Enchiridion XLVII


When you have learned to nourish your body frugally, do not pique yourself upon it; nor, if you drink water, be saying upon every occasion, “I drink water.” But first consider how much more frugal are the poor than we, and how much more patient of hardship. If at any time you would inure yourself by exercise to labor and privation, for your own sake and not for the public, do not attempt great feats; but when you are violently thirsty, just rinse your mouth with water, and tell nobody.

This part bears very strong resemblance to Matthew 6, but the motivation is completely different. "[W]hen you pray, go into your inner room, shut your door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Here there is no expectation of a divine reward; but the practical advice is the same.

"I drink water" as opposed to wine, I expect; the point is not to be 'virtue signaling,' as we call it today. "Oh, I used to eat expensive dinners at fine restaurants, but these days I cook all my own food. It's just so much healthier, and it leaves us extra money to travel -- which is so important, you know, to opening your mind and understanding the world." There are several good reasons not to do this even apart from Jesus' suggestion that God will reward virtue, such as that it annoys everyone to hear you do it. That isn't Epictetus' point either. 

The point is itself about virtue, in the Aristotelian sense of "excellence." If you want to realize this philosophy as fully as possible, this is the way. 

And yet, notice the tension with the last chapter. It was said you should be a living example of your philosophy so that people might learn better from your example than from your words. Now you are being told to hide your actions, so that no one can see them or know of them. This protects you, the Stoic, from vainglory and pride and all similar failings. But now the ignorant will remain ignorant; they will never know that you have trained yourself only to wash your mouth when thirsty, and so bear hardship and privation. 

Not in the basement


Elon Musk steps up again

During the Canadian truck protests, Elon Musk was reported to have established Starlink stations on top of trucks parked near the capitol, when the authorities threatened to interrupt communications.  Apparently he did the same for the Tonganese after the volcano. Now he's done the same in Ukraine.

Ukraine and America

Ukraine's defense has been bold and admirable; they have shown us that the Russian forces, even their elite forces, are structurally and doctrinally weak. Russia is almost certain to win, but it is paying a huge price for it. Americans would never accept losing two companies of the 82nd Airborne en route to seize an airfield they never reached; nor having deployed airborne and special operations units to another airfield, only to see them wiped out. The losses of tanks and mobile infantry are already staggering. Yesterday some pundits were speaking of how Putin would press on to seize the rest of Eastern Europe, which he plainly couldn't do with 150,000 troops; today, it's clear that he will be grateful if he manages to swallow, let alone digest, what he has undertaken.

Having said all of that, Lee Smith has an important point on how America has led Ukraine to the bleeding point. It's a long piece, but needs to be considered: the basic lesson is that our intelligence agencies played them for their own advantage, and used them to destabilize other states -- and of course the hated Trump administration, impeached over Ukraine but the administration that actually gave them the weapons they needed to fight Russian tanks. 

Enchiridion XLVI


Never proclaim yourself a philosopher, nor make much talk among the ignorant about your principles, but show them by actions. Thus, at an entertainment, do not discourse how people ought to eat, but eat as you ought. For remember that thus Socrates also universally avoided all ostentation. And when persons came to him and desired to be introduced by him to philosophers, he took them and introduced them; so well did he bear being overlooked. So if ever there should be among the ignorant any discussion of principles, be for the most part silent. For there is great danger in hastily throwing out what is undigested. And if anyone tells you that you know nothing, and you are not nettled at it, then you may be sure that you have really entered on your work. For sheep do not hastily throw up the grass to show the shepherds how much they have eaten, but, inwardly digesting their food, they produce it outwardly in wool and milk. Thus, therefore, do you not make an exhibition before the ignorant of your principles, but of the actions to which their digestion gives rise.

Note that the discussion of principles is not itself to be avoided, but talking about them among the ignorant. Discussions among those interested in philosophy can be beneficial, and of course for those who wish to become students they are necessary. One can only learn by being exposed to the arguments, and one learns best by working them through with a good teacher.

So if a teacher must talk about principles in order to educate the student, and the student must by necessity begin as ignorant, how can it be wrong to talk among the ignorant about principles? The difficulty is not in talking to a single student, but in talking 'among' the ignorant. The dynamics of the crowd make it difficult for a crowd to hear and learn anything. What is popular will often seem to have the greatest force. Education comes in a different environment than the crowd. 

