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)
Like Frying a Small Fish
I posted an article from consortiumnews.com, yesterday. “Hillary Clinton’s ‘Exceptionalist’ Warpath” by Daniel Lazare. In the article, Mr. Lazare presents Hillary as being to the right of Trump with her promotion of “American Exceptionalism”, and the Donald as being “neo-isolationist”. Trump has said he doesn’t like the term American Exceptionalism because (in his own words) “I don’t have a very big ego, and I don’t need terms like that.”
I apologize if I caught you off guard with that quote. I should have warned you not to have just taken a drink or a bite of food before reading that the Donald said he doesn’t have a big ego.
The point of the article, I think, is that while the Donald doesn’t like the term “American exceptionalism”, since it hardly fits into his mantra, “Make America great again”, if America is already exceptional, Hillary is certainly making the most of it, since it fits right in with her war-mongering. As Donald sees things, America isn’t a bully, America is being bullied. And, Hillary certainly doesn’t see America as a bully. “America is great, because America is good.” Now, where have I heard that one before?
Meanwhile, I am left wondering how one of these is supposed to be the lesser of the two evils. Both candidates don’t perceive America as a bully. And, I can’t, in good conscience, agree with them on this point. Still, I guess it was the characterizing of Trump as “neo-isolationist”, which has me talking about the article, as it relates to today’s chapter.
For the briefest of moments I entertained the idea of launching into a discussion of what the prefix “neo” means. It it is quite in vogue to use it in political speech. And, I believe that, usually, it is used as a pejorative. Neo-conservatives, neo-liberals, neo-fascists, and, now, neo-isolationists. These are the “bad” guys. But, like I said, I only entertained the idea for the briefest of moments. As much as I would like to write countless words on that prefix, it wouldn’t have a thing to do with today’s chapter; so, I will leave that discussion for another time.
Instead, I really want to get to today’s chapter. Because, it wasn’t really the neo in front of isolationist that wound me up today. It was the word isolationist that did it. And, this doesn’t even have a thing to do with the Donald, either. Or, Hillary, for that matter. So, while I won’t fault you, if your mind wanders to them, while we continue to discuss the art of governing, believe me, I honestly care for either one of them just about as much as they would care to learn how to govern from Lao Tzu. That is, not at all.
How many times do I have to say it? We are not isolationists! We are non-interventionists. There is a big difference. And, if you don’t know, or don’t care to know, the least you can do is not further the ignorance by adding that blasted “neo” in front of it. I guess I should just be happy I have never seen or heard “neo-non-interventionists”.
I mean, really, guys, that prefix neo really mucks things up.
But, I promised I wasn’t going to talk about that. So, on I go… back to the art of governing. Today, Lao Tzu compares governing a large country to frying a small fish. You. Spoil. It. With. Too. Much. Poking.
That isn’t a matter of isolating yourself from the fish when you are frying it. Duh! But, you won’t interfere with the natural process it is going through as it is frying. You won’t intervene and intervene, and interfere and interfere, and poke, poke, poke….
Why won’t you do these things? Because you don’t want to spoil it. I said this isn’t about Hillary or the Donald. I lied. I would really like them to understand this lesson on the art of governing. I am just not holding my breath.
If the art of governing requires that we don’t do too much poking, how exactly do we put this into practice?
Here it is: The only thing you have to do. Center your country in the Tao.
Oh, but we can’t possibly do that. The world “needs” us, (Hillary). The world has “taken advantage” of us, (the Donald). And, they will both insist that there is evil which must be poked. Of course, they don’t call it poking. But, they will insist that we must deal with the problem of evil. For Hillary, American exceptionalism requires that we intervene. For the Donald, only he can fix the problems that plague us, and trust him, he will be great.
But if anyone was truly serious about dealing with the problem of evil, they wouldn’t be poking at that hornet’s nest. They would be giving it a wide berth. If our country were centered in the Tao, evil would have no power. It would still be there. Sorry, no rosy promises about eliminating evil, once and for all. But, if you leave it alone, if you don’t poke at it, and antagonize it, you would be able to step out of its way.
Evil is a problem that has plagued us for all of recorded history. It isn’t going away anytime soon. But, us non-interventionists have a solution. A solution that sounds radical, since we have never quite tried it. Give evil nothing to oppose. Yes, you read that correctly. Evil thrives on attention, on opposition. Your opposition feeds it. Evil loves how America makes love to it, through making war with it. Do you like that one? I just made that one up. Goes way back to the Vietnam war era, make love not war. Let me know what you think of my play on words.
Just understand this one thing: You can’t make evil disappear! But, if you were to give it nothing to oppose, it would disappear all by itself.