Free of fear
A word that has become all too familiar in our daily vocabulary in the past nearly two years is “fear”. Fear of living, fear of dying, fear of dying painfully and alone, away from everything and isolated from everyone, with maybe just a cat or a silly dog to keep you company.
There is, however, another word that is well accompanied by “fear” and is “hysteria”. Hysteria, natural or artificially induced by media and governments for never honourable purposes, transforms fear into hyper-paralyzing something else, so that the hapless who experiences both can literally die on the spot.
It happened, for example, as the newspapers reported, that during the unfinished Covid epidemic, a banal and highly treatable toothache turned into an occasion of sure death because he or she did not have the courage to leave the house to go to the dentist.
The fear of dying from Covid made them die of infection, barricaded within the home, behind the walls of what they thought as an inviolable fortress. The fear of a disease that they most likely would not have contracted, or contracted in a curable form even without medicine, was the cause of death that these hapless were trying to avoid at all costs.
In general, fear has always been the favourite weapon of all those who want to deprive us of something of noble and fundamental.
Whether it is tyrants who hold entire countries in their hands or bullies who act solely on interpersonal relationships, fear accompanies the promise of suffering towards those who do not comply with the will of the arrogant.
An overwhelming coercion, which may even seem reasonable and justified on a purely theoretical level (to prevent a “terrible” spread of contagions...) but which in the end always reveals its truest and most macabre face.
How can we resist fear and preserve our precious freedom, our precious individuality?
The Italian Michele Putrino is carrying out a singular attempt: to revive the teachings of the ancient school of Stoicism, to offer, to those who can and want to understand, an alternative to fear and hysteria.
1) In your book “Handbook of resistance to power”  you talk about the “Megamachine”. What is that? Why should we know how to oppose it?
A) The Megamachine is none other than our entire society that proceeds forward in a mechanical way through technology, bureaucracy and, above all, through the fact that man today lives in imaginary realities. Realities that exist only in his head and that for this very reason can be easily manipulated by bringing man where he wants, just as is done with puppets. The Megamachine, therefore, will continue to have us in its power as long as we continue to confuse the unreal with the real world. So, what is the solution? In theory it is simple but in practice it is very difficult to implement. As can be guessed, the theoretical solution consists in learning to accept reality for what it is and to live according to its rules but, if we think about it, it is a very difficult thing to put into practice for the common man, since few accept the hard side. and raw of reality: this is why many men have always continued to take refuge in the world of illusions... But this - that is, the fact of not accepting reality - is also what condemns them to a life of profound disquiet and meaningless.
2) But aren't we in “Democracy”? In a system openly based on dialogue, certain practices are not superfluous?
A) I answer bluntly: “democracy” simply does not exist. Indeed, to be more precise, it is simply a red herring, an elaborate way by those without true leadership skills to gain power by manipulating the masses. On the other hand, in the era of illusion, power cannot be obtained except with illusion. But this should not be scandalous because everyone - me, her, who is reading us, all of us - are constantly searching, whether consciously or unconsciously, for our affirmation, to obtain, therefore, the possibility of being able to feel “powerful”. And this, everyone does it with the means that he/she has at his/her disposal. Anyone who denies this is simply a hypocrite who, in turn, tries to get what he wants by deceiving others into believing that is a “good” and a “harmless” being.
3) So, if I understand correctly, you affirm that a system of power exists both at the macroscopic level, State level, and at the microscopic level, of daily interpersonal relationships...
A) The “power system”, as you define it, is always present, everywhere and in everyone. This is because, simply, we too follow the laws of nature and, therefore, just like in physics, we too follow the logic of vector forces, that is the logic that a force, by its nature, tries to impose itself on other forces and that to do this he often allies himself with other forces and so on
4) Man is actually a social animal and relates to others on the basis of hopes, fears, expectations of various kinds. What, then, is this "fear" that we should get rid of?
A) The fear we should get rid of, as I explained in my book “Free from fear” , is the one that exists only in our head, a fear that can only exist, precisely, because most people live in a fictional, unreal world, which every man created and fed with his own hands.
5) Humanity has always wondered how to resist the troubles of life. Could you briefly remind us of what Stoicism was, which you speak of in your book “Free of fear”?
A) Stoicism, the real one, has little or nothing to do with what is commonly known on the subject. True Stoicism is based on a single principle: learning to face reality for what it really is, in order to live by the rules of Nature. This is Stoicism. Obviously, over the centuries, various thinkers have proposed and attempted to implement various approaches to achieve this end and, of course, some of these methods achieved the goal while others, on the other hand, were completely misleading. The problem is that, in the long run, this doctrine, especially in the Christian era, has been exploited by confusing the means with the ends. But what the Ancients were trying to do with Stoicism was, in fact, to try to learn to look reality in the face.
6) Seneca was perhaps the stoic par excellence. But how to apply his teachings in everyday life?
A) Here, this is a very common mistake, that is to consider Seneca as “the stoic par excellence”. Not only is this not the case at all but, from the point of view of the end, it is the furthest from true Stoicism, so much so that, to give an example, neither Epictetus nor, even less the emperor Marcus Aurelius, a few centuries later, never mention it. Seneca became so famous for us moderns because he was very liked by the Christian world, since his vision, on many aspects, was similar to him. But true Stoicism is, if you like, the exact opposite of the Christian worldview. It is no coincidence, in fact, that almost all the texts of the ancient Stoics have been destroyed: if we think that the Stoic School was the most widespread philosophical school in the Greco-Roman world for more than five hundred years (!), The enormous amount of volumes that have been made to disappear makes us understand how much this doctrine was, in fact, opposed to the Christian one. And, coincidentally, the only volumes that have remained almost intact are those of Seneca ... If you want to understand the true Stoic vision, it is better to leave Seneca alone (although, of course, there are interesting passages).
7) In an age of space travel (at least for the richest), of supercomputers and the internet, of a world closed because the old distances have shortened thanks to technology, it does not seem that returning to Stoicism is simply turning to an anachronistic and boring past?
A) We can come to think of this only because, I repeat, when we talk about Stoicism we always have in mind a scholastic and Christian vision of this doctrine. Do you want to immerse yourself in the vision that the Ancients had by following the true Stoic doctrine? Read Nietzsche. Or, if we want to play with contemporary “pop” works, check out Game of Thrones. Does it seem to you that learning to look reality in the face for what it is, even in all its cruelty, accepting it and putting into practice the various games of force and power and always keeping well away from compassion, can be “anachronistic and boring”?
8) Aren't there already many schools that teach “how to live well”? Why should people in our modern day be stoic?
A) Stoicism does not teach you how to “live well”; Stoicism teaches you to open your eyes to reality, however hard it may be, and to “play” according to its harsh rules. Otherwise, one is always free, of course, to return to lock himself up on his soap mountain made up of dreams, imaginations and ideals.
Video interview YouTube, Italian only: https://youtu.be/Wxcgd4dWj4A