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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The Stoics and Their Utopian Vision

The Stoics were realists.  They stressed the importance of living in the here and now and judging our impressions as objectively as we can.  Judging impressions objectively means that anything we perceive, we should perceive neither as bad nor good but indifferent.  Despite their realism, they did dream and hope for things to be a certain way.  The Stoics just knew better than to be attached to their wishes and hopes.  Zeno of Citium had an ideal Stoic Republic in mind.  Diogenes Laertius described Zeno’s Republic:

Some, indeed, among whom is Cassius the Skeptic, attack Zeno on many accounts, saying first of all that he denounced the general system of education in vogue at the time, as useless, which he did in the beginning of his Republic. And in the second place, that he used to call all who were not virtuous, adversaries, and enemies, and slaves, and unfriendly to one another, parents to their children, brethren to brethren. and kinsmen to kinsmen; and again, that in his Republic, he speaks of the virtuous as the only citizens, and friends, and relations, and free men, so that in the doctrine of the Stoic, even parents and their children are enemies; for they are not wise. Also, that he lays down the principle of the community of women in his Republic, and … teaches that neither temples nor courts of law, nor gymnasia, ought to be erected in a city; moreover, that he writes thus about money: that he does not think that people ought to coin money either for purposes of trade, or of travelling. Besides all this, he enjoins men and women to wear the same dress, and to leave no part of their person completely covered.

 

Zeno’s Republic seems to be a place full of virtuous people (which includes women) and there are no courts or currency.  Everyone lives in harmony in complete anarchy.  There are no religious places of worship erected in the Republic.

It’s not clear whether Zeno ever thought this would ever really happen but he did have an ideal in mind about how a society of virtuous people would be organized.  And it seemed that he had in mind some kind of virtuous anarchic commune of everyone who proved themselves good Stoics.

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