Art Economics Low Politics Decline Political Theology Power Geopolitics

Confucius Says “lol, lmao”

Confucius Says “lol, lmao”
On the very basics of governance

This will be a very short post, just a little something that came to mind as I continue work on other material. But since it amused me I figured I’d share it with you all as well.

I was watching a bit of recent footage of some peasants in revolt, as they are at the moment basically everywhere across the West, and was suddenly struck by the recollection that I’d definitely read a wise saying about the general situation somewhere on a fortune cookie. No, wait, I realized, this time it must actually have been from Master Confucius himself! So I went digging through my copy of the Analects…

Lo and behold, right there in Book 12, Chapter 7, is this straightforward lesson:

A disciple asks Confucius what, fundamentally, it takes to govern a state without it collapsing.

Confucius says: “Simply make sure there is enough armaments, enough food, and that you have the trust of the common people.” (足食,足兵,民信之矣.)

If sacrificing one of these three things becomes unavoidable, which would you give up first?” the disciple asks. (必不得已而去,於斯三者何先?)

The weapons,” Confucius replies. (去兵.)

If two things?” the disciple asks. (必不得已而去,於斯二者何先?)

The food,” Confucius says, because while even death is a part of life “without the trust of the people, a state cannot stand.” (去食. 自古皆有死,民無信不立.)

What is most notable to me from this little dialogue from almost 2,500 years ago is how much, in comparison, our political leaders, in their hubris and absorption in grand projects (and graft), seem to have forgotten the very basics.

Indeed it strikes me that they already failed on maintaining enough armaments (at least in Europe, though even America now seems to be struggling to produce the most basic munitions). More broadly speaking, they can no long provide security for citizens or defend their own borders.

And now they’ve suddenly got the wise idea of going after the food too, which is a plan that will surely work out great.

Most importantly, however, they have at this point already completely lost the trust of the common people, and seem incapable of even attempting to begin winning it back the hard way.[1]

No wonder they’re all constantly in a panic and trying to tell the people what to think.

But then, who really is more likely to know better: some dead guy from ancient history or our esteemed and enlightened modern leaders? Having progressed so much in knowledge and reason, I’m sure they are surely the wiser and have everything well in hand.

[1] Immediately following the passage above is, amusingly, a chapter where a duke asks Confucius what to do to save his overburdened state, and Confucius tells him to stop being a doofus and cut taxes in half (to 10% from 20%, the latter being portrayed as an unprecedentedly outrageous and inhumane imposition). His job is to make the people rich and healthy, not to enrich himself and grow the government, Confucius points out. Since apparently he had a based libertarian streak.

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