WHY ROME COLLAPSED Part II: Stoicism, Fascism, Death Of Humor & Senses

Seneca was one of the most famous Stoic philosophers. He talked wisdom as haughtily as Hitler talked about protecting minorities and correcting injustice. It’s one of the shortcoming of philosophy as usually taught to being unable to see, and explain what a creep Seneca was. Verily, once we can explain the horror therein Seneca, the horror therein Hitler, and the like, starts to make sense.

Seneca, looking as disheveled as his ignominy made him. Arguably one of the worst thinkers in history, still, much admired. Especially by Christians, of course. Here are extracts: “As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.”
“Life is like a play: it’s not the length, but the excellence of the acting that matters.”

***

Stoics we all are,

We, the humble animals of planet Earth,

Nature is our yoke.

Stoic,

We all have to be,

Just because we go through life

Much has to be endured and suffered

And we all find out,

Babe or old, crippled or splendid,

Human or beast,

There is only so much we can complain about and aloud

Unending tears do not bring a ploy, or a joy

Neither is too much sorrow a buoy, or a toy.

We need humor, so we all have it.

We need joy, so we all find it.

Thus what is it Seneca insisted so much on?

What are we supposed to do with this bloody multibillionaire’s

Mellifluous advice?

Why so loud, Seneca, you old criminal?

Your artful trade?

To hide your crimes, and those of your master.

And what of that other “stoic”,

Marcus, ruler of the world?

What do they teach those,

All of us,

Trudging in that valley of tears we call life?

That words of the haughty do not have to match their lives,

That we shouldn’t complain too much,

When we live in the times when only few rule?

Why? Can’t we talk to our heart’s content?

Not when infamy is in power, sure we don’t,

It’s clear that when Nero is the boss,

Not complaining enough is all the truth worth having.

Any alternative hypothesis means death.

When Marcus couldn’t pay for the army,

As the plutocrats kept all the wealth,

Not complaining, even for an emperor,

Was all the truth worth having:

Even for an emperor,

Complaint invited assassination from the other few,

Who also ruled,

And they were not joking.

So yes, stoics lack a sense of humor,

Telling us to follow nature,

When they do the opposite.

We have seen it all before,

Preaching the exact opposite of one’s true nature,

A basic trick of the vicious,

In all points similar,

To the dots of light and dark,

Adorning a forest cat’s coat.

We have seen it,

When racists accuse their victims of racism,

To better drown them in gore.

Stoicism, as philosophy,

And the closely related Buddhism,

Preaching common sense,

Supposedly,

While insisting to divest from all the senses,

And the emotions they relate to,

Starting with anger and indignation,

And figuring out infamy,

Until it makes sense,

A preaching to accept the unacceptable,

We may as well start with killing humor,

The poison of power, when it’s concentrated in a few hands.

Stoicism may be what’s left to good men,

When resistance to infamy is futile,

When weakness is erected as a virtue,

Thus drenching sorrow with the dubious pleasure,

Of the deepest anesthesia of most passions, and senses,

Conveniently, and comfortably, forgetting,

Passion is to reflection,

What looking is to sight.

If you want to think well,

Start with emoting well,

And emoting well,

Even earlier than breathing well,

Emoting right precedes all,

And die with us,

Never killed,

And only mitigated by the powers of reason.

So meditate, you the Apostles of Stoicism:

You are teaching the air we all breathe.

***

Technical Background On Stoicism:

Stoicism was founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early 3rd century BC. Zeno taught from his front porch (“stoikos” in Greek).

At the time, Athens was officially and effectively a plutocratic dictatorship owned by fascist Macedonia. Thinkers had to be stoic, or they would die like Demosthenes and other philosophers assassinated or suicided when the Macedonians took over. The Stoics taught that emotions resulted in errors of judgment which were destructive, due to the active relationship between cosmic determinism and human freedom, and the belief that it is virtuous to maintain a will (called prohairesis) that is in accord with nature.

This is obviously idiotic, because, for at least five million years, our direct ancestors have deliberately imposed their will on nature, with the conscious goal to make nature serve us. Moreover, for several billion years, life has done the same with the entire planet, however seemingly unconsciously (depending upon what conscience really is, as our friend the Quantum physicist would point out).  Nature is the nature of life, and, in this context, life, we don’t even know what’s natural and what’s not.

