#65: Sine Ira et Studio: The Strength of Dispassionate Criticism

It is easy to get caught up in the issues of the day. There is always some grave injustice somewhere, always some issues that endanger human life, other life on earth, even the planet herself. It is easy, and very compelling, to translate the emotions we all have about deeply important issues into a language reflecting this emotionality. How else could we speak about it? How could we possibly stay calm in the face of a hurricane threatening the very existence of some or all of us?

There has been the old suggestion to approach such issues without ire and agitation – sine ira et studio. This does not mean that emotionality, agitation, ire even would not be justified; on the contrary. But we need to ask us: What are we trying to achieve? Are we aiming for an end to injustice? Are we trying to convert people to our cause? Are we asking people to change their mind?

Human beings – most animals probably – are prideful. Any criticism that aims to be heard would be wise to be adapted to such a situation. There would not be such a saying if it were easy; it is not. But it works, it is effective, it allows for the respective other to abandon their position eventually with honor. If you respect other people – in spite of their positions – you allow them to respect you in turn, and this opens the path to a necessary conversation and honest exchange in which justice can finally prevail. Convincing others is a skill, it takes time, patience, respect, empathy, even love.

Love towards those that you perceive to have wronged you is an outrageous demand, of course. Socrates was killed for it, so were Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King jr, and so many others. We need to accept who people are, help them accept themselves in their truth, and help them see the consequences of their actions. As it also says, hate the sin, not the sinner. If we believe in social justice, this includes the belief – necessarily so – that each and every human being is precious – whether perpetrator, victim, or neutral party – because life itself is precious and deserves to be treated with dignity.

Ire and rage are easy, studious agitation comes naturally; neither creates sustainable peace. Only if we move beyond feeling righteous in our moral crusade will we be able to see that to change hearts and minds, we need to recognize that even our opponent in a specific matter has both a heart and a mind, no matter how we may resist that notion. The more dispassionate our stance can be (in spite of our emotions within) the better we will face whatever is out there. Stoicism – whether you know it through Emperor Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations or Star Trek‘s Spock – is not an instruction to not have feelings. It is an instruction to utilize your feelings in a manner that they will not stand in the way of solving the problems you need to solve. Sine ira et studio.

#6: Star Trek Discovery: Mea Culpa

I have sinned, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I disliked Star Trek Discovery when it came out. Somehow it seemed too different, both in style and tonality resembling more the newer Battlestar Galactica and others. To me, Star Trek was always a stage play, with better funding than the original Doctor Who, of course, but barely. I disliked the movies because they were too cinematic, and cherished the TV shows for being minimalist.

Now I felt I was seeing 10 lights where there should have been only four (and if you do not get this, you may not know as much about Star Trek than you think — just kidding. This kind of passive-aggressive fandom nerdiness is never helpful. But seriously, TNG 6.10-11 “Chain of Command I+II” should be required viewing).

Everything is urgent, flashy, you need subtitles, Klingons look different again, what the Data is a “spore drive”, and why are there holograms, and a holodeck, etc. Who are these people on the bridge that I never get to know really. — Eventually, I got it out of my system.

Star Trek fans can be the most unforgiving. But we’ll come around, hopefully, eventually. Discovery is great, and it may even had a better start than most other Star Trek shows in each of their own awkward first seasons.

Rewatching season one, this show clearly needs to live long and prosper (couldn’t help it).