There is a parallel here in Jewish philosophy. Moses Maimonides notes the tradition among the wise of his faith to teach the interpretation of the vision of the prophet Ezekiel "only viva voce," and not to commit it to writing. (He then, of course, commits a great deal of his interpretation to writing; it makes up the first section of Part III of The Guide for the Perplexed.) It was sometimes said that this particular subject should never be taught in the presence of two (or more). Serious matters require a serious, intent discussion among people with the right kind of relationship of trust and respect. 

Epictetus is giving two pieces of advice here: the first on how to prevent philosophical thought from coming under mockery by the ignorant, which could bring disrepute upon most worthy ideas and ideals. More importantly, though, he is showing you how to prove your philosophy. If it is the right thing to do, then do it, don't talk about it. By observing your actions, people will come to understand your ideals; and by seeing how well they work, they will better understand their value than by having them explained.

Like the sheep who produces milk and wool, a Stoic who lives his ideas is creating real good in the world. Aristotle's ethics also turns on the importance of actually being virtuous, not just understanding what is and is not a virtue. Practice is essential; it is what makes the real good, virtue, so that the world has virtuous men to rely upon.

Can't you trust any crowdfunding sites?

 Patreon has shut down donations to a Ukrainian defense group.  Wouldn't want them to use the money for any of those nasty violent weapons.  Someone might get hurt.

Good news on the Texas border

 Not about immigration, of course, just about the defection of a large swath of formerly loyal Democratic voters to the GOP.

I've always thought it was "swathe," by the way, but that turns out to be the Brit spelling.  These are things I learn by obsessively working the Wordle puzzle, which is based on 5-letter words.

Enchiridion XLV


Does anyone bathe hastily? Do not say that he does it ill, but hastily. Does anyone drink much wine? Do not say that he does ill, but that he drinks a great deal. For unless you perfectly understand his motives, how should you know if he acts ill? Thus you will not risk yielding to any appearances but such as you fully comprehend.

We tried to instill timely bathing, and especially showers, although I'm not sure how much success we had in doing so. Regular bathing, too. Well, boys are a slow crop as Cassandra used to say.

Moderation in wine consumption is also a longstanding goal, one achieved as well as it has been and neither better nor worse. 

Canadian Tyranny Continues

Thirty-nine trucking businesses are shut down by the government. 

So they’re protesters who — as far as we know — have not been charged with any crime. But they’ve just had their businesses shut down. What does that mean?

A business they’ve built up their whole lives, maybe. A truck, a company, a licence, insurance — all the parts of it — just ended. No trial. No judge. No hearing. No appeal. Just happened. And of course it was done by Doug Ford — but at Ottawa’s direction.

Well, there's no law. That's the point. 

UPDATE: Some well-deserved mockery.

A Bright Note on a Dark Day

Those Javelin missiles Trump sent Ukraine turn out to work really well on Russian tanks. 

Unpatriotic Conservatives

My reason for wanting to avoid war, shifting to containment rather than deterrence, is that it is strategically the only sensible move. We cannot fight a war with Russia from our present position without losing it and/or escalating into truly disastrous territory. 

However, there are others who are opposed to fighting the war for other reasons. Rod Dreher at The American Conservative writes on this today. He begins by reminding us that "Unpatriotic Conservatives" was also a line used to oppose those, like Pat Buchanan, who opposed the Iraq war. [There is a lot of cursing in this post, which normally we don't do at the Hall, but it's an emotional moment and topic.]
[T]he world is full of evil bastards, not all of whom can or should be fought by American soldiers. War is a great clarifier. As I type this, I’m thinking of the gentle kid from my summer baseball league in the 1970s, who grew up to be sent to Iraq with the Louisiana National Guard, and who came home traumatized and unable to set foot inside his family’s church, because he said God could never forgive him for what he did over there. To my knowledge, he has never told a soul what it was (I heard about it from his anguished wife....

The people who need to hear it most are utterly incapable of listening. So I’m going to say it both to lay down a marker for the future (for when the talking heads puzzle over how things got to this disastrous point) and to encourage fellow conservatives who are thinking these thoughts, but are confused by them, because they’re new, and feel strange and even kind of dirty.

