In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation.
Julia Wise, quoting C.S. Lewis
That does not kill us makes us stronger
Hilary Clinton, quoting Kelly Clarkson, quoting Nietszche
In light of current events, I've personally found it difficult to reach equilibrium. In particular, I've found it hard to navigate a) the 2022 loss of ~3/4 of resources available to longtermist EA, b) the consequentially large harms in the world caused by someone who I thought was close to us, c) setbacks in the research prioritization of my own work, d) some vague feelings that our community is internally falling apart, e) the general impending sense of doom, f) some personal difficulties this year (not all of which is related to global events), and g) general feelings of responsibility and also inadequacy to address the above. I imagine many other people reading this are going through similar difficulties.
I'll find it personally helpful to understand how our (my) historical heroes dealt with problems akin to the ones we're currently facing. In particular, I'd be interested in hearing about similar situations faced by 1) the Chinese Mohists and 2) the English utilitarians.
I will be interested in hearing stories of how the Chinese Mohists and English utilitarians dealt with situations of i) large situational setbacks and ii) large-scale moral compromise.
In the past, I've found it helpful to draw connections between my current work/life and that of those I view as my spiritual or intellectual ancestors. Perhaps this will be true again. I confess to not knowing much of the relevant histories here, but presumably they've faced similar issues? I'm guessing the Mohists couldn't have been happy that states they defended ended up being conquered anyway, and Qin Shihuang unified China with fire and blood. As for the English utilitarians, I assume some of the policies they've advocated backfired severely in their lifetimes, whether obviously or more subtly.
I'd be interested in seeing and possibly learning from how they responded, both practically and on an emotional level.
So this is my question for the historians/amateur historians: In what ways have our historical moral heroes dealt with large-scale adversity and moral compromise?
For example, it was helpful for me to learn about what John Stuart Mill viewed as his personal largest emotional difficulties, as well as the Mohist approaches to asceticism in a corrupt world.