In 1480 a Turkish force invaded Otranto in Italy, killing 802 people. Catholics claim that they were killed for refusing to convert to Islam. Pope Clement XIV beatified the group in 1771, and now Pope Francis is declaring all 802 saints. He will thus become the Pope with largest number of saints created, overnight.
The Turks, however, furiously deny the story of a religious massacre. They say that the people killed were soldiers, or at least armed men. Italian researchers conclude that some acts of terror were committed by the Turkish invaders to create panic among the Italians around Otranto. But evidence that the 802 were killed for their Christian faith is apparently hard to come by.
I am deeply sorry about deaths in Otranto, as I am deeply sorry about the deaths of Muslims killed by drones today. But 802 saints?
Dear Mr. Pope, read Epicurus! Moderation, please.
Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition. (Adam Smith). Regrettably, there is a subset of people who don’t believe in the scientific method,think science is some sort of liberal plot, and don’t understand the meaning of the word “theory”.
In comparison with the comparatively rational world of Epicurus, we have regressed in the last 2,300 years.
A study of 1,014 individuals by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers of the University of Michigan, found that “happiness and life satisfaction are almost perfectly correlated with income”. Thus, when people hit the $100-$150k threshold, everybody was either “very” or “fairly” happy, and nobody described themselves as “very dissatisfied”. By the time they hit $500k, it was “a complete knock-out”: everyone polled was “very happy” and “very satisfied” – there were “no miserable millionaires”. The evidence is “overwhelming”: wealth is good for one’s well-being; the more you have, the happier you are. (Adapted from remarks by Allister Heath, City AM).
Epicurus would agree that not having to worry about the most basic needs relieves one of much anxiety. But I think his reaction would nonetheless be more sophisticated and nuanced. He would, I think, be concerned about the subset of well-of people who are consumed with money, making more of it and avoiding paying tax on it (and then piously going to church on a Sunday morning). He wouldn’t much envy those who, however rich, spent their spare time worrying about the ups and downs of the stock market, and quarreling over invoices and workmen’s bills. And he would think ill of those who claim that “they made it all by their own hard work”. Epicurus would look for modesty, generosity to less well-off people, good humour and a lack of conspicuous consumption. Moderation, in other words.
A group of libertarian “crypto-anarchists” in Austin, Texas has produced the world’s first 3D-printed gun. Hailed by some as the future of manufacturing, 3D printing works by building up multiple layers of a material, typically plastic, to create a solid object. The gun produced by Defense Distributed, run by 25-year-old law student Cody Wilson, was made on a printer bought for $8,000 on eBay. After a successful test firing of the Liberator, which is “printed” in plastic but has a metal firing pin, Wilson posted the blueprint online. (The Week).
In the bogus name of “freedom” all types of repulsive material is posted on the Internet, to the advantage of criminals, sociopaths and the clinically insane. The public seems content to have young teenagers look at porn and Moslem extremists to get tips on bomb making at the click of a mouse. Now we have an avowed anarchist, clearly advocating violence, making life just that little bit more unsafe and disagreeable.
Have we neither common sense nor decency left? Epicurus, campaigner against violence and the anxiety that attends it, would be speechless.
Time to zap all anti-social websites advocating violence? People natter on about their rights. Let’s talk about responsibilities.
Just a few signs of a good manners that make life more pleasant for all of us (not in any order of priority):
A cheery “Sorry!” if you cut someone up in traffic.
An apology when you are are late for a concert and cause a commotion.
Saying “thank you” for a dinner or party.
Saying “please” when you want someone to do something for you.
Saying “thank you” when a door is held open for you.
Patiently waiting in line and not queue barging.
Avoiding coughing over people in a crowded room.
Playing music softly on your i-pod, not at full volume.
Talking softly on your phone in a crowded train.
Offering a seat on a train to elderly folk who are standing.
Avoiding forcing other people to step into the road to avoid you on a sidewalk.
Asking permission to address a person old enough to be your grandfather by his first name.
Epicureans are careful to be courteous, sensitive and thoughtful in their dealings with both friends and strangers. Selfishness and lack of consideration for others is a sign of the brutish and anti-social. This is a crowded planet and we have to rub along together in cooperation. Manners are the lubricant that help make life pleasant, get the best out of others, and distinguish decent, thoughtful humans from wild beasts. They are the outward sign of empathy, not some old-fashioned set of rules which the impatient can set aside. They are as old as the human race, with good reason.
The New York Times reports today that crowds, led by Orthodox priests, violently attacked a gay rights demonstration in Tbilisi, Georgia yesterday. The leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, compared homosexuals to drug addicts, and called the gay demonstration “a violation of the rights of the majority” of Georgians. One supporter of the Patriarch said she had come to the counter demonstration “to cure their illness”. Priests (who are above the law in Georgia) led the charge that broke through the police protective barrier. They will not be charged with an offense.
