For quite some time now I have been studying Stoicism. Well… Classical Stoicism as compared to Modern Stoicism. While Modern Stoicism definitely takes many of its evolving tenants from Classical Stoicism, pontificators of the modern version tend to orient their version towards a specific objective.
Take Robert Greene who has written a modern-day version of Machiavelli’s The Prince called The 48 Laws of Power. A few Modern Stoics have championed it as a guide towards understanding leveraged relationships between people and how Modern Stoicism can provide key behavioral components to achieve that leverage.
I don’t want to belittle the book….it is actually quite good, and I highly recommend it. I do not, however, subscribe to the fact that it is an example of Modern Stoicism in practice. Instead, I would suggest that it shows examples of how self-restraint aided practitioners throughout history in outmaneuvering their enemies.
If anything, it would be more apt to call Modern Stoicism a form of Modern Hedonism since individual maximization of pleasure is the ultimate driving animus to these books, seminars, and Facebook memes that proselytize Modern Stoicism.
Classical Stoicism is a little different in that the driving motivation is simple mastery of the “self”. Marcus Aurelius (probably the most famous Stoic), writing in Meditations, really focuses his energies on mastery of the self for the ultimate purpose of just that… self-mastery.
George Washington actually defined freedom as essentially a transcendence from the passions and needs of the human condition… very Classically Stoic of him.
My own study of Stoicism has been just that: a study in the controlling of my emotions, a realization that the world around me, and people in general, are beyond my direct control. Their joy, their rage, their insecurities… these are things I cannot possibly understand, and attempting to do so is utterly futile. The only thing I can ultimately control is how I respond to them. Or, more precisely, how I allow their words or actions to affect me.
So with that… let me tell you where I have utterly failed to practice what I preach:
Dealing with the arrogant.
The other day we ran a CCW class. We had a renewal student come in and generally express a poor attitude towards the whole process. He has had a CCW for a number of years and, candidly, I rarely see him except for his every-two-year renewal class. My mantra of “train constantly, consistently, repetitively, and with purpose” has been utterly lost on him.
He was irate that he had to go through the class, incensed that we made him participate in the dry-fire practice portion in the classroom, and enraged that he had to waste valuable ammo going to the range and shooting his guns.
I almost lost my shit.
(If you have arrived here from our newsletter, continue reading here…)
There does seem to be an established inverse relationship to this whole training gig. The people who have truly achieved a high level of proficiency are completely willing, if not enthusiastic, to soak up any opportunity to practice their skills, especially in front of an instructor.
Those who would require years of training to remove bad habits and work their way up to rank amateur seem to have an ego that precludes any desire to improve on their skills.
Guys and Gals… We are talking about f@#@ing guns here!!!
This is not a minor annoyance on having to fill out yet another form, or go to the DMV to renew your driver’s license. This is about having the basic modicum of safety necessary to carry a gun in public. Literally, people… there are lives on the line here!
The other one is the clients who simply think laws do not apply to them, and are amused in a patronizing way when you bring up that their conduct could land them in jail.
We had a private-party transfer take place between a wife and her husband. She had bought a gun from another dealer when he realized that his driver’s license had expired. Now that he had his new license, he wanted the gun transferred to him so it could be in his name.
I explained that materially it was not necessary to go through with the transaction… since he still had an equitable interest in the firearm, and if he ultimately wanted to get a CCW he could still put it on his permit even though it was his “wife’s” gun. He waved me off and said he wanted it in his name… not hers.
I then pulled out my A&D book to log in the firearm. I asked him where the gun was, expecting him to reach into his backpack and pull out the plastic Glock case that these weapons come in. Instead, he lifted up his shirt and pulled the loaded gun out of a Belly Band holster.
“Wait… you have a CCW already?”
“No… I want to get one though.”
“But… but… you drove here with a loaded gun in that holster?”
“That is illegal… you can’t do that!”
“Yeah, don’t worry about it… just do the DROS… I know a lot of cops… I’ll be fine.”
“You… what?… you know a lot of cops… what the hell does that mean? When you get arrested, you’ll get better food? You just engaged in three separate misdemeanors… under the gravamen of the same crime these become wobblers and can now be prosecuted as felonies… this is not a “I know a lot of cops” problem… this is you better know a lot of criminals because you are going to need that network to protect you while you do your three-year prison sentence!”
Folks… as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. articulated so well: “Unilateralism breeds the arrogance of ignorance, and ignorance breeds bad policy.”
To paraphrase him for more modern ears: If you are so arrogant that you think the angels smile down upon you and you alone, you are going to begin to think you are special. You are not. But when you do think that you are special, you are going to do incredibly stupid things.
Folks never forget the little discussed, and rarely printed, 5th Rule of Firearm Safety: DON’T BE STUPID!