I was thinking today about public responsibility and the responsibility of a stoic to their fellow human being, as all human beings have a responsibility of unity. Politically speaking, it’s quite a left leaning ideologue that relies on the sacrifice of excess. If only in the entirely ego-centric way of thinking – something I’m not bashing just observing – a stoic lives within their means so not to over indulge the mind, body and soul with the material things rather than ensure that others too have sufficiently enough.
“Doing something? I do it with reference to the benefit of mankind.” – Meditations 8.23
It’s a balance though, isn’t it within the psyche of both altruism and egoism. We indulge in the pleasures of where we can but act altruistically to ensure others have the opportunity to access the same in perfect comfort and alignment with their own nature.
Ignoring the political fluff of it all, let me break down some concepts:
- Universal Healthcare: an act of altruism designed to ensure the betterment of our society through providing of access of treatment to those in need without putting them in financial disarray. It’s an act of proscribed kindness with taxes paying for the scheme rather the lining the pockets of those who already live beyond indulgence. Of course, you can argue that in reality, it’s not the case with contracting scandals and crushing debt yet the concept within itself is stoic, no? To provide care to our kin expecting nothing in return.
- Corporate bail-outs: to save a company that employs thousands upon thousands, a ruling body gives charity to save the welfare of its people at an expense to itself. It’s an act of giving, providing and acting in good faith. Ultimately, when we act in good faith, with good intentions and consequence, are we not virtuous?
- Free education: a core principle of Marcus Aurelius is to “teach or tolerate” and how can we teach if we do not provide the means to access the learning? How can we expect our future generations to grow into virtuous and kinder beings than our previous if we do not share that same virtue and kindness to them? What lessons are learned for those who resent the burden of learning? It festers in to hatred and that kind of hatred is like a hatred of evolution. Which, in turn, is a hatred of the nature of the self.
“Have I done anything for the common good? Then I too have benefitted. Have this thought always ready to hand: and no stopping.” – Meditations 11.4
Today I said to a friend that if I made an impact on them through my philosophy, a positive and tangible impact than I know that I can sleep a little easier. I think it goes the same for my attitude towards service because there is no career, there is service. A career implies we climb a ladder for power and wealth and recognition. What need do we as stoics, as human beings have for these things? In service we provide to the betterment of others and our society. Politics in particular has become rife with career politicians rather than service politicians. We use the phrase ‘man of the people’ or rather ‘person of the people’ quite pedantically as if it’s some weird joke. Should it be such a rare find? Are we all not people for the people?
You can debate below in the comments about the finer points and failings of socialism and the left in general, that’s your prerogative. I’m no expert on political theory and history but I can only speak to what I observe. You’re opinion is your own and so is your experience of various ruling systems. However, what are we but social beings? Whether a viable concept or not in your opinion, surely we can agree to that our service to each other is as beneficial to the human condition as service to ourselves.
This will only be a short thinking exercise. I don’t want to presume to be so arrogant to tell people explicitly what to think or feel further than their own peace of mind. But I will leave you with this:
“Cling therefore, to this sound and wholesome plan of life: indulge the body just so far as suffices for good health. It needs to be treated somewhat strictly to prevent it from being disobedient to the spirit. Your food should appease your hunger, your drink quench your thirst, your clothing keep out the cold, your house be a protection against inclement weather.” – Letters from a Stoic VIII
Of course who knows what to think, Seneca lived a life of luxury.