Hold Death Dear and the State Will Vanish by Bill Buppert

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“Life is slavery if the courage to die is absent.”

– Seneca

Fear is the mind killer.

I just finished a multi-part series on Stoicism with Brett Veinotte at the School Sucks Project. We covered plenty of ground but I wanted to tease out what I think is something rarely if ever discussed. The Stoic values inform a mindset that is distinctly libertarian. One might even say the state of mind shares a deep kinship with abolitionism. In fact, some of the Stoic philosophers were slaves themselves. The Stoics paint a broad and useful road-map to live a good life and joyous existence on their own terms.

Stoicism is not as popular today as then because it takes work to be a virtuous Stoic and the foregoing of present consumption for future return is not exactly a hipster vision of living in society today. These hard decisions tend to militate against affluence and find happiness and tranquility in less material well-being than more.

The exploration of Stoicism takes a lifetime to contemplate and master. I‘d like to visit a narrow aspect of it and the concomitant relationship to ultimate freedom. This is the Stoic view of death and the advancing of individual refusal and the withdrawal of consent. If fear is the mortar of all statist government then compliance and obedience is the brick. These two components strip the statist conceit to its essence: the employment of immoral means to achieve moral ends, an impossible calculus but the simple equation that all government lives and dies by. The state threatens and employs violence to build society; absent these means it would be out of business in an hour. At its core, the state must practice slavery to get the tax cattle to do as they are told. It is the antithesis of civilization and the highest form of mob rule. It is, in the end, a death cult.

So if that were the case, how would the government handle tens of thousands of subjects who simply refused? I am not referring to homicide or suicide bombers. They willingly employ violence to bring yet another murderous framework into being. How would they respond to a 21st century satyagraha campaign that did not seek to replace the government but dispose of it and stay rid of it? How would they cajole the unwilling to participate in any of their murderous schemes?

The government would kill them, of course. Alexandr Solzhenitsyn tells us that “[a]ny man who has once proclaimed violence as his method is inevitably forced to take the lie as his principle. These are the twin pillars of the state to guarantee its existence.

And what of it, what would happen then? The state would expect the smoking corpses left behind would serve as object lessons to the rest of the tax cattle and instill a level of fear that would force compliance. This is the single historical knot that binds all collectivist governments from communism to socialism to the sclerotic soft fascist entities throughout the West. Every statist conceit is based on the simple notion that you force humans through ultimate threat of death to comply with the legion of schemes that give government power.

How do you cut the knot? The Stoics have some answers whether the abolition of slavery was their object or not.

One of the greatest strategic minds to grace the geo-strategic stage after the War to Save Josef Stalin concluded was USAF Col. John Boyd. He had many interesting things to say and discovered the OODA loop among other things. He distilled strategy to an elegant yin-yang that simplifies library shelves of overwrought and wrong-headed strategic thinking: strategy is all about alliance and isolation to be effective. The Stoics riff off this elegant construction very simply. Epictetus tells us: “All philosophy lies in two words, sustain and abstain.”

You either submit or defy. The middle course will always benefit the former and the acceptance of death as a certitude will inform the latter.

Seneca demonstrates why all the ills of the world come down to an acceptance of life lived on others’ terms than your own which makes you complicit in the evil itself.

“And so, if only we are willing to withdraw our necks from the yoke, we can keep as stout a heart against such terrors as these. But first and foremost, we must reject pleasures; they render us weak and womanish; they make great demands upon us, and, moreover, cause us to make great demands upon Fortune. Second, we must spurn wealth: wealth is the diploma of slavery. Abandon gold and silver, and whatever else is a burden upon our richly-furnished homes; liberty cannot be gained for nothing. If you set a high value on liberty, you must set a low value on everything else.”

This is not a strike against affluence but a jeremiad against making the ends you seek with the concomitant submission required. If your wealth leverages a system in which your neighbors are your property, everyone loses their freedom.

