Governing a large country
is like frying a small fish.
You spoil it with too much poking.
Center your country in the Tao
and evil will have no power.
Not that it isn’t there,
but you’ll be able to step out of its way.
Give evil nothing to oppose
and it will disappear by itself.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 60, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Who’s Down for a Fish Fry?
In today’s chapter, Lao Tzu encapsulates all of his teachings on the art of governing into one simple metaphor. Governing a large country is like frying a small fish. I’ve done my share of frying fish, though I am always happy to let someone else do the frying. But, the eating is what I am especially down for, served with hush puppies with lots of butter, taters and coleslaw. Now, that is some good eating. Yum, yum…. But, what were we talking about again? Oh yeah, the art of governing, and how it is like frying small fish. In both cases, you spoil it with too much poking.
That means let it be-don’t poke, don’t prod, don’t interfere, leave it be.
Drop that freshly battered fish in the fryer, and leave it be. Let it cook. Leave it alone. Center your country in the Tao and evil will have no power.
Yes, President-Elect Trump, we are talking about what to do about the problem of evil. If you want to deal with the problem, the best approach is to first identify the problem. And, the problem isn’t that evil exists, evil will always exist. The problem with it is how much power it has. And, you can do something about that.
Being as I have been taking on my self-appointed role of adviser to you, and I am well aware I have been offering unsolicited advice for a few days, now, I would like to take this opportunity to say that your predecessors have been dealing with the problem of evil all wrong. They have been poking at it. Prodding it. Giving it something to oppose. And, all along, evil has only increased in power, even prospered.
As you transition in a new administration, I would very much like you to consider doing a much-needed, and seriously long overdue, 180 degree turn with your foreign policy.
I have long thought the maxim, “Know thine enemy” is best read, “Know thyself.” If we would take a good look in the mirror, we’d see our worst enemy staring back at us. But, I also know that you will feel quite alone, in Washington, embarking on a non-interventionist strategy on foreign policy. The powers that be have been gaining power and prospering to the same extent evil has, wherever in the world they have spawned it, by intervening and interfering where we have no business. There is one campaign promise I want you to make good on, and that is putting America first. Historically, putting America first has meant not interfering, not intervening, in others’ affairs. It has pejoratively been called isolationist. But, that has never been a correct representation. Once again, it is only agents of the will to power who want to force things, to try to control, to dominate, who will argue for still intervening, and upping the ante even more.
They will insist evil has to be dealt with. But, you will be dealing with it. Just not in a way that will make evil expand its power. Evil will still be there. It will always be there. But, you won’t be feeding it, growing its power. By simply stepping out of its way, and giving it nothing to oppose, its power will shrink until it disappears, all by itself.