An element of my personal philosophy of life is related to the dynamics of ‘contentment’. Since the whole canon of Western Philosophy is centered on the causes, states and conditions of contentment, it is fair to say that my contribution through this narrative is a minuscule one. Yet, I would like to voice my assessment of this universal human concern and try to refine my theory through the responses it will elicit from the audience. I have synthesized my personal experience with a larger political event and have studied them both in a philosophical framework. I hope that the audience will eventually agree with me as they see the logic and weight of my arguments given below.
I would describe my personal philosophy of life as closely allied to Epicureanism. Although this school of thought is grouped under Hedonism, it is markedly more moderate in the principles it espouses. As opposed to Hedonism, which is living life for the sole purpose of sensory enjoyment, ‘restraint’, ‘control’ and ‘moderation’ are the keywords describing Epicureanism. One of the sayings of Epicurus which had touched me and later influenced me was this: “A blessed and indestructible being has no trouble himself and brings no trouble upon any other being; so he is free from anger and partiality, for all such things imply weakness.” (The Principle Doctrines of Epicurus, 2011) There are unmistakable Buddhist undertones to this tenet – perhaps not a coincidence considering the blooming of Buddhism in Asia during the time of Epicurus. When I first came across this tenet a few years back, it immediately struck me as valid and relevant to the personal and political domains. That it was intended as an instruction to conducting personal life is obvious, but its political application is not straightforward. On careful reflection, though, the tenet’s relevance to contemporary politics comes to light.
Thomas E. Ricks’ 2006 book titled Fiasco, The American Military Adventure In Iraq, helps us connect Epicurean thought to a major political event. For instance, Ricks notes in his book how the United States invaded sovereign Iraq for the sake of oil and not for the stated reasons. He also documents the human and material costs incurred by both sides, with costs being disproportionately high on the Iraqi side. (Ricks, 2006) Placing Ricks’ findings and observations in Epicurean terms, I was able to synthesize the following argument: One could interpret America’s continued occupation of Iraq as a manifestation of ‘partiality’, in this case toward so called national interest, which in turn translates into the interests of military contractors and oil corporations based in the country. The destruction of lives and resources on both sides is as a result of America ‘troubling’ itself and ‘troubling’ its distant and weak enemy in the form of Iraq. Further, consistent with the tenet, the invasion implies ‘weakness’ on part of the aggressor, more specifically a ‘weakness’ for material wealth (in this case fossil fuel).