Seneca: “It is so, my dear Lucilius; there are a few men whom slavery holds fast, but there are many more who hold fast to slavery.” Absent the slavery mindset, no state could exist. All government require degrees of submission enforced by death.

To which Seneca responds: “We Stoics are not subjects of a despot: each of us lays claim to his own freedom.” They possess this freedom in the same way that Maximus’ former owner in the film Gladiator responds to the swords poised at his neck in the pivotal scene before he is killed by the Praetorians. He submits on his own terms. This is much like the parallel and independent development of the Bushido code in Japan among the samurai. But curiously, the Japanese variant was in service to the state instead of against it.

Seneca again speaks to the tranquility of acceptance of life on your own terms even if it means certain death: “Refuse to let the thought of death bother you: nothing is grim when we have escaped that fear.” He goes on to say: “Rehearse death. To say this is to tell a person to rehearse his freedom. A person who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave. He is above, or at any rate, beyond the reach of, all political powers.”

This is illustrated by the apocryphal story of the Stoic philosopher sought by a Roman emperor for an audience. The Stoic refused and the emperor threatened to bring him there bodily to which the philosopher claimed you will have my body but not my consent. Much like the stump speech by Michael Collins in the film of the same name.

Your refusal is the sword that will cut the Gordian knot of the state stranglehold on humanity since time immemorial. Ralph Waldo Emerson assures us that to “do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain” may be the recipe for success.

Resist.

“You want to live—but do you know how to live? You are scared of dying—and, tell me, is the kind of life you lead really any different from being dead?”

Seneca

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32 thoughts on “Hold Death Dear and the State Will Vanish by Bill Buppert

  1. Hi Bill,

    I just returned three weeks ago from Palestine and what I saw shocked me to my core. It was a profoundly life changing experience. And an affirming one as well. I think I mentioned awhile back that I was going over with a Christian human rights group. As such we didn’t do the typical touristy thing. What I witnessed first hand, what I experienced served to validate my belief that statism is the most evil malady ever foisted on mankind.

    The Israeli government and its military exert oppression on the Palestinian people at a level that would amaze most Americans. Here in ‘Merica the media has done an excellent job of creating a narrative that says – “Palestinians = Terrorists”. And nothing could be further from the truth. Are there Palestinian terrorists? Yep. Just like there’s American terrorists. To lump and entire group of people into a category is incredibly naive. I personally found the Palestinian people to be some of the kindest, generous and well educated I’ve ever met.

    You would not believe the level of travel restrictions that these people have to endure. It’s like South Africa and East Germany circa 1962 combined. Our team was stopped several times by the Israeli military because we had a Palestinian with us. For several days in Hebron we were subjected to tear gas and flash bang grenades while doing patrol at checkpoints while children were going to school. Children as young as seven or eight are subjected to routine tear gassings. I personally walked several children to school through tear gas.

    And this kind of thing is coming to America. I kept thinking that the kinds of tools being used by the Israeli military are being deployed here America. As a matter of fact I learned that one of the cottage industries of Israel is exporting equipment to the police departments in the US. The Israeli military was retained by the Chinese government to train them how to forcefully remove people from their homes. In fact 1.2 million people were removed from their homes to make way for the Olympic facilities using Israeli techniques perfected by use on the Palestinian people.

    Americans have no clue what is coming to these shores. They sit passively by while tyranny runs roughshod over them because it makes them feel safer. It won’t be long before Ferguson, Missouri or New York City begin to look like Hebron and Bethlehem.

    David
    http://thirdway.crosstherubicon.us

    • Honest and plain. Thank you. Most sleep or believe the lies. Many Christians are fooled and think Israel is our friend. It is a Zionist state and real Jews are even against what’s going on over there. Is it any wonder why we don’t stop this or why we send over $3 billion to Israel a year- when we have our own poor and sick to take care of here? It’s because we are owned by the same Zionists that own Israel and Britain.

