Saturday, September 18, 2021

Letters from a Stoic 103 - On the Dangers of Association with our Fellow-Men

On the Dangers of Association with our Fellow-Men

Seneca warns of dangers - not of accidents, but of other people.

Of accidents, he says to "shun those troubles."

But of those which come from other people, he says, "it is from his fellow-man that a man's everyday danger comes. Equip yourself against that; watch that with an attentive eye."

While storms may forewarn us of dangers to come, "damage from man is instantaneous."

What is this damage from other people he speaks of?  The footnote on the wiki page of this letter points to Letter 7, which addresses the dangers of mixing with crowds or what is popular.  I would be more precise and call this "desire infection."  Simply observe what is popular with teens and kids and even adults, and observe how they succumb to social media and marketing, then you will understand "desire infection."

Just this past week, we learned Facebook and Instagram have been well aware of the negative impacts on teenagers their platforms are.  As we discussed this with our teenage daughter, she fully comprehends and observes how this game works.  Social media influencers will make it appear that they achieved their looks by doing a certain workout, when in fact, often we do not see the hard work (or money or plastic surgery) they put in to gain a certain look.  Teenagers see this and try what the social media influencer is suggesting, but when the teen inevitable fails, she loses self-esteem and has a poorer self-image.

Joshua Becker ( has long documented ways for adults to break the cycle suggestion, marketing, advertising, purchasing, cluttering, and then minimalization.  The best way to break this cycle is to never give into the suggestions to begin with!

Seneca could have easily been speaking to the tech giants of social media as well as marketing, when he said,

You are wrong to trust the countenances of those you meet. They have the aspect of men, but the souls of brutes.

As you think on the dangers we may face at the hands of these people, we ought to reflect on our own duty: "Try, in your dealings with others, to harm not, in order that you be not harmed."

Furthermore, we should be human; and kind to others.

You should rejoice with all in their joys and sympathize with them in their troubles, remembering what you should offer and what you should withhold.

Lastly, study philosophy and live it!  Let philosophy make you better, but never use it to shame others!

this very philosophy must never be vaunted by you; for philosophy when employed with insolence and arrogance has been perilous to many. Let her strip off your faults, rather than assist you to decry the faults of others. Let her not hold aloof from the customs of mankind, nor make it her business to condemn whatever she herself does not do. A man may be wise without parade and without arousing enmity.

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