Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, last of Machiavelli’s Five Good Emperors and adherent of Stoicism, (purportedly) offered up a bit of advice regarding life and religious beliefs:

Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.

That advice, dating back more than eighteen centuries, offers a parallel for living (and surviving) in today’s hyper-critical identity culture. As a stand-in for “gods,” we have the ‘pantheon of Woke,’ the combination of academics, pundits, and mob that write and (perpetually) amend the rules of modern social justice culture and politics. Some of what they require aligns with the behavior of good people, some is “gray-area,” and some is downright offensive and Bizarro-World opposite of what any reasonable person would deem acceptable, affable, and proper.

Aurelius, applied today, would suggest: behave toward others as you know is proper, not as others demand. If your behavior and others’ demands align, you will be welcomed. If their demands are unjust, you should not want to stand with them. Why seek acceptance from people who think and act in a way that makes no sense to you?

At its core, Aurelius’s advice is about internalizing your self-judgment. It’s about you yourself deciding if you’re a good person, if your behaviors and attitudes are just, and if you are treating your fellow humans properly. It’s a rejection of others’ purported mores, morals, scruples, and worldview when they don’t make sense. It’s an affirmation of your self-assessment and a contextualization of strangers’ opinions.

It’s the core of rejecting the illiberal (and bigoted, and racist, and hateful) demands of the woke-scolds, the neomarxists who’ve made everything about divisiveness and oppression. It’s certainly not all it will take, given their ability to instill fear and intimidate into silence, but even under such oppression, we can still maintain our self-respect and our recognition that we, not they, have the right of it. And it is at the core of libertarianism in its various flavors.

Comedian Dan Soder offered a joke many moons ago, one with rather obvious parallels to today:

Everyone knows hipsters are like human bedbugs. You see one, there are probably 40 more under your bed, judging your music.

One thing (of many) I’ve learned across my decades as a metalhead is that people who are critical of your musical taste are not worth your time or energy. You like what you like, and your likes should not be filtered by others’ opinions. Same for the rest of your life. If you “live a good life,” you’ve nothing to apologize for, even if you don’t conform to the (ever-shifting) demands of the woke-mob. Your self worth is not determined by some rando’s rule book. Don’t let them tell you otherwise.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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