To repeat myself: I am opposed to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. I think Russia should leave Ukraine alone, but whatever happens, I am adamantly against following the US leadership into hawkish actions against the Russians. It’s not at all because I support Russia or in any way approve of what it’s doing. (I hope Russian families and Russian soldiers stop to think about what exorbitant cost is extracted from them so that Putin can restore Greater Russia.) It’s rather that I am sick to the point of puking of these people — the American elites — sh*tting all over so many of us, yet expecting us to send our sons (and daughters) to fight its damn wars. 

I would definitely not send my son to fight in a war that cannot be won. I might go myself, although Aquinas reminds us that wars are only justifiable if they have a hope of victory -- otherwise there is no potential good to balance against the certain evil that results from war. It may be, though, that Dreher and Reaboi and others he cites are correct about where our real struggles properly lie. 

Thoughts on Ukraine

The great, indeed grave, danger in Ukraine is that our politicians will talk themselves into trying to join the fight. Reportedly NATO has been cleared to execute war plans at the discretion of the Supreme Allied Commander - Europe, who is a fighter pilot by training rather than a maneuver warfare veteran. The war as it is unfolding is a classic maneuver war, with pinning forces and attempted envelopments, plus a flanking maneuver that has already seized the airport at the Ukrainian capital. It is too late now to do anything of value except contain the war to Ukraine if possible. 

As I said in January, the West signaled very strongly that Ukraine would be left to the wolves. Changing our minds now, when we are out of position, would lead to a widening war -- the example I used was the Korean conflict, but it might be far worse. The time to move the forces into place that would have been necessary to deter this war is past. The only thing to do now is to try to keep the war from spreading, and start laying the groundwork for a future strategy. 

Putin's plan initially seems bolder than my estimate, which assumed he would try only to seize the Russian-majority regions in the east. That may still be his actual plan; claiming that he intends to seize the whole and "demilitarize" it gives him a strong opening negotiation position should he care to bid for having sanctions dropped in return for letting the rest of the country go. Holding the whole thing would be expensive, and insurgency is very likely especially in the west.

In December of last year I suggested raising that cost in Ukraine and Taiwan by urging the adoption of a version of the Second Amendment. I notice that Ukraine has, this morning, granted all citizens the right to bear arms. Better late than never, but this would have been more effective two months ago when there was still time to distribute arms to the people (and ammunition), and to conduct training in their use and maintenance. 

There are only long-term answers that are good answers now. We need to do the following:

1) Revisit energy policy, with an eye on nuclearization here at home. We should restore the last administration's all-in approach to production in the meantime, but electrification with clean nuclear power -- the stuff is way cleaner now than in the old days, and actually much cleaner than coal -- would provide us with energy independence in the long term.

2) We need all-new leadership. The political leadership must be replaced, but that is insufficient. The bureaucracies need to be scalped at least: every flag officer should be cashiered for going along with the degradation of our armed forces into an Army that can't execute a withdrawal maneuver without chaos and a Navy that can't paint its ships or prevent collisions or put out fires on them. Some of the bureaucracies should be entirely dissolved and not replaced; others, like State, should be replaced throughout. We need people who understand what national security is actually about, which is not trying to implement 'the successor ideology.' It is preparing for war, and using that strength to prevent war.

3) The United Nations should dissolve in disgrace like the League of Nations before it, and for the same reason: utter failure to perform its claimed mission of preventing war. It should be replaced with nothing. Instead we should reinforce alliance networks where we need to deter predatory powers. (This may include NATO-ally Turkey, which is spending today conducting mock air raids on Greece -- as China is, today, on Taiwan.)

Those are all long-term steps, and we cannot get started on any of them until next year -- after the election seats a partially-new government. So, for now, there's nothing to do but let the wolves take the sacrificial lambs. It may be possible to interfere with their digestion by supporting armed populations and covertly supporting insurgencies, but it is not now possible to stop Russia from eating as much of Ukraine as it decides it really wants to do.

Enchiridion XLIV


These reasonings have no logical connection: “I am richer than you, therefore I am your superior.” “I am more eloquent than you, therefore I am your superior.” The true logical connection is rather this: “I am richer than you, therefore my possessions must exceed yours.” “I am more eloquent than you, therefore my style must surpass yours.” But you, after all, consist neither in property nor in style.