Stoics flaunted their philosophy as a way of life (lex divina, they humbly said), and they claimed that an individual’s philosophy was not what a person said but how a person behaved. To live a good life, one had to understand the rules of nature, since everything was rooted in nature.

But of course, this is silly, as it ignores the nonlinear nature of human nature… which happens to be the greatest influence on nature. Humanity is grounded in nature, and the nature of humanity is to go beyond all and any limit, that’s how and why we evolved.

Stoicism blossomed in antiquity, while and because tyranny and oligarchy blossomed. Stoicism was not just a symptom, but an engine of the decay of civilization. As Seneca and Marcus Aurelius were. Seneca defended Nero’s assassination of his mother in front of the Senate (extending Nero’s rule for years; much later, after Seneca’s assassination by suicide, the Senate would finally order Nero’s execution; so Seneca’s backing up of Nero had a huge influence on history; it keeps on having one now, as nobody has bothered to enquire seriously on how such humongous creeps can become Masters of the Universe!).

Marcus persecuted Christians for no good reason, making sure Christianism would only get worse, as it did. But Marcus steered away from what was truly needed to save civilization, terrorizing plutocrats.

Here is Marcus: “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” (Retort of mine: In particular you don’t need democracy, or even a Republic).

Here is Marcus again, pain is all about you not thinking right: “Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.” (In particular, I would observe, if the Christians Marcus burned alive suffered, that’s just because they didn’t think right, proving it was tight, indeed, to burn them…)

When not lost in hypocritical obscenities, stoic philosophers are good at truisms everybody always agreed with (so did Hitler, explaining why Hitler, Seneca, and Marcus were incredibly appreciated by those who can’t see much further than the most trivial evidence…) However, deriving higher wisdom is not something everybody agrees with, when it happens.

Fascism gave birth to Stoicism, a case of a madness and exploitation creating the own mental environment it needed.
How do we know this?

One can look at the dates: Stoicism was created and taught 35 years after the fascist plutocracy was imposed on Athens.
More generally, fascism advocates a shrinking of (free) thinking, and that’s best implemented by a shrinking of the emotions (viewed as noble).

Christianity went further in all this intellectual fascism, as only thoughts validated by the fascist god were allowed. Conclusion? Books were destroyed, libraries burned, intellectuals terrorized, chased down, and assassinated. Civilization collapsed. In great part because of the infamy and corruption all too much of a stoic attitude enabled to thrive, unimpeached.

Voltaire recommended to “crush infamy”. We can’t crush what we learn to live with, as the Stoics advised to do.

Patrice Ayme’

p/S: The essay above was inspired by “Do The Stoics Lack A Sense Of Humor“, by Massimo Piglliucci, and the comments I sent there (the comment was not published, perhaps because would-be Stoics also lack a sense of humor!)

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8 Responses to “WHY ROME COLLAPSED Part II: Stoicism, Fascism, Death Of Humor & Senses”

  1. Patrice Ayme Says:

    [Sent to Philosophy Matters.
    https://blog.oup.com/2017/09/stoicism-platonism-judaism-early-christianity/?utm_content=buffer8361a&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

    Fascism gave birth to Stoicism, a case of a madness and exploitation creating the own mental environment it needed https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2017/09/27/stoicism-fascism-death-of-humor-senses/

    Like

  2. Eupatheia Says:

    Live according to nature (so far so good), but anger is also an emotion in us (from nature), and so suppressing is by definition unnatural.
    I agree with some things with them but not their conclusions. Anger is appropriate sometimes. Also passion is what makes us human.

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  3. ETHICS ARISE FROM NATURE, THROUGH LIFE, And Its SPONSOR, REASON (Rise & Collapse of Rome, Part IV.) | Patrice Ayme's Thoughts Says:

    […] argument in “WHY ROME COLLAPSED Part II: Stoicism, Fascism, Death Of Humor & Senses”  was that basically Stoicism in Antiquity (and India, and China) became a way hypocrites, […]

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  4. Patrice Ayme Says:

    [Sent to Massimo Pigliucci “How To Be A Stoic”, December 2, 2017.]

    If Larry Becker can describe a new stoicism, can we do the same, and present our own ultra-modernized stoicism?

    In the usual, common and vulgar, definition of “stoic”, there is no doubt that, however deeply misguided they were, stoic Nazis existed. A SS officer bleeding to death was told by US medics that he had to get a blood transfusion right away. Except for blood loss, he was perfectly OK, and looked like the ideal Aryan type. The livid officer asked the US medics if they could certify that there was no “Jewish” blood in the blood he was going to be given.

