Friday, September 26, 2014

Taoism and anarchism - with a new translation of Tao Te Ching chapter 80

The political manifestation of Taoism in society is anarchism. My contention.

Lao Tze put a high values on personal freedom, and when extending the community level, community freedom. He put forward his political vision in chapter 80 of Tao Te Ching:


My rendition of Chapter 80 of Tao Te Ching, emphasizing its contemporary relevancy:

Divide a city into small communities with few people each
Let people use tools just good enough to serve their purposes
Let them value longevity, that comes from doing meditation at home, and therefore no need to seek for better lives further away
Let there be boats, but nobody finds any need to use them
Let there are armors but no community finds any necessity to show them off
Let people enjoy simple lives -
in which a few knots are good enough to note down important events
Let them have natural home-grown food
Let them have natural home-made clothes
Let them satisfy themselves with cozy dwellings
And let them preserve their cultural heritage
Each community helps one another only when in need
though each is proximate enough to hear one another's morning calls of roosters and the barking of dogs
Let people of each community age and die to their well-deserved natural age
and find no need to communicate with people outside

Lao Tz's anarchism was a revolt against autocracy, whereas modern anarchism, for example the anarchism of Noam Chomsky, is a revolt against liberalism of Western democracy. Lao Tz and Chomsky shared similar thoughts. Chomsky believes that autocracy is much worst than democracy. Autocracy puts suppressive power on a single person (or party) whose power will filter down to every (or almost every) aspect of citizens' life while liberalism puts it away from the government, but put it onto the hands of wealthy private individuals, companies or individual government agencies. It is easy to see that the former is much worse than the latter. In liberalism, a thinking subject like Noam Chomsky will have his freedom to develop and express his thoughts while in autocracy thinking subjects will likely be considered as enemies to the state (or party etc). For example, a former Nobel Peace Prize winner is still jailed in China today and his wife has been under house-arrest for years (for no other reason than being the laureate's wife!)

One interesting thing to note is that both Lao Tz and Chomsky put community to be the basic unit of structure of governing. It is a practical solution. We can hardly imagine a place able to be governed by individuals who decide on everything collectively on each tiny issue. But than it raises another practical issue: how to organize a community? I suppose Chomsky will say "by individual case, but a general rule will come one day".

My contention is: the danger of abuse of power in the power delegating or sharing process is forever a never-ending issue waiting for future sages to tackle. It will be there as long as we humans have that selfish genes, but then why complain? Our selfish genes made us survive and grow to this day. I can only hope our genes will not drive us to extinction one day.

Noam Chomsky - linguist and anarchist

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...