Lao Tzu on Politics

Lao Tzu, a man from the past with insights that make sense in the present.

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled they will say ‘we did it ourselves’.”

A reality that has definitely bypassed the common Western mind.

“The gentle and soft overcomes the hard and aggressive.”

Another reality that has generally bypassed the Western mind.

“The more regulations there are,
The poorer people become.”

Bureaucracy, Kafka’s nightmare coming true in modern Britain, brought closer and closer by the dictatorial European Union. How complicated can they make every area of life? 

“The more picky the laws are,
The more thieves and gangsters there are.”

Modern Britain = too many laws and too many lawyers. Too many people go to prison each year for silly, unnatural, made up laws.

“Accomplish but don’t boast
Accomplish without show
Accomplish without arrogance
Accomplish without grabbing
Accomplish without forcing.
When things flourish they decline.”

Every Camelot falls, Rome fell, Baghdad was wiped out by the Mongols. Every economic boom in history has been followed by a slump. The bigger they are the harder they fall. As for success Thatcher’s own people stabbed her in the back, Churchill was booted out of office, Hitler ended up dead in a scruffy bunker, Ceaser’s best friends killed him, Gadaffi’s last moments of freedom were spent hiding in a drain. Excessive forceful success breeds envy, every office and classroom attests to this. Our forceful petrochemical pinnacle society – often looking like a war against nature – will almost certainly topple one day – leaving our descendants to pick up the pieces. Nobody every fell off a mountain who didn’t first go up one. Sensible goals are stability and sustainable goals.

“If you do not adulate the worthy, you will make others non-contentious.
If you do not value rare treasures, you will stop others from stealing.
If people do not see riches, they will not be agitated.
Therefore, when the sage governs,
He clears people’s minds,
Fills their bellies,
Weakens their ambition and
Strengthens their bones.
If the people are kept without cleverness and desire
It will make the intellectuals not dare to meddle.”

This is the total antithesis to our modern, consumerist-materialistic, growth-based society.

Victory is never sweet.
Those for whom victory is sweet
Are those who enjoy killing.
If you enjoy killing, you cannot gain the trust of the people.”

If only you had understood this Tony Blair.

“The country’s potent weapons
Should not be shown to its people.”

Because they will demand their use?

“When the Tao prevails in the land
The horses leisurely graze and fertilize the ground.
When the Tao is lacking in the land
War horses are bred outside the city.”

Updated this saying would probably be in reference to the use of factories, not horses. 

“You can possess the world by never manipulating it.
No matter how much you manipulate
You can never possess the world.”

Its just like chasing a rainbow.

The court is immaculate,
While the fields are overgrown with weeds,
And the granaries are empty.
They wear silk finery..
Sate themselves on food and drink
Having wealth in excess.
They are called thieving braggarts.
This is definitely not the Way.”

Lenin in his golden train, Thatcher on her gilded sofa, Nicolae Ceaușescu  in his palace, Imelda Marcos with her shoes, even the capitalist elites celebrating their bargain purchases with champagne as millions lose their jobs and are thrust into a world of benefits or even worse of food stamps and handouts queues

“When the government is laid back
The people are relaxed.
When the government is nitpicking
The people have anxiety.”

Will someone please explain this to each and every incoming British government.

“Deal with difficulties while they are still easy.
Handle the great while it is still small”

Or ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ as we say in English.

“Let there be a small country with few people,
Who, even having much machinery, don’t use it.
Who take death seriously and don’t wander far away.
Even though they have boats and carriages, they never ride in them.
Having armor and weapons, they never go to war.
Let them return to measurement by tying knots in rope.
Sweeten their food, give them nice clothes, a peaceful abode and a relaxed life.
Even though the next country can be seen and its dogs and chickens can be heard,
The people will grow old and die without visiting each others land.”

This is the antithesis to the modern growth based economy. It is an understanding of society being promoted by many free thinking environmentalists, permaculturists and others who have understood the insights of E.F. Schumacher’s ‘Small is Beautiful’.

The reason the river and sea can be regarded as
The rulers of all the valley streams
Is because of their being below them.
Therefore they can be their rulers.
So if you want to be over people
You must speak humbly to them.
If you want to lead them
You must place yourself behind them.
Thus the sage is positioned above
And the people do not feel oppressed.
He is in front and they feel nothing wrong.
Therefore they like to push him front and never resent him.
Since he does not contend
No one can contend with him.”

“If you are courageous in daring you will die.
If you are courageous in not-daring you will live.
Among these two, one is beneficial and the other is harmful.”

“Nothing in the world is softer than water,
Yet nothing is better at overcoming the hard and strong.
This is because nothing can alter it.
That the soft overcomes the hard
And the gentle overcomes the aggressive
Is something that everybody knows
But none can do themselves.
Therefore the sages say:
The one who accepts the dirt of the state
Becomes its master.
The one who accepts its calamity
Becomes king of the world.
Truth seems contradictory. “

When we look at the competition between China and America it is clear that America could learn a lot from Lao Tzu. They suffer from (in late 2014) an extremely active-yang approach to the world which is causing their overstretch, unpopularity, danger of war with Russia and other problems. China on the other hand is apparently showing a much more patient and balanced growth, leaning towards a more passive-yin approach.

“True words are not fancy.
Fancy words are not true.”

Most people seem to instinctively know this when it comes to politicians…

This is also the antithesis to our specialistic culture’s excessive use of necessary jargon (by nearly every type of “expert”). Jargon which is often completely unnecessary as the same concepts can nearly always be expressed quite sufficiently in plain, mainstream English.

“The good do not debate.
Debaters are not good.”

I wonder what would Lao Tzu have thought of our ingrained culture of debating in Britain?

“The one who really knows is not broadly learned,
The extensively learned do not really know.”

In English we say someone ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’ to describe this reality.

Quotes in italics all by Lao Tzu, Chinese Philosopher

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