I heard this quote a few days ago in a Modern Wisdom podcast about stoicism and they haven’t stopped floating around my head. The phrase is provocative and brave in a way I don’t think people today would voice openly for fear of being cancelled. And that is the problem.
Today everyone is beholden to the luxuries of modern life. Not only are we afraid to die…we are afraid to live without the approval of our social media friends, we are afraid to live without our current jobs, we are afraid of anything changing to harshly. We have become slaves to the modern era.
That’s not to say I’m a Neo-Luddite. I think the internet and the freedom of information our technology provides is a net good in the world. Our dependence on those technologies, on the other hand, has become a hinderance. Today we can hardly imagine how to survive without our Netflix subscription. Hell, Disney+ still has millions of subscribers even after thanking the Chinese province that is, right this instant, detaining, sterilizing, and “re-educating” Uigher Muslims in concentration camps for their government’s security service’s help in filming Mulan. We don’t lack the knowledge of supporting a company that supports concentration camps…we are too weakened to tell that immoral company “no.”
We have become slaves to our technology.
To live free is to have nothing forcing your actions. In order to ensure that nothing has control over you, you have to learn how to give everything up when you think the fight is worth the cost. In learning how to die, you can learn to never let your soul be corrupted by powers that seek to control you. You can draw a line in the sand and say, “There is nothing you can do to me to make me cross that line. You will have to kill me before I cross it.”
You shouldn’t be vainglorious in this pursuit, nor should you chase after death with glee. Instead, think on what you could give up today if you decided to. If your morality called for it. Would you give up Disney+ to show that you don’t support their condoning of Chinese atrocities? Would you give up your smart phone because you believe that the companies have gone too far with invading privacy and selling private information? Would you risk your friendships to voice an opinion that the majority of society might disagree with, potentially costing you your job along with everything else, if you thought that opinion was morally correct? Would you die to protect your values?
What is your line in the sand?
The path to societal enslavement is usually caused by individuals too scared to speak up. To say what they believe is right in the face of systems bigger than themselves. Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Mao’s China, Pol Pott’s Cambodia, Mussolini’s Italy, Nero’s Rome. Every violent, murderous regime has flourished because the masses wouldn’t stand up. They didn’t know how to die. And they were enslaved.
Our founding fathers knew how to die. They knew that signing the Declaration of Independence was the same as signing their death warrants should the revolution fail. They signed anyway because they believed in representative government. That every man is created equal with unalienable rights. For their bravery we live in the most free and diverse country in the world. We can learn many lessons from our founding fathers, but I think the foundational lesson is:
Learn how to die so you can learn to be free.
If you like what you have read I encourage you to check out my novella “The Butcher of Island, Kentucky.” You can pick up your digital or physical copy on Amazon. I’m also trying to build my Locals community where we will be able to talk about books, philosophy, or just share random thoughts and life moments in among our own community. I’m currently working on ideas on how to give subscribers more value for being paid subscribers to the community, so that will be an option eventually, but for now go to my Locals page to follow my content. As I release more books and figure out what kind of online product I want to produce I will build upon what I have now, but I see it as a contained community we can build away some of the more toxic social media environments. Until we meet again, Cheers!