A timeless question, for at least the past two and a half millennia
Interesting matters for reflection.......
Talking about acrimonious political debates..... when I served as a naval officer in the Royal Australian Navy, whenever we had to host a guest we were told never to discuss politics or religion....for good reason.....
I often wonder why some people are so invested in their own political opinions to the point that it becomes counter productive to continue any such discussions, lost is the chance of being able to contribute anything positive to the discussion.....not to mention the destruction of good relationships that may exist between the people involved......
After all, what are we basing our judgements on?
Cicero must have been a great inspiration for many people....
But Epictetus will always be my favourite......
Enough rambling for now....
Thanks again for a thought provoking essay....
I hope I can be with you. There will be many challenges. Given my age I will be with and support all Stoics. There are known limitations and many new ones to come. We know with certainty any limitations must be identified and overcome. At a minimum I will join you in spirit.
One of my challenges reading Stoicism is the damage my body, in particular my brain has experienced after soon July 4th 78 years of abuse and damage (I have to break all the rules of Mr Solon my English teacher in the private school I was most fortunate to attend as he wrote The Black Book (I’ll send you a copy) oh yes I never learned how to type. And that’s another story.
Anyway my dearest friend I feel as if I must leave Stoicism as it is not good for my health and that’s another story. Not to worry I am simply taking a break again for my health
You take very good care and keep up the great work your writings together with you fantastic sense of humor have made reading Stoicism the very best of time
I actually do think the election was rigged which is to say the entire machinery of state was clearly against Trump. I also think the whole Jan 6 thing is massively over hyped. But then again i think Trump was and is an oaf of a fool as a politician who made one horrible misjudgement after another and he got what he asked for. Either way i dont find anything morally shocking about either the Pro / Anti Jan 6 thing that is just how the World works I am pretty sure Epictitus felt the same way when he was banished from Rome. And I am reading this and i think its very educational. .. just saying :)
Thank you for sharing this Higher Wisdom and Insights
Three observations come to mind:
Humans, being imperfect, sometimes make poor decisions, including that of determining how good their leaders are. We don't like anarchy. We do want government to do things for us. Even a Libertarian wants a police force of some kind.
Because of our imperfection, the problems arise right at the beginning:
"Should we oppose tyranny? Yes, always."
The problem is: when is a leader a tyrant?
For example, there were many who thought the Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a tyrant:
It quite often happens that leaders transform into tyrants - that power corrupts. So the question of opposing tyranny begs the question: when does a leader become a tyrant?
Second observation: I am not so worried about tyrants as I am about the people who support them. As the Tucker Carlson and Fox News debacle has shown, leaders are in thrall to their followers as much as the other way around. My question is: how can society go so wrong? One of the greatest shocks to my understanding of human nature was the election of Donald Trump in 2016. It was obvious from the escalator ride on June 15, 2015 that the Donald was unfit for public service.
By the end of his administration I had come to the conclusion that Donald is an evil man. Not a great evil, like Mao Tse Tung or Nicholas Maduro, but a mean, petty evil. Donald is a failure in so many ways: a failure as a businessman, a failure as a husband, a failure as a president. He wanted to be a great evil like Putin, who he seems to admire. But he was even a failure at that.
But, to me, the deeper problem was this: over 70% of all evangelical Christians voted for Trump. This is a case of a whole religious movement declaring moral bankruptcy. That is the bigger problem. How can a whole social group go so wrong? Humans are social animals, and social cohesion is of fundamental importance. What is it that drives the mob to such extremes? For without a large portion of society backing them, the tyrant is nothing.
Finally, once the bandwagon is rolling along, and the tyrant has driven it out of control, how do we stop? This is the problem in present day Russia. The Putin bandwagon got going twenty years ago. It has had a lot of support in the meantime. I saddens me to note that, considering the tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers killed in the last year, Putin was last re-elected by about 70% of the vote, with about 70% voter participation. So, it is likely that by voting for Putin, probably 50% or more of the motherrs of these soldiers signed their son's death warrant. But now the Russian bandwagon is in the process of going over the cliff. Jumping off when things are hurtling out of control can get you killed. Hanging on until the crash will too. What to do? Perhaps the best that can be done is that your own life is likely forfeit either way, so you might all well do whatever action that saves as many other lives, be they your fellow citizens, or those onlookers in other lands and other times who may look on your actions as an example of what to do, positive or negative. In that sense, Cicero was an example to us.
Semi-democracy raises perhaps more subtle issues. Rome to was semi.
Is it the semi-nature that makes a country vulnerable to tyranny?
I live in the colony of Scotland, part of the collapsed British Empire - we didn’t revolt at the time much of Europe did, possibly as we had endured the Glorious Revolution and its subsequent failure some time before. So that’s my locus.
My comment: tyrants should be opposed and are ultimately doomed as dynastic succession is difficult to achieve. Those who manage will find themselves no longer called tyrants.
Virtue is the highest human ideal but one must be cautious in one’s attempts to approach its perfection. The shortcuts along the way are very attractive and invariably compromising. The world is far too complex and has too many actors to anticipate the consequences of our actions.
I stopped watching news from Poland because the right wing government is so reminiscent of Trump's narrative. In Italy it is only slightly better and the right wing is also in power, the same in Sweden which used to be always socialist. I wonder what are the factors we overlook that trigger support for a tyrant.
There are now a lot of Ukrainian refugees in Poland who are accepted and welcome, but refugees from Syria die on the Polish-Belarusian border. The situation in Poland reminds me more and more of communist times, more appropriately called totalitarianism.
This is a question that now frequently surfaces. It’s no different from asking “Would I leave a sick loved one? Who would benefit from my leaving (or remaining)? The question is more a test of self than a test of an evil external power. Leaving or remaining isn’t always an option. Personally, I’d rather stick with needier. It seems more virtuous, optimistic, and decent than running.
I knew immediately why I liked you 🙏🏻
Never been to Syracuse, but I have been--briefly--to Augusta, Sicily.
Didn't make me think of any tyrants, but then I'm no philosopher.
Seriously, another interesting piece, friend.
By chance I am listening to a Lawfare podcast on Timothy McVeigh and how he’s a part of the same movement that led to the January 6th coup attempt. All laws are based ultimately upon violence; the use of violence is something we must carefully consider and examine critically both as individuals and as a society, so as to minimize harm and maximize flourishing. The goal needs to be a civil society of citizens, not a militarized society of vigilantes.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and this historical perspective from another troubled time.