Imagine yourself, for a moment, as a young Roman man in the early third century. But not simply any citizen of the empire; one of the preeminent men, destined for incredible things. And around you, history is quite literally being made before your eyes. Down the street, the Colosseum seems almost freshly minted at only 100 years old. In it, you can take your fill betting coin on blood sport and circus.
And then there’s your father and brother, also preeminent men. They’ve just put the finishing touches on the Pantheon that modern tourists know today. If you so desired, you could take a stroll past its famous columns in this story but not past St. Peter’s Basilica of the Vatican, as it won’t be built for another 100 years.
Your world is a world of magnificent times, if but turbulent.
Yet, in very short order, you will be murdered by your brother, the co-emperor alongside you at the time. After suggesting a peace meeting, he will lure you into a trap with your mother as bait. And then the guards stab you to death. Who says political conspiracies don’t exist? Then your name, Septimius Geta Augustus, will nearly be erased from the history books entirely.
Today, we might call it “cancel culture.” But back then, the Roman’s had a term for it too. And if you even spoke Geta’s name after his Damnatio, you yourself would be breaking the law. Punishment? You guessed it: death. In fact, Geta’s brother, Caracalla, known for being one of the cruelest rulers of the Roman Empire, would have all his sibling’s statues smashed, his name removed from documents, and his likeness annihilated from memory. And this is but one example of how political enemies have used cancellation to de-legitimize or un-person their opponents.
How did the ancient men safeguard against cancellation? And conversely, how should we?
Michael Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg has a suggestion. And it aligns very closely to the path I’ve taken.
Most of us eagerly, or more likely lazily, embraced the current insipid and dull paradigm in the name of convenience, low prices, and free shipping, but we never stopped to consider the sacrifices made along the way. We swallowed it whole, became comfortable fat and happy, and now the facade’s about to be slowly stripped away unless we bend the knee to an ever narrowing Overton Window of speech and behavior parameters. It begins with social media purges, but it won’t end there. All the special things we sacrificed from the prior era are gone, yet the consequences are here to stay. We can’t run and hide hoping to be the last one hauled off to the abattoir. It’s time to step up.
In this regard, I have a simple suggestion. Cancel Yourself. Unshackle yourself mentally from our suffocating and bland corporate culture while you still have a chance to do it voluntarily.
Indeed, Michael is correct that it won’t end at social media de-platformings. In truth, we’re likely to see full un-personing before the banking monolith soon enough. Good luck when you can’t even get a credit card or a checking account. But Mr. Krieger’s suggestion, that you “cancel yourself” so they the mob can’t do it to you, is an intriguing strategy. And I imagine that it runs contrary to the inclination of some of the men of our society.
Instead, many men imagine that, by hiding, they may be spared. Even so, at the same time, their fear provides the system with the very sharpness of the weapon being wielded against them. And in hiding their true opinions, they also relegate their names and more importantly, their ideas, their beliefs, and their values to the dustbin of history. Plus, by keeping yourselves anonymous, you risk being ignored anyway, because you are, in the end, simply another voice on the internet, disembodied without any significant, visible stake in the game.
In an absurd Catch-22, you cancel yourself anyway by fearing cancel culture and when you flinch at being doxxed.
Now, I’m not saying that you should go out there and blast your information to the super highways of the interwebz. Having gotten my fair share of crazy emails, I can assure you, the world is as looney as you think it is. And yet, when you’re in an ideological war, one of the best actions you can take is to remove the sting from your enemy’s spear.
After all, there’s a reason that I write under my real name.
And although I choose my battles wisely, I do not shy away from a fight or speaking my mind. And neither should you. When you center yourself and stand as a man with integrity, you embolden more people to join your cause. And in that moment, you might find that millions of people feel exactly like you do. And who will they cancel when we’ve all gone out and canceled ourselves by choice? Or what services will they kick you off of if you don’t use any of theirs to begin with? Truly, where will your opponents find themselves when their dagger is revealed to be dull and wafer-thin?
Cancel thyself. And do it when it’s easier, on your terms, rather than when its harder and by someone else’s design.
Turning back to ancient times and in Geta’s case, the empire’s reach, the greatest in history up to that point, wasn’t enough. In the end, they couldn’t track down all the coins minted with his face on them. And his name remains with us. More telling, his tyrant of a brother and murderer, Caracalla, would also eventually be killed by one of his own soldiers.
Thus is the nature of Pandora’s box.
But let me leave you with three more brief examples of cancellation, each with its own lesson. And each with its own place in our historic story.
The first is from the modern days of the Soviet Union. Famously told, Stalin had Trotsky murdered in Mexico with an ax. But not before having him airbrushed out of all the official photos. Poof! Cancelled from history. Here, we obviously see the spark of modern technology being used in the 1900s to attempt erasure of political un-desirables. Trotsky was not the only one during this period.
And kind of my weird favorite because of its extremeness, the second is the Werewolf of Châlons. By day, he was a common tailor in the 1500s, but by night, he was a notoriously cruel serial killer. His crimes, mostly against children, were considered so grotesque that all records of even his trial were ordered destroyed. To this day, we have no idea what his name even was. Clearly, cancellation has its time and place. But also the ability to be successful to a degree.
Finally, while I should mention King Tut’s family, I’ll leave you with a much more well-known, inspiring example for Western readers instead.
Who could have guessed that one day, the name of a commonplace Jewish preacher, condemned to the humiliation of crucifixion, wouldn’t just be forgotten? Even one of his apostle, Peter, refused to recognize his name, denying Jesus three times when asked, saying that he didn’t know the man. Can you believe it? There he stood, bleeding from a crown of thorns and jeered at as a criminal condemned to an otherwise unremarkable death, lost to history.
Yet, this name has gone on to alter global history forever and be spoken in countless languages for millennia to come. It remains a mighty slingshot who’s pebble has given strength to the weak and hope to the hopeless. And it’s simple sound reverberates down through the ages.
Physician, heal thyself indeed.