  2. The Palestinian people are a pawn on the world chessboard.The worst atrocities committed against them are from the Muslim controlled neighbors around them. Sharia law,which is true barbarism, is not practiced in Israel.Women are not raped with no consequence.Homosexuals are not tortured and murdered. Children are not married off to the highest bidder at 12 years old. Young boys are not served up to the perverts. Children are not sent off with bombs strapped to them. Women are not treated like shit. The partition of Palestine,along with the rest of the worlds colonial powers last gasps of power was deliberately done to leave behind a rotting corpse to ferment future conflict. Israel is not the problem. I challenge you to name me one country in the region that treats the general population better than Israel.

    You can’t comprehend what the people are subjected to in that region of the world,because you did not grow up in a male dominated,7th century, tribal country;ruled by Sharia law. Americans are ignorant to the reality of life in many parts of the world.Democracy is a concept that has not worked in the middle east,let alone a Constitutional Republic. Palestine has been deliberately kept as a shithole. There is no other country on earth that has “refugees” for sixty plus years.

    You want to truly help Palestinians? Pay attention to what is going on the USA. Keep the USA as a viable country, able to help the downtrodden. There is no other country in the world with the generosity and compassion of the true American. The void that will be left in the world,when the true free American is extinct,will not be filled by anyone in the near future. We are an experiment gone awry. Sad but true.

    • Are you kidding me? Keep the USA as a viable country? The US has not been viable – whatever that means- in a long time. It’s only viable because it steals wealth from the people within its borders. It’s only viable because it exacts violence against sovereign countries and kills innocent people by the millions with machinery it buys with that stolen money. This may shock you but I don’t want the US to be “viable”. I want it to disappear as a state.

      As far as your comments on Palestine, frankly you are regurgitating the state run medias bovine scat. I love the comment about strapping bombs on their children. You take an isolated act and extrapolate it such that all Palestinians are guilty.

      Israel may not be “the problem” but it is a huge part of the problem. Israel is often touted as the “Middle East’s only true democracy” which implies that democracy is a good thing. Palestinians have absolutely no say in Israeli politics. I would refer you to the Knesset’s own website and do a little research to see how Arabs have been disenfranchised from political participation. Or go to Adalah’s website where they record it extensively. Israel is “two wolves and a sheep voting what’s for dinner”. It is the greatest example of why democracy / statism doesn’t work I’ve ever seen outside the US.

      The rest of your comment is utter nonsense. It reeks of the American exceptionalism that is so pervasive today. Blind nationalism at its worst.

      • David,

        Welcome back and I am glad you are vertical. I agree with everything you say. The US as a colossus astride the globe is a murder machine built on stolen loot from taxpayers both born and yet unborn on a document no one alive has consented to and Goebbels-gargling education-media complex content to keep its tax cattle thinking that American exceptionalism is a reality instead of a chimera.

        Bill

      • Did you actually read the post? Extrapolate. Thats a big boy word. I never said that the Palestinians strap bombs on their children. I never said the Palestinians are bad,evil people. I said,if you read it,that they are pawns,surrunded by evil sons of bitchs. I also said Democracy doesn,t work in the middle east. That includes Israel. You are way to emotional about this issue.I also said the “true free American.” I never praised or said anything positive about the policies,government or military actions of the USA. If you ever considered yourself a true free man,you would understand. You are pissed off about a situation in the world that sucks. And you are right about one thing;I am exceptional.

    • Knuck- sorry, but you are either brainwashed by big media lies or are ignorant of facts.

      Have you been to Palestine? Have you lived amongst Muslims? Obviously you do not have the experience or knowledge to make such statements. Honestly-

  3. Regardless of their merit, it is interesting to note that none of the comments so far are germane to the topic, which is HOW one can overcome the might of the state through resolute acceptance of Death. I agree with the substance of Buppert’s article.

    To quote Robert Heinlein, “You cannot conquer a free man, all you can do is kill him.”