This is straightforward, although I suppose it would be surprising to some people to learn that neither wealth nor properly creased pants convey superiority. That was Tyler Durden's insight: "You are not your job. You are not how much money you make. You are not the car you drive; you are not the contents of your wallet. You are not your khakis." 

What are you, then?

Canadian Senate Reins in Trudeau

Canada has a parliament modeled on the British one, though the upper house of that parliament is called the Senate rather than "the House of Lords." The Senate was described by Canada's first prime minister as the house of 'sober second thought.' In England this became true of the House of Lords because all real power passed over time to the House of Commons, but the House of Lords was entitled to delay the enforcement of laws passed by the 'lower' house for as much as two years. In Canada, the Senate has an actual veto power.

In advance of the Senate's vote on his Emergency Act decree, Justin Trudeau has withdrawn the decree. Plainly this is because he did not have the votes. He only got it through the lower house by a parliamentary maneuver that allowed him to declare it a 'confidence vote,' such that if he lost the vote his entire governing coalition would lose power and face a new election. His allies in the New Democratic Party expressed great reluctance about having to vote for this act, and about its wisdom, but they finally went along with it to avoid losing power. No similar tactic was available in the Senate.

It is worth noting, however, that the financial powers used under this act have been made permanent by the bureaucracy separate from the need to invoke the Emergencies Act. Banks are already moving to unfreeze accounts, but the power to make the banks freeze accounts in retribution for political disagreement will remain in place.

For now, at least. This is a significant defeat for the forces of evil -- I use the term unironically and advisedly -- that may perhaps lead to other defeats. They showed their faces, and now must wait the judgment of the Canadian voter's 'sober reflection.' 

Weak Bones

The Pentagon weighs in on that exercise question. 

All Our Leaders are Unworthy

A solid rebuke to the State Department on the Ukraine situation.

Addendum to XLI

Enchiridion XLI had some commentary on the question of whether 'excessive' exercise is good or bad. Here is an opinion from Socrates, as related not by Plato -- whom we usually read for discussion of Socrates -- but by Xenophon, a friend whose great fame comes from his work as a soldier, mercenary, and horseman. Indeed his work on horsemanship is the earliest treatise I know of on the topic; and his discussion of his mercenary work, the Anabasis, is one of the great works of Western literature. This comes from Xenophon's Memorabilia, Book 3. As in the prior example, the Olympics are cited. I have highlighted some particularly relevant parts.
"Just as much as the competitors entered for Olympia,” [Socrates] retorted. “Or do you count the life and death struggle with their enemies, upon which, it may be, the Athenians will enter, but a small thing?  Why, many, thanks to their bad condition, lose their life in the perils of war or save it disgracefully: many, just for this same cause, are taken prisoners, and then either pass the rest of their days, perhaps, in slavery of the hardest kind, or, after meeting with cruel sufferings and paying, sometimes, more than they have, live on, destitute and in misery. Many, again, by their bodily weakness earn infamy, being thought cowards. Or do you despise these, the rewards of bad condition, and think that you can easily endure such things? And yet I suppose that what has to be borne by anyone who takes care to keep his body in good condition is far lighter and far pleasanter than these things. Or is it that you think bad condition healthier and generally more serviceable than good, or do you despise the effects of good condition? And yet the results of physical fitness are the direct opposite of those that follow from unfitness. The fit are healthy and strong; and many, as a consequence, save themselves decorously on the battle-field and escape all the dangers of war; many help friends and do good to their country and for this cause earn gratitude; get great glory and gain very high honours, and for this cause live henceforth a pleasanter and better life, and leave to their children better means of winning a livelihood.  
“I tell you, because military training is not publicly recognised by the state, you must not make that an excuse for being a whit less careful in attending to it yourself. For you may rest assured that there is no kind of struggle, apart from war, and no undertaking in which you will be worse off by keeping your body in better fettle. For in everything that men do the body is useful; and in all uses of the body it is of great importance to be in as high a state of physical efficiency as possible. Why, even in the process of thinking, in which the use of the body seems to be reduced to a minimum, it is matter of common knowledge that grave mistakes may often be traced to bad health. And because the body is in a bad condition, loss of memory, depression, discontent, insanity often assail the mind so violently as to drive whatever knowledge it contains clean out of it. But a sound and healthy body is a strong protection to a man, and at least there is no danger then of such a calamity happening to him through physical weakness: on the contrary, it is likely that his sound condition will serve to produce effects the opposite of those that arise from bad condition. And surely a man of sense would submit to anything to obtain the effects that are the opposite of those mentioned in my list.

