“… what grounds do we have for being angry with anyone? We use lables like ‘thief’ and ‘robber’ in connection with them, but what do those words mean? They merely signify that people are confused about what is good and what is bad. So should we be angry with them, or should we pity them instead. Show them where they go wrong and you will find that they’ll reform. but unless they see it, they are stuck with nothing better than their usual opinion as their practical guide.
‘Well shouldn’t we do away with thieves and degenerates?’ Try putting the question this way: Shouldn’t we rid ourselves of people deceived about what’s most important, people who are blind – not in their faculty of vision, their ability to distinguish white from black – but in the moral capacity to distinguish good from bad? Put it that way and you will realize how inhumane your position is. It is as if you were to say, ‘Shouldn’t this blind man, and this deaf man, be executed?’
If you must be affected by other people’s misfortunes, show them pity instead of contempt. Drop this readiness to hate and take offence.
We get angry because we put too high a premium on things that they can steal.”
– Epictetus, Discourses, c. 108 AD
“If what philosopher’s say about the kinship of God and man is true, then the only logical step is to do as Socrates did, never replying to the question of where he was from with ‘I am Athenian,’ or ‘I am from Corinth,’ but always, ‘I am a citizen of the world.’
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But anyone who knows how the whole of the universe is administered knows that the first, all-inclusive state is the government composed of God and man, He appreciates it as the source of the seeds of being, descending upon his father, his father’s father – to every creature born and bred on earth, in fact, but to rational beings in particular, since they alone are entitled by nature to govern alongside God, by virtue of being connected with him through reason. So why not call ourselves citizens of the world and children of God? And why should we fear any human contingency?
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Let us go home, then, to be free, finally from the shackles that restrain us and weigh us down. Here we find robbers and thieves, and law-courts, and so-called despots who imagine that they wield some power over us precisely because of our body and its possessions. Allow us to show them that they have power over precisely no one.”
– Epictetus, Discourses, c. 108 AD
“Conflict feeds dogma and closes minds, feeding more conflict. It’s a snake eating its own tail until almost nothing remains. Changing its mind is ever more difficult the more it eats.”
“A fundamental thing we need to understand about the people who do truly evil things is that a great many of them sincerely believe they are doing good, or at least something that is necessary in order to create good. This can make them very hard to distinguish as they will often have the appearance of good and moral men and women. The crucial difference lies in a craving for control over others, mind and body, instead of just their own lives, habitually passing moral judgements, aiming to restrict the lives of others and especially those different to themselves. We need to be very alert for such people, as giving them power and control is the first step towards an authoritarian society which turns its people into victims of itself. As has happened so many times before, especially as we move away from such a state of things.”
“We can’t live outside of our existance, outside of the world and ourselves. Therefore there can never be any true neutrality and standing outside of events in it. Neutrality is no more than an invented concept and an often misused and misunderstood idea, used to avoid guilt and blame, and to protect conscience, believing neutrality equals blamelessness. It does not. And often quite the contrary.
Being alive and conscious means awareness and an unavoidable relation to everything, and to the activitity and inactivity of others. Action and inaction are both choices always made with intent and purpose, and both always have direct effects, either making, or affecting, things to happen in a certain way, or allowing things to run their course. There is no path inbetween, no middle-road.
This said, the desire to sometimes, even often, stay neutral and outside of things is very human, and understandable. It is just not truly possible.
This should not be confused with the notion of ‘with us or against us’ which is a social, not a consequential concept.”
“The easiest way to block communism from gaining power is to make sure there are few truly poor people, as communism normaly requires popular desperation igniting revolution, or military power in order to gain control.
The easiest way to implement fascism is to make sure the middle class majority feels disillusioned, lost, displeased and deserving of more, and then just play on fear, nostalgia and need for hope, while tweaking the current political system towards ‘temporary’ infractions of rights, adding restrictions and limitations on rights to choice, privacy and integrity for the people.
Consequently, to hinder fascism to grow, the middle-class needs to be made to feel safe and satisfied, with hope for the future. And neglecting this can nurture both communism and fascism, but the latter more and quicker than the former.
This also means that for some on the radical left, it lies in their interest to provoke the government and the powers that be to blatant oppression and a more divised, unequal society, leading to despair, so a broad support for revolt can be built. This is one of the motivations behind the 70’s left-wing terrorism, like the RAF.
It also means that, as a society moves from despair and poverty towards a good, decent standard, it becomes more vulnerable to be exploited by hard authoritarian powers. It is an inbuilt natural process.
Likewise, it means that the same authoritarian powers can choose to inflate ideas about the many problems with the current state of things to gain power, and that the only way of stopping that is education and awareness. Therefore those two will also be the first targets, attacking academia and press.”