One doesn’t need to be a sceptic about reactionary religions to be shocked to read about this event. Epicurus, not an active supporter of the deities, would be appalled. He stood for respect, tolerance and equality for all human beings, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or the color of your eyes. Think how revolutionary that was 2,300 years ago! And some are still treating homosexuality as a disease or a lifestyle choice. Astonishing.
Trainees at the world’s most famous school for nannies are taking martial arts classes to make them better able to foil kidnap attempts on their charges. The Norland nannies in Britain are also learning to drive at speed in all weathers, and manoeuvre prams away from danger. The Norland College, in Bath, says it is responding to the needs of wealthy modern parents. (Reported by The Week).
Epicurus would undoubtedly say that if your desires and ambitions are modest and moderate you are the happier for it. Imagine living a life where you constantly fear that your children might be kidnapped! What is the point of all the money when you have that level of anxiety?
These are the diseases of the soul that Epicurus sought to cure:
1. Fear of oblivion results in a desire for immortality. But what you should do is face death without fear and enjoy the life you have.
2. Fear of weakness leads to a desire for power. But the ideal is not to lord it over others but to be strong enough to cater to your own basic needs and those of your family.
3. Fear of poverty leads to greed and desire for wealth. But what you should desire is not to be rich but to have enough food, clothing, shelter and companionship to live without envy.
4. Fear of obscurity leads to desire for fame. But fame is nothing. What you need is both self-respect and the respect of your friends.
5. Fear of being bored or perceived as ordinary and dull leads to a frantic effort to have fancy clothes, belongings, adventures and endless stimulation. What you really need is active friendships and a sense of humour.
6. Fear of inferiority leads to envy, anger, greed and the desire for power, honour, fame and incessant gossiping and denigration of others. What you should be doing is accepting and improving yourself.
7. Fear of disappointment leads to anger and dissatisfaction with the world, whereas you should try to accept people as they are (unreliable, incompetent and lazy!)and maintain in inner serenity.
8. Fear of failure leads either to a frenetic life full of fear or to taking short cuts and wanting something for nothing. What you need is an active confidence in your own ability and to pursue self- improvement. There will always be someone luckier or smarter than you. Just don’t worry about it
(Adapted from “Letters on Epicurus: A Dialogue about Happiness” Peter st. Andre
Https://stpeter.im/ writings/ Epicurus/
In a bid to reduce costs, British Prime Minister, David Cameron, is expected to announce, during his visit to Washington next week, that Parliament would be privatised and henceforward would be operated by a Texas company associated with the US Republican Party.
“We can no longer justify the huge cost of running the Palace of Westminster”, a Downing Street spokesman is quoted as saying. “We have to make economies and shrink the size of government. I am assured that the new contractors can reduce costs and still make a profit. British members of Parliament will begin paying for the space they occupy, their secretaries and overheads next January. Members will pay twenty pounds per question to government ministers, and all food and beverages will be treated as income for tax purposes. The agreement with the management company, Koch Brothers Liberty inc. includes the reduction in staff and the renting to major Conservative Party donors of prime offices in the recently built Parliamentary offices.
“Britain leads the world is the promotion of democracy and freedom throughout the world” the Prime Minister is quoted as saying. “We are proud of our long heritage of democratic freedoms and look forward to building on the achievements of our forefathers”.
A Labour Party spokesperson is quoted as commenting, “They got in just before us. We were about to announce the same idea. Damn!”
It has long be felt in political circles that Parliament is one extravagance too far now that the country is an elective dictatorship run by “Why don’t we try X and see if it works” thirty year olds.
The American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has recently ballooned in size to include “an ever-growing list of exotic mental disorders”, which, say some observers, caters to the interests of “a pharmaceutical industry that already encourages over-prescribing. Added to the list of mental disorders are a “persistent difficulty parting with possessions”; Hypersexual Disorder (aka sex addiction); Internet Disorder (computer addiction); and Binge Eating Disorder, defined as eating to excess more than 12 times in three months. On that basis, it looks like millions more people “may soon be classed among the 48 million Americans the APA already considers mentally ill. (Edited version of an article by Lizzie Crocker in The Daily Beast).
This is ridiculous and damaging manipulation of the public to extract even more money from the public. If you can’t sleep, what do they prescribe? Strong anti- depressants that make you acutely anxious. You then need ant-anxiety pills. Long ago the US congress, paid by the pharmaceutical companies, decreed that advertising these drugs on TV was o.k. Now doctors have no choice but to write prescriptions for expensive drugs as demanded by their patients.
If Epicureanism seeks to reduce fear and anxiety then it is in direct conflict with the vested interests of Big Pharma, ever inventing new “mental disorders” to make money. This is indecent, immoral and unconscionable. We should rebel. I personally will only take these drugs with my arm twisted up my back.