  4. Bill,

    I love the podcasts you did with Brett on School Sucks. That aside I was wondering if you have ever looked at the Taoist philosophy produced by Lao Tsu. I would be interested in your comments about it, and if there would be any comparison between Stoicism and Taoism.

    • Brandon,

      I have only the most cursory knowledge. Can you point me in the right direction of websites or books. Is it a close analog to Stoicism?

      Bill

      • Bill,

        Some books that I have read or will be reading are: Tao Te Ching, The Art of War, and I, Ching. I’m not quite sure about the websites though. People may just refer to these books as well as others as a point of reference. Everything I have read about Taoism seems to compliment the the things I’ve heard about Stoicism from yourself and other sources.

        • Brandon,

          I am familiar with Sun Tzu and Sun Pin variations on the Art of War intimately, so I see the connection.

    • This is something I would be interested in knowing as well. I’ve been reading Taoist literature for the past 4 years. What I’ve gathered will be different than what someone else has gathered in regards to forming an understanding. This is normal as there can be as many interpretations of one thing as there are people viewing or discussing the one thing. The key is forming an understanding of one thing and then the other and seeing what commonalities the two have. My understaning of the Tao (the way) is constantly being refined and my understaning of Stoicism is just beginning. I imagine there would be some things in common between Taoism and Stoicism. Everything that exists shares the threads of origin that can be traced from the very beginning and ,consequently, to the very end of everything. I look forward to hearing what either of you come up with.

  5. “How would they respond to a 21st century satyagraha campaign that did not seek to replace the government but dispose of it and stay rid of it? How would they cajole the unwilling to participate in any of their murderous schemes?

    The government would kill them, of course.”

    Except, when they don’t. See for example the Bundy standoff. Fear works on the ruling class, just as it works on us. How many envisioned a bullet coming through the glass while looking out their window at home or work? What minion wants to be thrown off the bus for causing a mass killing? They blinked. Something deterred them, even if we don’t know what it was.

    • “Something deterred them, even if we don’t know what it was.”

      Good point. If (as I suspect is true) the majority of our rulers are sociopaths, then the only likely answer is that self-interest deterred them. Since they are mostly beyond the fear of legal action, not susceptible to shaming, to guilt or to bouts of conscience, then self-interest is one of the few things left.

      The fact is, the rulers make a VERY good living riding on our backs. If people get so angry that the system crashes then the cushy life style of the rulers is gone. This is the perennial problem of the slave owner; “how far can you push the slaves to maximize your profits?” The slave owner needs to be constantly aware of the possibility of slave revolt. Any discord that threatens to escalate into a mass uprising must be either definitively put down, or strategically defused. In the case of the Bundys I think it was a calculated withdrawal. The public bearing of arms against the Powers That Be was an image that needed to be quickly erased from national consciousness.

  6. Hi Bill, I have been listern to the podcast four-part series on Stoicism with Brett Veinotte. Defintaly a very interesting topic. I am only up to Part 2. By the way on the topic of the ‘War to Save Josef Stalin’ have you read Viktor Suvorov Book “The Chief Culprit – Stalin’s Grand Design to Start World War 2′ ? If you have I would be very interested in your views on the topic. By the way are you thinking about going to ProcFest this year? Thank you From John

    • G’day John!

      What a pleasure to hear from you again. I was conversant in Suvorov’s work with Icebreaker; very interesting premise and entirely plausible to me. I have a new policy that I only speak outside my state now if paid to go, so I have yet to receive an invitation and suspect not.

      Bill

      • That is a shame. It was one of my highlights getting to more people in the Liberty Community. I very much enjoy talking with you at the Festival. Well I am coming up this year’s with a couple of friends to the USSA, and I was looking forward to going to PorcFest.