    They said no, they couldn’t certify that, there could even be “black” blood, but that if he didn’t get the blood, he would die. The SS officer decided to die instead of possibly getting “Jewish blood”. No doubt a case of amathia… (All the more as Hitler himself made 35,000 Jews, Aryans, by just signing a document…)

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  5. Massimo Pigliucci Says:

    Patrice,

    I’m sorry but I find your persistent comments on the Nazi to reflect a fixation that does not seem, to me, to advance the discussion. I will not let anything with “Nazi” (or similar, like Stalin) get through from now on.

    Cheers,
    Massimo

    Like

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Massimo:
      Sorry I fell again under the sharp knife of Massimo’s implacable justice! It’s never pleasant, although I thank you for providing an explanation. Let me offer a discussion on this, though (it goes without saying that if you have no time for it, the explanation is also offered to me, and I beg your forgiveness…)

      It seems to me that, when we do experiments in science, we organize carefully an extreme situation (say for the detection of gravitational waves, the photoelectric effect, whatever). Why would it be the same with humanities? Extremes enlighten us! Certainly the very principle of a telescope, or a microscope, is extreme!
      If I am looking through a microscope, it’s not that I am making propaganda for bacteria!

      Please remember that, in Galileo’s times, some church professionals refused to look in the telescope as a matter of principle. Nazism, Stalinism and their ilks are telescopes looking through the human soul darkly.

      In the case of Nazis and Stalinist, I had an uncle, a top astronomer, who was a communist (member of the PCF). But he was the most gentle of creatures. He was also married to the niece of Prussian general Von Moltke, main architect and proponent of World War One.
      Other members of my family fought, or were killed by various fascists, from genuine Nazis, to Islamists.
      So I have fixated on understanding the problem, with the hope of not just preventing repetitions, but also because understanding is mitigating (I have a very small family because of all those who died from fascism).

      I feel that my knowledge of Fascism, Nazism, Stalinism, and other extremisms is exceptional, so I am anxious to share it. As in this understanding much wisdom can be found.

      In mathematics too, one finds baby examples, and then one establishes more encompassing theories, in the hope that they bring unexpected theorems.

      Old time Fascismo or Nazism is completely dead (however, China is not so far removed from a kind of free market boosted Stalinism). So they can really be studied like fossils. Certainly if we can’t discuss, so understand dead and thoroughly discredited Nazis, we can’t understand white supremacists? Or other supremacists (think Rohingyas).

      I am sorry that you decided to join the crowd of Godwin’s “law”: Let me remind you of this obscurantist law: “If any poster mentions the Nazis in a discussion thread, Godwin’s Law can be invoked, they instantly lose the argument and the thread can be ended”. This seems to me to be a form of holocaust denial.
      I never apply censorship on my site (except rare, ultra-extreme cases in violation of law). I understand that it is your site. However you yourself evoke the Nazis in the particular essay I was commenting upon, and I specifically tried to advance the discussion by becoming more subtle.

      Last but not least, now that we have removed the possibility of evoking the two most important facts of political philosophy in the Twentieth Century, how are we going to evoke the US imperialism which fed both? Some US plutocrats supported, very significantly both Stalin and Hitler; the Harriman brothers, who were pillars of the US Democratic Party financed and developed the Baku offshore oil fields, got the “Hero of the Soviet Union” medal from Stalin, and the Order of Great Eagle from Hitler…

      Anyway, I hope the preceding give enough points of light to explain why I disagree with this “not letting anything… get through” mood. Moreover, I think it should not have applied retroactively as I was specifically taking you seriously and answering you personally… You wrote in that essay I was commenting:
      Massimo: “I don’t think Stoicism entails a particular type of social philosophy (say, liberal progressivism), though it is incompatible with a number of them (no Stoic Nazis!). As usual, people will say that that’s a bug, and I respond that it is a feature. I don’t see why liberal progressives (among whom I count myself) should be the only virtuous political agents around.”
      I was cogently (I thought!) addressing the OP.

      BTW, the extinction of my comment leaves my question on Larry Becker’s stoicism, whether it can be improved, unanswered…
      😉
      Cheers to you too, and thank you for your time…
      Patrice

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