Whoever relies on the Tao in governing men
doesn’t try to force issues
or defeat enemies by force of arms.
For every force there is a counter force.
Violence, even well intentioned,
always rebounds upon oneself.
The Master does his job and then stops.
He understands that the universe
is forever out of control,
and trying to dominate events
goes against the current of the Tao.
Because he believes in himself,
he doesn’t try to convince others.
Because he is content with himself,
he doesn’t need other’s approval.
Because he accepts himself,
the whole world accepts him.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 30, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
I have been talking about anarchism the last couple of days, and then Lao Tzu brings up the importance of relying on the Tao to govern. For some of my newer followers I wanted to use today’s chapter to talk a little bit more about anarchism and what governing has to do with it.
First off, when I refer to myself as libertariantaoist, I think I am being a little redundant. But redundant or not, I use it for a very special reason. I am trying to show just how much my political and personal philosophy are intertwined. And, I don’t think a lot of people know just how much libertarian thinking and philosophical Taoism go hand in hand. I am attempting to attract libertarians to philosophical Taoism and philosophical Taoists to libertarian thinking.
But if I am an anarchist, how does governing even come into it? I am glad you asked. First off, I don’t think anarchists are opposed to all governing. But you do need to define what you mean by governing. If you mean a system that is set up where a few, the powerful ruling elite, make all the rules; and we are all subject to them simply because we were born within particular geographical political boundaries; and we can’t really opt out; then yes, I think anarchists would be opposed to this “arrangement.”
So what kind of government can an anarchist support? First off, anarchists are quite fond of self-government. That would seem to be a given. But I don’t just want to try to speak for all anarchists. I want to speak for myself, you all are free to agree or disagree with my ideal form of government.
Beyond self-government, which is really the pillar on which all good government must stand. Speaking for myself, as an anarchist, I would be in support of any community government (be it a community based on geographical boundaries or virtual ones) if the said government had unanimous consent of the governed. Rule by a simple majority or even a super majority would not be satisfactory. I want the ability to opt out. Only unanimous consent works.
That is bound to get me hate mail. After all, the very idea that I would let one lone individual (me) keep the entire community from wreaking havoc on my sovereignty to govern myself. If you think that is unthinkable, then come, let’s reason together.
Okay, now to the actual chapter. Lao Tzu tells us that when we rely on the Tao in governing we won’t try to force issues or defeat enemies by force of arms. Does that sound like any government that has ever existed on planet Earth? It seems to me that through the course of history, governments have been all about forcing issues and defeating enemies by force of arms. Might makes right!
And through the course of history, we have found this natural law at work: For every force there is a counter force. If we were relying on the Tao, it wouldn’t have come to this. But just because we haven’t been relying on the Tao, doesn’t mean that the laws of nature no longer apply. Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself.
We don’t really need to resort to violence. Oh, certain individuals and groups of individuals love to create situations where they feel like they have been backed up against a wall and now they have no other recourse than to be violent. But, it didn’t have to be that way.
If we rely on the Tao, and this goes, not just for governing, but for whatever we are doing in our lives, there will simply be things that we will come to understand. One of those things, is that the universe is forever beyond our control. As we come to understand this, we will stop trying to dominate events. We will understand that is going against the current of the Tao.
But how do we get there? Because, I am not stupid. I know that the way things appear to be is far from ideal. Still, the Tao keeps doing its thing. Unmoved by the march of humanity going against its current.
Well, here are some thoughts. We can start by believing in ourselves. When we truly believe in ourselves we won’t feel the need to try and convince others how right we are and how wrong everybody else is. Next, be content with yourself. When you are content with yourself you won’t need anyone else’s approval. And finally, accept yourself. Now this would seem to just follow naturally once you have believing in, and being content with, yourself, mastered. And really, it should come just that naturally. When you accept yourself, the whole world will accept you. When we are at odds with ourselves, the whole world will seem to be at odds with us.
It, of course, is about going with the flow of the Tao; rather than trying to swim against that current. I am not talking about going along to get along. No, far from it. I can believe in myself, be content with myself, and accept myself, and still be opposed to a system set up to deny me sovereignty over my own self-government. But, if I am relying on the Tao, and, I believe in, am content with, and accept, myself, I am rather assured that the whole world will believe in, be content with, and accept, me.