If a country is governed with tolerance,
the people are comfortable and honest.
If a country is governed with repression,
the people are depressed and crafty.
When the will to power is in charge,
the higher the ideals, the lower the results.
Try to make people happy,
and you lay the groundwork for misery.
Try to make people moral,
and you lay the groundwork for vice.
Thus, the Master is content
to serve as an example,
and not impose her will.
She is pointed, but doesn’t pierce.
Straightforward, but supple.
Radiant, but easy on the eyes.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 58, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Yesterday, we began a break from talking about the mystery of the Tao, and started talking about the art of governing in harmony with the Tao. Today’s chapter is really part two of “If you want to be a great leader” so, I hope you read yesterday’s chapter with commentary.
Today’s question for would be leaders is, “Can you be content to serve as an example, and not impose your own will?
Yesterday, we were contrasting leaders and rulers. The defining difference between the two is the will to power. The mark of a leader is someone in whom the will to power is non-existent. Rulers, on the other hand, must be in control.
Oh, don’t misunderstand me here, many rulers have high ideals and good intentions. They aren’t all deliberately evil people. I want to be clear here. Even if you think your elected officials are trying to do the right thing and only have your best interests at heart, they still must be classified as rulers, rather than leaders, if they have the marks of rulers instead of the marks of leaders.
So today, I want to devote to delineating the clear differences between a leader and a ruler. My concern is with understanding that I have a very good reason for using the pejorative “ruler” when referring to anyone with the will to power. Many people simply have a hard time accepting the term ruler being used when referring to elected officials within a representative government. They want to reserve the term ruler for use only in the case of monarchies or dictatorships. That somehow democracies are exempt. I believe this is a grave misunderstanding of what a democracy actually is. Furthermore, I would say that is ignoring the very real possibility that a monarchy or even a dictatorship could have at its head a leader rather than a ruler.
I want to begin by saying what Lao Tzu said yesterday. The world is fully capable of governing itself. If you don’t believe that is true, then you need to be looking for a ruler. A leader will not do for you, because you are too stupid to follow the example of a leader. You will need to have the ruler’s will imposed on you. I feel sorry for you; and, I hope your chains are light, my stupid friend. But, just because you are stupid doesn’t mean the rest of the world is. The rest of the world can and will govern itself, left to its own devices. All we need are leaders. Actual leaders who are content to serve as an example.
Leaders govern a country with tolerance. And the people are comfortable and honest. That is it. It isn’t really hard at all. The world can govern itself. All we need are leaders who are tolerant. And that would be all I would ever need to say on the matter except for the problem of the will to power.
It is the will to power that produces rulers. And when rulers are in charge, the country is governed with repression. And, the people are depressed and crafty. Now, let’s talk a little bit about what James Madison said was the most vile form of government. That would be a democracy. It should be noted that James Madison was the father of the U.S. Constitution. And, contrary to popular myth, our founders did not give us a democracy. Our founders may have been all kinds of stupid, but they did understand that a democracy was not the way to govern a country.
What? You want mob rule? Do you really want a simple majority of the people, to determine how you can and cannot live your own life, when you are otherwise doing no one any harm? Our founders tried, unsuccessfully, I might add, to safeguard individual liberties from the tyranny of any majority. I hope you are beginning to understand why, even an elected official with the mandate of a simple majority of voters, can be classified as a ruler in my own mind.
Oh, but they have such good intentions. They really mean well. Or, if we just replace the current ones with other ones just like them, they will mean well. This is tyranny of the majority. I didn’t vote for the scoundrels that were elected. I didn’t vote for a single one of them. And yet, you are going to impose your will on me through them? Governments don’t give me rights. I was born with them. Governments can safeguard them, if they will. But they don’t give me rights. Though they certainly believe they can take them away, whenever they get the majority of the people to support them.
This is what I mean by repression. We don’t have to have a King George, or a Hitler, or a Stalin, or a Mao Tse Tung, for the individual to be repressed. All it takes is a simple majority. Are the people depressed and crafty? They are being repressed.
And God help us all when someone with the will to power is in charge; and, they have a good heart, high ideals, and good intentions. The higher the ideals, the lower the results will be. People don’t want to believe this is true. But I am just telling you the way things are. Believe the illusion all you want. Just don’t expect me to fall for your illusion. If you try to make people happy, you lay the groundwork for misery. If you try to make people moral, you lay the groundwork for vice.
This is why rulers, especially the ones with the best of intentions, are doomed to failure. They just don’t understand how the Universe works. We don’t need rulers. In fact, it is only to our great detriment that we have tolerated them for this long. The world can govern itself. All we need is some great leaders. I am talking about people who will be content to serve as an example, and won’t impose their own will. They are pointed, but they don’t pierce. They are straightforward, yet supple. They are radiant, yet easy on the eyes.
Where are these great leaders? They are everywhere you look, outside of any capitols. They come from all walks of life, though their numbers in the legal profession are infinitesimally small. They are you and me, and our neighbors, our coworkers, our family, our friends. They are each one of us, governing ourselves, and being content to serve as an example to all others of how to do the same.