Alexander and Diogenes (Nicolas Andre Monsiau, 1818) — Note the limp-wristed posture and effete clothing worn by Alexander the Great compared to the greater-in-virtue Diogenes of Sinope.

In Praise of Cynicism

There is a legend about an encounter between Alexander the Great and Diogenes of Sinope, the Cynical philosopher. Alexander sought out the lounging Diogenes to ask him if there was anything he wanted — trying to crack the nut of his inscrutable philosophy — to which Diogenes merely replied, “Yes, stand a little out of my sun.”

In anticipating the results of the California recall election, I can’t help but feel cynical towards our whole democratic process. I am emphatically voting ‘Yes’ to recall ‘Emperor Newsom,’ who claims that surviving the referendum would give him a mandate — a mandate for more mandates, no doubt. And yet while I am urging all of my friends and family to cast ‘Yes’ ballots as well, I am not pinning my hopes on the outcome.

We can learn from cynics, who spurned wealth, power, and fame in favor of living with virtue in accordance with nature. Our modern definition of a cynic robs the philosophy of its original meaning, which was about detachment without bitterness, skepticism without unjustified pessimism, and self-sufficient asceticism against self-indulgent dependency.

I don’t particularly care who would replace Newsom for the remaining year of his term; I just want to send a message to all politicians who issue edicts at odds with science, checks and balances, and common sense. When was the last time a government health official passed a law or made reference to the well-established preventive measures that anyone can take to boost their autoimmunity, like getting enough sunshine and vitamin D, or eating a nutrient-dense diet? Instead, we get vaccine mandates for those who didn’t take the bait of free Krispy Kremes or Shake Shack with a side of fries. Cynicism is really the only appropriate response to our upside-down world, where media proudly parrots government talking points, and citizen-subjects happily lap them up.

I expect things to get worse before they get better, but rather than waste my energy on contempt and resentment towards the ruling class, I will strive to treat them as Diogenes might. Newsom is no Alexander the Great, and he ultimately has no power over me — including my decision to soak up the sun and take responsibility for my own health, rather than submit to his schemes.

So, yes, vote ‘Yes’ if you live in California to send the message to Newsom to ‘stand a little out of our sun,’ but remember that the best form of resistance is a life well-lived.
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