Besides, it is a disgrace to grow old through sheer carelessness before seeing what manner of man you may become by developing your bodily strength and beauty to their highest limit. But you cannot see that, if you are careless; for it will not come of its own accord.”

That all seems opposed to Epictetus' dictum, as recorded in a discussion among men who were famous for wartime courage and activity. Naturally, I endorse the Socratic and Xenophonic view.

Enchiridion XLIII


Everything has two handles: one by which it may be borne, another by which it cannot. If your brother acts unjustly, do not lay hold on the affair by the handle of his injustice, for by that it cannot be borne, but rather by the opposite—that he is your brother, that he was brought up with you; and thus you will lay hold on it as it is to be borne.

Sometimes I find it very easy to bear that someone needs to be cut out of my life, whoever they were before. This is possible to do when it must be done, as everyone who has walked away from a once-beloved who proved to be incompatible with you has learned. Sometimes even a cousin who develops a drug problem (and consequently a theft problem) can be cut out without much trouble. Still, one might say in the case of a brother that normally there ought to be a duty of blood that overcomes that.  

More broadly considered, this is a general principle. If one were in a failing state like the Weimar Republic, one could bear it because one knew it would pass and worked as well as one could for something better. If the state then failed more completely, as Weimar did, one could bear it because one could do little to support the new state and only one's duty to family and friends. 

Yet there comes a point at which things are not to be borne. The Stoic here is advising you on how to survive and learn to live with horrible things. That is a breaking point between their philosophy and my own, which holds that death is preferable to dishonor. Somethings ought not to be borne; somethings, even 'semblances,' must be opposed by a decent internal soul. Even if it destroys us.

Poll: Democrats Support Suspending Rule of Law to Crush Truckers

Sixty-five percent of Democrats told the Trafalgar Group so, anyway. I am not sure Americans fully understand how grave a violation of what we would ordinarily consider to be the rule-of-law this Canadian move is. They just know that they hate the truckers, and wanted to see them crushed, and the government crushed them.

Well, for now it has, although if the truckers decide to fight they could easily blockade several parts of the Canadian economy that would compel the regime to surrender fairly quickly. Canada remains extremely vulnerable to this strategy, which is partly why the government is willing to throw out their whole legal tradition and basic Constitutional protections in order to oppose it. 

Yet it is important to grasp just how severe a violation of the rule-of-law this move really is. The Canadian government has ordered banks to freeze the bank accounts of people merely suspected, not proven, to have supported the truckers in any way -- without a court order or any due process, and barring you for suing for damages over it. Some bank accounts have been frozen for donations as small as $40. For the price of dinner out, the government is willing to see you lose your life savings and home if you can't pay  your mortgage. I can't think of any crime involving $40 that isn't a misdemeanor, not a felony.

Those small, deadly donations were not made to a terrorist organization, either, but to a perfectly legal registered nonprofit. So it is not just that the donors are being punished for a crime without due process: they are being punished for behaving in a perfectly legal way, and without due process.

Even for those who engaged in civil disobedience and therefore did break some law, the laws involved are minor violations:  literally they are honking too loud, or parking a motor vehicle in an unauthorized location, or refusing verbal police instructions. Civil disobedience does normally require that you accept the lawful punishment for your choice to express discontent in an extralegal manner, but these are '30 days if convicted at trial' offenses, not 'held-without-bail and then ten years in prison' offenses under the laws that actually existed at the time of the actions. Ex post facto laws have been created, and are being retroactively applied, which is a violation of ordinary Anglo-American principles of justice (it would be formally unconstitutional here).

So your life can be destroyed by ex post facto laws that targeted perfectly legal behavior, or what were minor violations of civil order at the time they were done, on suspicion alone and without due process. These powers are totalitarian in scope, in other words: they presume not only to govern according to the law, but to change the law after the fact to fit whatever they decide they wanted to govern. All aspects of life, including those currently strictly legal, fall under this scope.

