomically at 126%. The War on Drugs has significantly led to an effect of mass incarceration of people who simply enjoy drugs and like profiting from selling them. A Stoic approach wouldn’t be for mass incarceration of drug offenders; in fact, Stoicism would be for a therapy/rehabilitation that would free the soul of drug offenders from the externals (the drugs) they wrongly mis-perceive as good.

Stoicism says we all equally lack perfect virtue. In Stoicism, no one is truly
perfectly good except for the Sage. In the US War on Drugs, people who do or sell drugs are painted as evil compared to those who don’t. Stoicism judges people with greater equanimity than the War on Drugs does.

The US War on Drugs has disproportionately locked up the poor compared to wealthy and has disproportionately locked up hispanics and blacks compared to whites. The War on Drugs has a history shrouded in institutional racism. Stoicism is cosmopolitan in nature, believing that everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or creed is deserving of dignity.

Let’s do the Stoic thing and end the War on Drugs.

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Stoicism and U.S. Immigration

One of the basic tenets of Stoicism is cosmopolitanism, the idea that all humans belong to a single community, based on shared morality.  So it only seem natural that Stoics would be the most compassionate towards the issue of immigration.

I’d imagine that if the United States was populated with a significant Stoic citizenry, we’d be a lot more relaxed on our borders.  Does that mean we’d let other nations take us over?  No, I don’t think that follows.  But we’d certainly be more willing to grant citizenship to people that were willing to embrace our culture by working for a living or who joined our military, police, firefighters, or other important civil careers.

We’d also be more willing to grant citizenship to refugees regardless of whether they were Christians, Jews, or Muslims.

What do you think?  Do you agree or disagree?

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Stoicism and Lab Grown Meat

I’ve posted enough vegan/vegetarian topics in the Stoicism Group (Stoic Philosophy) hosted by Donald Robertson on Facebook to know the answer to the vegan/vegetarian question.  I think I should be at least a vegetarian because of the bad conditions in factory farms.  Factory farms are bad for the workers, bad for the environment, and bad for animals we consume.  Is it anyone’s guess why they wouldn’t allow you to freely film what goes on in factory farms?  Usually people have to go undercover to film anything and what they discover is not for the faint of heart.

I described the question of whether Hierocles’s Circles applied to animals in order to establish whether Stoics should consume animals or not or whether it was acceptable to harm the environment.  But the problem is even if we don’t care about animals or the environment the way we care about other humans, we still have to prefer a good environment because if we harm the environment, then it will harm the human species, which we care about and should care about.  The Guardian wrote a story on this not too long ago here.

But what if we had Lab-Grown Meat?  Accroding to this article in the Atlantic, it will be so much better for the environment, less of a carbon footprint even, will be less costly in the long run, and have less incidents of food-poisoning.  So if world agriculture will have to feed 9 billion people by 2050, it will be extremely preferable to use lab-grown meat.  So if it means the survival of the human species, then lab-grown meat might be a necessary way of consuming meat soon.  As my high school civics teachers used to say, “we won’t kill the planet but the planet will probably kill us.”  So we have to care about the planet as a means to caring about ourselves.

What would the ancient Stoics think?  They’d probably be fine with lab-grown meat.  Especially since harvesting the meat wouldn’t require slaughter of animals that were sentient to begin with.  Since it could be mass produced in the future and be more efficiently produced and less expensive to produce than raising animals on a factory farm, it will be even cheaper.  The Stoics were cheap; they were willing to eat anything less costly and less extravagant than what the market produced in order to keep their desires in check.

So from a Stoic perspective, lab-grown meat is a win-win-win.  It’s a win for the animals, win for the environment, and, finally, a win for the humans.

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Do you need to be vegan in this day and age to be a proper Stoic?

That’s a good question I’m not sure I know the answer to.  Factory farms are not exactly the best things we can do to our animals meant for consumption.  Europe has managed to make a lot of laws forbidding mistreatment of animals meant for consumption.  The United States actually doesn’t use laws as much but corporate pressure from places like McDonalds is changing the way we treat animals here in the US.  A lot of corporations that sell meat for consumption in the US are going free range with a lot of their meat so the point of making laws might be moot soon.

Some of the ancient Stoics were vegetarians or dabbled in it.  In the ancient Greco-Roman days meat was considered a luxury item so to live a simple life meant give up meat.  Ancient Stoics weren’t ethical vegans or vegetarians except for the sense that they were trying to live more moderately.  They weren’t concerned with maximizing pleasure or reducing suffering of animals per se.  Of course, ancient Stoics didn’t have factory farms to contend with.  Back then everything was free range.  Well, definitely more free range than now.

So should you, a Stoic, be an ethical vegetarian/vegan these days?  I guess it depends on where you think how far out Hierocles’s Concentric Circles go.  If you think they expand out to only to humanity, then the answer is no, you don’t need to be an ethical vegetarian/vegan.  If you think they do expand out to animals and the environment, then maybe you should be looking to become a vegetarian/vegan.

Personally, I’m just kind of a fence-sitter on the issue who hasn’t really made up his mind.  Maybe it’s why I’m not a Sage.  🙂

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