Thinking Fast & Slow – Momento Mori

“The evidence of priming studies suggests that reminding people of their mortality increases the appeal of authoritarian ideas, which may become reassuring in the context of the terror of death.”

Excerpt From: Kahneman, Daniel. “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” Macmillan, 2011.

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The “Momento Mori” meme is running through the Internet. On the off chance you haven’t run into it yet, here’s a single sentence version: When victorious Generals would return to Rome for a hero’s welcome, they would be followed by a crier who’d whisper “Momento Mori” as the crowds cheered their parade.

Millions of virtual pixels have been dedicated to the “live your life well” moral lesson. Closely followed by the “you are the sum of your actions, not just your most notable ones,” but only if the author is especially trying.

Sad caption cherubs abound.

Those are modern moralistic takes, absent a complete and true understanding of history – lacking in empathy. Ask yourself, who put the crier in the parade? Was it the General or the Emperor?

Everything old is new again. A close reading of the opening quote implies that Roman Emperors were a damn sight craftier than most give them credit for.

I sure wish there was more attribution to that quote. Going to have to follow up on it.