Tuesday, 07 July 2015 08:01

Good Reads – From Stoicism to the Absurd

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Ancient Greece
Photo: GothPhil (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Another week, another selection of journalistic gems, compiled by one of E&M's editors: Frances Jackson on a modern use for ancient philosophy, remembering Srebrenica and a couple of disconcerting developments in Russia.

Frances, Diaphragm / Baby editor


A word of advice from the ancients

In the run-up to last Sunday’s unprecedented referendum, much was written about the future of Greece, not all of it, I fear, especially helpful. One article, however, that seemed to buck the trend was William Irvine’s piece for the BBC on Stoicism and its applicability to the current situation.

Reminding us that the word crisis comes from the Ancient Greek for "decide" (a point that was incidentally also made by German polymath Joseph Vogl at a discussion I went to last week in Munich), Irvine disabuses his readers of the misconception that the Stoic approach is merely that of the stiff upper lip and highlights instead its inherently practical, vigorous nature even.

Though Irvine focuses on how the Greek people might achieve a degree of control over events in their country, I suspect that we could all probably benefit from the wisdom of the Stoic school of philosophy.  You never know – taking time to consider how things could be worse might actually give us some much-needed perspective on this issue and others.

Still haunted by the past

The Greek referendum is not, of course, the only significant event taking place in Europe at the moment. This week also marks the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, one of the more grotesque chapters of European post-war history.  

In a disquieting, but nonetheless quite absorbing article for The Guardian, Julian Borger does not just describe the continued anguish of those who lost loved ones and are still waiting for their remains to be unearthed.  He also reveals the extent to which narratives of the war continue to compete within Srebrenica today and the rise of denials surrounding the true scope and nature of the killings.


Ad absurdum?

And talking of attempts to assert a certain control over a situation and its depictions, I spotted a rather pointed article in Der Spiegel about encroachments on the freedom of the press in Russia. The authors begin their analysis with the story of the Siberian newspaper editors who spent three days painstakingly removing a page from all 50,000 editions of their weekly paper. It would almost be funny, if weren’t for the fact that their assiduousness articulates the very real need to toe the [Kremlin] line.

What’s more, if this RFE / RL article is anything to go by, it’s not only journalists who may have to start fearing for their livelihoods. In the city of Nizhnevartovsk, yoga instructors apparently received letters warning them to refrain from teaching the practice in municipal buildings so as to "prevent the spread of new religious cults and movements."

The mind boggles, and I’m pretty sure my chakras are in a bit of a twist too.

Last modified on Wednesday, 08 July 2015 07:19
Frances Jackson

Frances Jackson is a former E&M editor and occasional contributor. Originally from the UK, she now lives in Munich, where she is pursuing a PhD in Czech poetry. Given the chance, Frances would probably spend all of her time in kitchen and is currently cooking her way around the world. She has also been known to dabble in literary translation.

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