History is Hope

“The generation of men is like that of leaves. The wind scatters one year’s leaves on the ground, but the forest burgeons and and puts out others, as the season of spring comes round. So it is with men: on generation grows on, and another is passing away.”

-Homer, The Iliad 

On May 9th, 1865 the Confederate States of America surrendered and the American Civil War ended. There are still echoes of that conflict all through out the Untied States, both in the North and South.

Growing up in Georgia, I always heard about the Civil War. I went on field trips to monuments, watched Ken Burns’ docu-series, and even saw reenactments. The conflict was never one that interested me.

I always wondered why the Confederates didn’t march on Washington D.C., because they won most military battles. Robert E. Lee was a great general and could have easily captured the city.

The South had a more genteel style to war, that ultimately was their downfall. I don’t recall General Lee attacking civilians and sacking cities.

General William T. Sherman did attack civilian targets and sacked cities along the way during his March to the Sea.

“I can make this march, and I will make Georgia howl!”

– General William T. Sherman

The Confederates did own slaves, but The Union had no slaves not because they were morally opposed to it, but because they didn’t have need for them. The South owned slaves for almost a hundred years and they did nothing. The Emancipation Proclamation was signed a year into the war, so it appears to be an afterthought.

There are no “good guys” in war, or human history in general. The good guys write the history books and conveniently leave out any atrocities they commit along the way.

Slavery and racism are wrong, but they are a part of the human condition. Slavery is still happening, even in the United States. Tearing down statues does not change that. Treating half of your country like sub-human barbarians is not going to engender loyalty, but instead incite another civil war.

Tearing down Confederate monuments is akin to claiming the Holocaust never happened. You should want to be reminded that these atrocities happened, so you don’t repeat them.

Why not destroy Roman monuments? They practically enslaved all of Europe and killed millions of people. Why not destroy the Egyptian Pyramids? They are monuments to totalitarian dictatorships. Why not torch the Sistine Chapel? Catholicism has been responsible for corrupt acts for hundreds of years. Why not bulldoze Jerusalem? Isn’t that where the Crusades happened?

It does not make you a racist to respect history and want to be reminded. History is not a pleasant walk in the park. It is the story of hardship, blood, guts, death, and despair. But, amongst all of that anguish and turmoil, is hope that we can change.

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Cato and Political Correctness

“Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech; which is the right of every man, as far as by it, he does not hurt or control the right of another. And this is the only check it ought to suffer, and the only bounds it ought to know. This sacred privilege is to essential to free governments, that the security of property, and the freedom of speech always go together; and in those wretched countries where a man cannot call his tongue his own, he can scarce call any thing else his own. Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation, must begin by subduing the freeness of speech; a terrible to public traitors.”

-Cato the Younger

Political Correctness is defined as “conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated.”

The idea is to protect the populace from hateful slurs and promote a more enlightened mode of speech. The reality is that there is a growing blacklist of words that you can’t say if you want your career to stay in tact. Much like McCarthyism in the 1950s, being perceived as the biggest (current) threat to society was going to get in trouble with just about everyone.

Why is it so important to tiptoe around people’s preferred nomenclature? It is a method of control and elevates protected groups. It was used by the Soviets, to that end, and it appears to be used elsewhere for that purpose as well.

For example, in the United States, it is essentially social suicide to admit that you support our current President, Donald J. Trump. Large parts of the media, celebrities, and the upper echelon of American society denounce him daily because of the way he speaks. His actions are not dissimilar to his predecessor in any meaningful way, but he is still hated by the elites.

You’re a racist bigot if you don’t support the Black Lives Matter movement.  You’re a sexist if you do not identify as a Feminist. You’re a Nazi if you support Trump. It becomes very clear that the P.C. movement is being used to silence critics and political rivals.

Words do not hurt you, it is your reaction to the words that hurt you. I’ve been called hateful things. It is difficult to not to react and keep walking, but that will prove your attacker wrong and that is how you defeat ignorance.

In a free society, discourse is the main pillar holding the whole structure up. Without it, we live in a glorified oligarchy. My mother used to tell me, “If you’re not offended at least once a day, you’re not alive.”

Part of being an adult is being confronted by different ideas, perspectives, and people. Racism, sexism, hate, and evil are a part of being human. We should always fight against evil by educating others. We should have patience with those of us who are ignorant. Silencing ignorance promotes ignorances.

Silencing ignorance promotes ignorance.

Do you agree or disagree with this line of thinking?  Please comment your thoughts.

All are welcome here. Please be respectful, courteous, and patient with your fellow readers.

Comforting Meditations

I am a pretty anxious person. I started studying philosophy trying to find a way to cope with it. Anxiety is not anything new, so every era has some wisdom to share on the subject. Stoicism started to appeal to me early during adolescence.

My interest in Stoicism began when I was reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. It affected me in ways that I couldn’t imagine.

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”

“Everything that happens happens as it should, and if you observe carefully, you will find this to be so.”

“He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.”

-Marcus Aurelius

Those are just some of my favorite quotes from the book, and as someone who is usually filled with internal struggles, I find these reminders extremely helpful and comforting.

There a lot of misconceptions about Stoicism promoting “emotionless apathy,” but that is not the case. Stoicism, if I had to distil it down to a sentence, is “Control what you can control, and accept what you can’t.”

It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.
-Epictetus

My favorite aspect of Stoicism is its practicality.  You can apply the teachings of a Stoic author to your life and you will notice changes. It shares similar qualities to the modern Mindfulness movement and Zen Buddhism.

Stoicism has helped me through some rough periods in my life. I read a lot of articles, watch shows, and hear broadcasts advocating that the true source of people’s unhappiness is some outside force, but that isn’t true. We can choose to be happy, all we need is some encouragement and I think Marcus Aurelius did a great job of encouraging himself so maybe his writings can help encourage you too.

You can read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, in full, for free (legally), HERE.

What philosophy has helped you the most throughout your life?  Please comment your thoughts.

All are welcome here. Please be respectful, courteous, and patient with your fellow readers.