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You Always Have The Power To Resist

Daily Stoic Emails

When one considers the notion of “resignation” and the principle of “amor fati”, it might not seem like the Stoics and the idea of political resistance would go together. But this modern misconception would come as a surprise to the many tyrants and oppressors that found themselves in conflict with the Stoics over the centuries. 

Caesar thought Cato would roll over like every other opponent and obstacle he had faced. That turned out very much not to be the case. Portia and her husband Brutus collaborated, ultimately, to assassinate Caesar in an attempt to restore the Republic. Agrippinus and Thrasea and their obstinate resistance of Nero’s tyranny was a constant, exhausting drain on his rule (indeed, Thrasea quite nearly killed him). The British thought they could roll over those Stoic-inspired revolutionaries in the colonies in 1776 and found it was not that easy. Stockdale’s captors assumed they could break him, but instead endured seven long years of his constant, almost inhuman resistance in that POW camp. 

The point being: A Stoic refuses to accept injustice and refuses to be intimidated…and they resist any and all attempts to force them to do otherwise. In a famous speech to American suffragettes, the British civil rights activist Emmeline Pankhurst expressed the sentiment perfectly, not just for women but for all forms of resistance:

As long as women consent to be unjustly governed, they can be, but directly women say: We withhold our consent, we will not be governed any longer so long as that government is unjust. Not by the forces of civil war can you govern the very weakest woman. You can kill that woman, but she escapes you then; you cannot govern her. No power on earth can govern a human being, however feeble, who withholds his or her consent.

You know what the title of that speech was? “Freedom or Death.” And where does that phrase come to us from? From Addison’s famous play about Cato, which had so inspired the Founders of America that they quoted it and remixed it for all posterity as, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”’

Let those words, let those examples burn themselves into your memory, into your soul where they belong. A Stoic doesn’t go quietly into that good night. A Stoic fights tooth and nail for what is right. A Stoic can’t be broken. A Stoic doesn’t consent to injustice or tyranny. 

They fight. They give everything. They would die before they’d submit or compromise with evil, and when pushed, they’ve proven that.

Thankfully, it’s unlikely to come to that today but that doesn’t mean we can’t take up their spirit and fight in our own way.

P.S. This was originally sent on June 1, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.