Lenten Observance: Day 29

Tao 57 and 58

57: “Let go of fixed plans and concepts, and the world will govern itself.”  A lot of this chapter sounds like a platform for Libertarians — “the more prohibitions you have, the less virtuous people will be,” and the more you offer subsidies, the less self-reliant.  Sounds like Ron Paul.  The other point, about the more weapons you have the less secure you are — that sounds less Libertarian.  The point is that the Master doesn’t try to control, and so the people have a voice.  As a matter of small town or group governance, there is a value to this.  I’m not sure I see how this works for a larger entity — there is value in the leader listening to the people, and not jumping to conclusions or rushing to enact decrees or legislation, but would this idea have worked with the Civil Rights movement?  Would there have been desegregation, had there not been the Brown decision?  As it was, many southern states did not do right, but dragged their feet.  If they eventually adopted desegregation or improved the chances for people of color to get an education at the State University, that took some time, and only with the active involvement of the Federal Government, which involvement was resented by the states and cities of the South.  Racism may be something that cannot be legislated away, but without laws against the violent manifestations of racism (hate killings, intimidation against people at work or on public streets, and so on), would there be any movement?  In the matter of the marketplace, would a totally free marketplace do the right thing?  According to free market people, yes, but as we have deregulated banks and commerce, companies have abused their extra freedom, and brought harm to others.  I’m not sure, on a large scale, that this works.  Total free market largely results in Walmart crushing local competition, so that a company headquartered elsewhere determines what choices a local community has.  And banks without regulation tend to gamble with people’s money.  When they lose, lots of people get hurt, not just the players.  On the other hand, I do get the sense that the desire of progressives to “fix” the broken system has its own problems.  Those who backed Prohibition did not get rid of the desire for alcohol, but made it illegal, and so made many regular folks the allies of what became organized crime.  The hope was good, but that strong reformist desire did more harm than good.

58: More on the idea of control.  “The Master is content to serve as an example and not to impose her will.”  I think of the Dalai Lama here — he is clear about what he believes, but he does not try to impose his point of view on everyone.  To some extent, I see some of the same approach in the Jesus of the Gospels — he is careful not to impose his view, but often questions the status quo.  There is the whole idea of accepting God as a child — which sometimes is read as being subservient to an authoritarian God, but which can be read as having the flexibility of a child.  Children of different races can play together without any judgment based on color, but as they grow up and internalize a lot of racism in the world around them, they become racists.  It is ironic, I find, that the Catholic Church puts primary emphasis on the teaching magisterium of the Church.  People are not trusted to come to their own reading of the gospels and the messages contained therein, but have them peer reviewed by the Church to determine if such views are orthodox or heresy.  By institutionalizing what the authorities see as the message of Jesus, in many ways they have corrupted the message, or in imposing an orthodox view, have removed a central aspect of that teaching — the non-judgmental aspect of playing with the world around and coming to know it as something dear, and not to be feared, controlled or attacked.

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