Monday, October 13, 2008
The Stoic Path: The End of America by Naomi Wolf
Stoics understand that dissenting opinions serve an essential function in the Stoic search for true opinion and should never be discouraged, no matter how false they may appear. This view reappears in the nineteenth-century ideas of John Stuart Mill in his essay "On Liberty," a work that has had a major influence on the contemporary acceptance of dissent in liberal democracies, and especially in America.
In her recent book, The End of America, Naomi Wolf develops a compelling argument and warning that "we are living through a dangerous 'fascist shift' brought about by the Bush administration (Library Journal 9.15.07)."
Naomi Wolf is a brilliant and careful thinker and her ideas deserve close and reasoned analysis. They may be false ideas. If so, we Stoics need to understand and to explain why they are false. Alternately, Wolf's ideas may be prescient - if they are, we Stoics will need to be prepared to act courageously and fearlessly to preserve our human rights and to protect the constitutional integrity of the state, not only in America, but throughout the free world. According to Marcus each of us is "a component part of an extended social system." In Stoic terms any act that has "no reference either immediately or remotely to a social end tears asunder your life."
Russell McNeil, PhD, is the author of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: Selections Annotated and Explained by Skylight Paths Publishing.