I stumbled across a Newsweek article about Marcus Aurelius, from 2010, written by author and political commentator Jon Meacham. Meacham won a Pulitzer prize in 2009 for his biography of US president Andrew Jackson.
Meacham’s article, A Case for Optimistic Stoicism, was inspired by the attempted Al Qaeda bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253, which was bound from Amsterdam to Detroit Metropolitan Airport in the US. I wanted to write a little about this article because I think it deserves to be read and because it seems to me that Meacham has actually understood the essence of Stoicism better than many others who have attempted to write about it. Though he’s not a scholar of this particular subject he clearly “gets it” and the Stoic doctrine he gets is one that’s really quite central to the whole philosophy.
… That’s what I would simply describe as a philosophical attitude toward the stark reality of terrorism. One type of folly denies the reality of these threats and buries its head in the sand. Another type of folly accepts them but exaggerates our inability to cope and throws its arms up in the air in despair. What people find so difficult about Stoicism is that it does neither of these foolish things. Stoics like the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius could … calmly accept adversity while nevertheless patiently fighting back against it, even though the odds seemed stacked against them or the battle seemed interminable. Life, as Marcus said, is warfare. It never ends. The good man accepts this, without complaint, and he remains at his post anyway, standing guard against the enemy.
Donald Robertson misses another type of people, those who make political hay out of half measures, hand waving, and pseudoscience substituting for security — a.k.a. Security Theater — instead of taking meaningful if maybe unpopular actions to identify and address risks to mitigate threats.