Fun Fact: My most popular "Stoic" post has to do with my underwear.
You've likely heard about the factory collapse tragedy in Dhaka, Bangladesh. There are multiple reasons that horrible events like this one happen but, outside of the effect of gravity, they are all human generated reasons. There is no shortage of knowledge to design nor ability to construct safe buildings, there is only a lack of willingness. One of the widest reaching and most troubling reasons for this aspect of industry is the modern ability to systematically avoid paying the true cost of the items we purchase. From our clothes and mobile phones to our food, we invest in industries that cut corners at the expense of other human beings, present and future. Flint and Tinder founder, Jake Bronstein, recently posted about Slow Fashion v. Fast Fashion, which discusses this from the point of view of the clothing industry. I support his company, in part, because it allows me to step outside of this corner-cutting system. I believe it is incumbent on me, as a Stoic, to participate in the advancement of human affirming systems whenever possible.
Stoicism challenges us to expand our view of the world. We are to see ourselves as intimately connected to the universe and never as islands set apart. The Discipline of Action, in particular, demands that our choices be made for the common welfare of humankind. Marcus Aurelius expressed it this way,
Your only joy, and your only rest, is to pass from one action performed in the service of the human community to another act performed in the service of the human community, together with the remembrance of God. (VI, 7)
One of my favorite features of the Stoic philosophy is it recognizes that rational thinking leads us towards others, not apart. Lived Stoicism is not an egocentric experience. It can sound that way, as much of our practice is directed inward while we wrestle with our own minds. However, when we win out over false impressions of the world we are meant to be freed to be active within it. Conquering desire and fear, we take actions that build a just and wise society. Those actions can cost us in reputation and reward. Sometimes it can hurt the pocketbook. What's that matter? The only good is virtue anyway.