Sunday, November 8, 2015

Stoic Week #7

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Football star, counterfeiter, and prison dentist Billy Cannon on his days as a teenage mugger

We were not only stupid. We were criminal. We took advantage of people in awkward situations. We would rob them with threats of violence. We knew it was wrong. But it was fun, and it was profitable. Luckily, no one got injured. But I got embarrassed. My family got embarrassed. The people we took advantage of got embarrassed (USA Today,  Sports, Friday, November 6, 2015 – you never know where you’ll read something provocative).

Enough to make a stoic, novice or expert, boggle. Tick off the lack of stoic virtues. Stupid – a lack of good sense – to risk arrest and the dangers of imprisonment just for money to piss away on fun. Fun and profitable – and sure beats an honest day’s pay for an honest day at work. Cowardly for overgrown boy football players to threaten people with violence. And the utter lack of fairness for the strong to be stealing from the weak. No sense of self-control to know something is sinful but keep doing it anyway. 

To top this, we get two profoundly misguided ideas. One, “lucky” because nobody was physically injured, maimed, disabled, disfigured, etc. As if victims of crime do not suffer psychological harm such as anxiety, depression and other symptoms of PTSD, some for extended periods after victimization occurred. Two, unluckily the perp and the perp’s family were humiliated by arrest and imprisonment and consequent damage to their precious reputations. As if reputation were in our control. Honor cultures, I confess, puzzle me.

The Stoics and near-Stoic Cicero said human beings had better follow natural laws, which arise from reason. Cicero said,

For you must accept that in no other kind of debate is it possible to make apparent what has been granted to man by nature, what a wealth of excellent possessions the human mind contains, what gift we were born and brought into the light to cultivate and work out, what it is that binds human beings together, what natural association there is between them. For only when all this has been explained can the source of laws and justice be found.

All human beings share a spark of divinity and the gift of reason. We live in communities that share laws against behavior that causes harm to members of the community. But I need to study up on what the Stoics would advise about youth getting on the wrong track willfully, knowing full well they are doing wrong and gleefully resistant to appeals to their reason, their god-given propensities to wisdom, courage, temperance, and fairness.

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