You’ve got head spinnin’, no kiddin’, I can’t pin you down.
Okay, I’m plagiarizing John Legend. And totally taking him out of context.
But it kinda fits 2020, right?
At times like this, the advice to focus on what’s up to us—our deliberate choices—and be indifferent to the rest, seems impossible.
Did that cop really have to knee George Floyd in the neck till he was dead? No, of course not.
Did the cop intend to kill Floyd?
I don’t know. But when you’re kneeing a man’s neck while he gasps, “I can’t breathe,” it’s a deliberate choice to keep doing what you’re doing—knowing that death is a potential outcome. Especially when the man falls unconscious. But you’re still leaning on his neck.
We want to make it stop. And we can help some. But the big picture isn’t in any one person’s control.
Despair. Anger. Sadness. How can one be Stoic in such circumstances?
Yet, Epictetus was a former slave. Injustice was even more common in the ancient world, which is why justice is one of Stoicism’s four core values.
Courage, moderation, and common sense (practical wisdom) are the other core values.
And surrendering to despair is a deliberate choice. It’s cowardly.
But a disagreement I have with traditional Stoicism is that the universe (God) is providential. I don’t think the universe is God, and I don’t believe in providence.
In a providential universe, people wouldn’t needlessly die at each other’s hands. We live in an indifferent universe where some people can exploit others.
Society—us, as a whole—will enforce consequences, if we choose to.
This is not about any one political ideology. Each ideology has beliefs about why we should do this or that. Our commonality is practical—agreeing that we should protect innocent lives.