The Unseen Empire: Finding Sovereignty in Self over Substance

Ricardo Guaderrama Caraveo
6 min readNov 8, 2023
Photo by Brad on Unsplash

Montaigne argues that men should be judged not by what they wear, not by how much money they have, but by their virtue. By their capacity to show qualities that only he and no one else can show, because they are his alone. I am talking about things like (modernly said: “balls”) courage or kindness (having a good heart, even with assholes around you). These characteristics cannot be bought but by sweat and inner strength, and they are available to Jeff Bezos, the King of England, and you.

The one is happy in himself; the happiness of the other is counterfeit. — Montaigne

We, the consumers, have it all wrong. We are living in an upside-down world. What should be admired, is not, while what should be scorned, is praised. We are sick in the mind, and instead of addressing the actual problem, we buy more stuff to feel better.

The dumbest, but most simple example I can think about right now is the unbelievable admiration of the Kardashians. Why are they praised so much? I cannot fathom it.

As far as I know, they are praised because they are famous, beautiful (subjective of course, but you get the idea), and rich. Everyone wants to be famous, beautiful, and rich. Unconsciously, we believe that by acquiring these things, we are going to be happy. And I know many of us have a hint of this not being true, but either way, we remain open to the possibility it proposes.

I haven’t met Kim or anyone from the family, and from my point of view, I can see many things, but not the actual person, and I believe that is a problem with celebrity culture. They are so far from us, that we cannot really see anything of true importance.

I will let Montaigne delve deeper into this topic:

Why do you judge a man when he is all wrapped up like a parcel?

He is letting us see only such attributes as do not belong to him while hiding the only ones which enable us to judge his real worth. You are trying to find out the quality of the sword, not of the scabbard: strip it out of its sheath, and perhaps you would not give two pence for it. You must judge him not by his finery, but by his own self.

As one of the old writers amusingly put it: do you know why…