The Daily Stoic for July 24th. “Somewhere Someone’s Dying”.
“Whenever disturbing news is delivered to you, bear in mind that no news can ever be relevant to your reasoned choice. Can anyone break news to you that your assumptions or desires are wrong? No way! But they can tell you someone died—even so, what is that to you?”
—EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 3.18.1–2
I am not sure what to think about today’s stoic meditation. While I agree with the general conclusion, I dislike the way it’s been formulated.
Apart from the fact that I do think that someone can break news to you that your assumptions or desires are wrong, this is one of the quotes that give stoics a reputation of not caring about anything, or not having human emotions.
Somewhere Someone’s Dying
And the funny thing is… I have always followed this stoic teaching. It’s weird to me seeing people reacting to news about an earthquake with expressions of grief, for people they don’t even know. Most of the times, these people are perfectly happy the following day, without having done anything about it.
I mean, I won’t take a plane and help rescue survivors either. But I always thought that acting like you are super-affected by that is hypocrisy if you don’t do anything.
On social media, these fake grief is even more ridiculous. Someone posts a photo of a child in Africa, almost dying of starvation, and there are thousands of likes, comments, shares… And nothing more. You are not going to solve world hunger, or cure a poor kid of cancer by clicking on “Like”. And no, your like is not going to “raise awareness” about this poor kid so someone will decide to give a lot of money to help him. That’s just you convincing yourself that you are making the world a better place by clicking on a button on Facebook.
So my usual reaction to news about tragedies in remote places of the world is usually quite cold. That said, there’s something deep inside of me that tells me ignoring these events makes me a little less human. Maybe it’s just a cultural bias, education, or prejudices, but that’s the way it is.
Today’s Daily Stoic, “Somewhere Someone’s Dying”, presents a very unpopular truth. Most of the grief about things happening somewhere remote is actually pure hypocrisy.