        • What I like about Suvorov’s work (though i have not read Ice breaker) is that he dispels the myth which people are told (Especially by the Left) to believe that Stalin was just some fool who trusted Hitler, the USSR was not prepare to fight and that the Soviets didn’t want war (He even uses lines Lenin quote and he plans for war before 1930). Instead Stalin was a evil master mind trying to play all sides (this included his own people ‘I know state does not own people but the myth that States give is that they work to protect people and it is even more apparent from the history of the USSR which at the intro Viktor talks about) and got off guard when the plans did not go as according costing the lives of millions of Europeans.
          If he wanted peace he could of force the England, France and Germany to the table and get them to a deal, (Churchill for one I think would not of wanted a war with both the Nazi empire and USSR not becuase he care about the lives of English men but for his own life and political career). From this book and Viktor owns word it sounds like Stalin only got half of his wanted prize Eastern Europe (mostly I believe helped by US government) instead had plans for the whole of Europe which would of include France, Italy and England.

  7. A stoic sense of the world and ones place in it is the most profound and essential state of being. Of being a Freeman.

    Without this, how can one be free and live in rightful liberty?

    This beautiful missive Bill composed shines a spectral light on the path to that dignity, it is the way to salvation, it is part and parcel of our primal freedom. And when it is embraced in all its glory, nothing in this earthly realm can ever rule over you. You are free, totally free. Just as the great creator made us.

    Ya have to get past all the extraneous symptoms of tyranny and the state and the malaise of ignorance of the primal freedoms God endowed man with which so many of us suffer, and begin at the beginning.

    Ya gotta wake up and face the absolute truth a stoic sense of ones place on the spiritual plane of indomitable liberty and living is what matters, it is all that matters, everything else is window dressing.

    Dissecting the consequences of what the state does and its consequences distracts from the vital understanding of the crux of each of our’s liberty and where each of us must begin that journey to total liberty and abolition of the causes of tyranny.

    How else is this paradigm of liberty obtainable?

    Ya have to begin at the roots of it all to fully understand where it all begins. When you grasp the fundamental elements of stoicism, you become free of the distractions lies dissimulation’s’ ignorance’s memes and agendas of evil and its actors. You become manifold in your sovereign being, the path becomes clear and uncluttered by non essential elements of what must be done.

    Without accomplishing that it is basically beating your head against a brick wall.

  8. Great essay!

    I’ve come across Stoic ideas other places in the liberty movement, and this helped tie it all together for me.

    “Seneca demonstrates why all the ills of the world come down to an acceptance of life lived on others’ terms than your own which makes you complicit in the evil itself.”

    This sounds like Howard Roark in /The Fountainhead/: “I could die for you. But I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, live for you.”

    Lew Rockwell brought up St. Paul and his Stoic ideas in one of his podcasts. He notes that the first, most important act of secession is in our own minds and points out that, even in prison, St. Paul was absolutely free within his own mind by thinking and acting with integrity to his beliefs. Even at the time, this struck me as a really powerful idea.

    • Absolutely true, AZbastiat. I am reminded of the landmark book by Victor Frankl, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’. Frankl was a psychologist in Vienna prior to being an inmate in the death camps. He observed that under the identical conditions of deprivation and constant threat of death, some prisoners became savages while others became saints. It was then that he realized that he understood that while we may have no control over the circumstances we are in, the one thing that no one can take away from us is our choice of how we react to the circumstances. I believe that is a fundamental part of stoicism.

  9. Pingback: Buppert: On Death, Fear, & Resisting Tyranny | Western Rifle Shooters Association

    • George,

      I deleted the two ladies (they may be the same confused individual) that just posted. They violated the policy on comments on my site.

      Deletion. I never delete a comment because it disagrees with me. I do, however, delete comments, whether they agree or disagree, when they’re based on stupidity. Comments will also be deleted if they are impolite, disrespectful, or merely argumentative. If your comment was deleted it was for one or more the following reasons:

      -you were disrespectful or impolite
      -you made a comment that was unsupported by common knowledge, data, or logic
      -you made a comment that didn’t further the discussion
      -you made a stupid comment

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