Those are only the broad-brush strokes of the challenge. There are other worthy issues, for example, the fact that actually violent protests in Canada from left-wing actors are never punished in any similar way. In three weeks of trucker protests, they committed not one single assault or battery or violence of any kind; in that environmentalist protest, they set wildfires and destroyed construction equipment, then attacked responding security and Royal Canadian Mounted Police with axes. Equality under the law, then, is also being violated here.

Ultimately this a much more serious challenge to the Western tradition of liberty just because it's being done in a once-secure Western state. If bedrock principles like the rule-of-law, no ex post facto laws, and equality under the law can be simply set aside in Canada, it can happen anywhere.

There is also a pragmatic danger. Venezuela did this kind of thing once Chavez took power, and declined from being one of the richest and happiest nations on earth to an impoverished tyranny. Canada could follow a similar route, even with all its wealth -- Venezuela also had wealth, and still sits atop massive oil reserves. Not only would that be terrible for Canadians, Americans must consider that we could end up with failed or failing states on both of our long land borders. Although taking on qualified truck-driver refugees would actually benefit our economy, the costs of Canada falling into a Venezuelan-style death spiral will be bad for us as well as them. 

So reflect carefully, everyone, on just how serious this action by Trudeau really is. It is not just winning a political fight: it threatens the death of some of the most basic principles of our whole political tradition.

Enchiridion XLII


When any person does ill by you, or speaks ill of you, remember that he acts or speaks from an impression that it is right for him to do so. Now it is not possible that he should follow what appears right to you, but only what appears so to himself. Therefore, if he judges from false appearances, he is the person hurt, since he, too, is the person deceived. For if anyone takes a true proposition to be false, the proposition is not hurt, but only the man is deceived. Setting out, then, from these principles, you will meekly bear with a person who reviles you, for you will say upon every occasion, “It seemed so to him.”

This reminds me strongly of the Quakers, as explained in the excellent 1947 John Wayne movie "Angel and the Badman."

Quirt: That on the wall [indicating an inscribed plaque]. "Each human being has an integrity that can be hurt only by the act of that same human being and not by the act of another human being." Is that Quaker stuff? [Penny silently affirms the question.] You mean, nobody can hurt you but yourself? 

Penny: That's a Friends' belief.

Quirt: Well, supposin' somebody whacks you over the head with a branding iron? Would that hurt?

Penny: Physically, of course. But in reality it would injure only the
person doing the act of force or violence. Only the doer can be hurt by a
mean or evil act.

Quirt: Are there very many of you Quakers? 

Penny: Very few. 

Quirt: I sort of figured that.

 There aren't a lot today, either.

Why can't a woman be more like a man?

 This is getting very Meta.  Facebook removed the following Bee post for "hate speech."

Enchiridion XLI


It is a mark of want of intellect to spend much time in things relating to the body, as to be immoderate in exercises, in eating and drinking, and in the discharge of other animal functions. These things should be done incidentally and our main strength be applied to our reason.

Calls to moderation are a regular feature of Greek philosophy, and all philosophies strongly informed by them. It is interesting that 'exercise' is included, here, though; remember in XXIX striving to win the Olympic Games was offered as an analogy to philosophy. Here we seem to be counseled against Olympic ambitions, but to seek philosophy with our real strength.

There is a counterpoint in Aristotle, where he offers an account of the soul that also summons us to philosophy as the main and most proper human pursuit. Yet we should strive to master our lesser faculties, just because it makes it easier to be good at philosophy. A healthy body will think clearer thoughts, and not being distracted with illness and medications and treatments of various sorts, the pursuit of health is wise just because it improves our ability to philosophize. 

A Teachable Moment

I don't know if these are the sort of people who learn lessons, but they have at least been presented with an opportunity.
According to Antifa protesters who took over the presser, identified by the Post Millennial as “Hailley Nolan and Dustin Ferreira,” the previous night their comrades had gone to confront members of the notorious Portland area biker gang [motorcycle club], the Gypsy Jokers. Police say at least one of the Antifa militants was armed (which they usually are).

That went exactly as well as you'd expect.  

The Asheville Celtic Festival

Glorious, two years on from the last occasion. Albannach was there, and they performed the best live show I’ve ever attended. 

Thousands came, mead flowed and beer, Highland games and swordplay, a great time for all.