A Stoic philosopher, once a slave, he held:

The third area of study has to do with assent, and what is plausible and attractive. For, just as Socrates used to say that we are not to lead an unexamined life [see Plato, Apology 38a], so neither are we to accept an unexamined impression, but to say, ‘Stop, let me see what you are, and where you come from’, just as the night-watch say, ‘Show me your token.’ (Discourses 3.12.14–15, trans. Hard)

Make it your study then to confront every harsh impression with the words, ‘You are but an impression, and not at all what you seem to be’. Then test it by those rules that you possess; and first by this–the chief test of all–’Is it concerned with what is in our power or with what is not in our power?’ And if it is concerned with what is not in our power, be ready with the answer that it is nothing to you.
There sits wisdom.

How to apply it, though? We live in an hour in which we are told that democracy is the answer to political problems; and therefore, we should be interested in the great questions of the day. Yet the systems are such that, short of breaking the systems, we can have no hope of affecting the questions at issue. The law means nothing -- as we have seen in the case of the war in Libya, where the War Powers Act has proven toothless. I am in favor of that war, and indeed of a more emphatic approach to it, but the law is broken here. The administration shows no deference to the law.

The financial issues are as bad, or worse; even the pretense of a Social Security 'lockbox' is being set aside, in order to use Social Security payments as a hostage mechanism to force compliance on raising the debt ceiling. If we cannot? The idea has already been floated of simply asserting that the 14th Amendment permits any increase of the public debt, without question.

It isn't right to say that we can do nothing; but I wonder if we can do anything meaningful that is also lawful. If democracy is the answer, the Stoic philosophy is of less use; we are bound to be involved, and engaged. Should we say that these matters are nothing to us? The laws are carefully crafted to keep our efforts from having an effect; and where they are not, they are ignored outright. What then?

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