Tuesday, July 12, 2022
HomeTaoismFeelings, Politics, Social Conflict, and, Confucian Ritual

Feelings, Politics, Social Conflict, and, Confucian Ritual

In my final publish I discussed the significance of method trendy society not offers many individuals any emotional feeling of “connection” and the way neo-Fascists have exploited this to construct assist for noxious agendas. I believed I’d broaden a bit on this subject on this publish.


To perceive this subject, I believe it is essential to know that individuals studying this publish are going to return to it from completely different views and it is essential for all of us to know this level. All individuals are not “created equal”, and each particular person particular person’s explicit life expertise merely can’t be used to extrapolate to how each different particular person experiences the world. And this lack of a common expertise is completely key to what I wish to speak about on this publish.

In my very own case, I’ve what is known as an “nervousness dysfunction“.  This happened on account of a chaotic, violent, childhood in a dysfunctional household. What this implies is that through the time when my mind was rising, outdoors stresses induced it to develop in one of many a number of potential methods the genes I inherited from my mother and father allowed. In different phrases, I might need been an “out-going”, adventurous, trusting particular person, however due to the setting I used to be raised in, I as an alternative developed into an individual who’s at all times in search of potential hazard.

The method to consider this subject is to think about every particular person at delivery being dealt a set of enjoying playing cards for a “turn-based” recreation like Eucre or Bridge. Those are the genes that they’re given by their mother and father. But when it is time to your physique to bodily develop (or “specific” these genes), it is as in case your physique has to determine which explicit card it desires to play. Friendly, out-going, and, adventurous may very well be the ten of diamonds, whereas, stand-offish, introverted, and, cautious may very well be the ace of spades. Each of those behaviours have pluses and minuses in numerous given contexts. For instance, in a time of prosperity the place there are many opportunities—out-going, risk-takers have a bonus. In a time of chaos and declining prospects, in contrast—people who’re cautious and keep away from dangers are higher off.

Consider these two rabbits. Each of them has the identical genetic inheritance for colouration. But as a result of every was raised in numerous circumstances—namely common temperature—they developed completely different colored fur. I do not know something in any respect about Himalayan rabbits, however one might consider an setting the place a very white coat could be higher camouflage than one with black excessive lites—and vice-versa. It’s the identical factor after we speak about individuals’s disposition. And the typical temperature would have an effect on how a lot snow there in on the bottom the place one is hiding from issues like eagles and weasels. In precisely the identical method, kids reared in heat, loving houses by supportive mother and father have mind wiring that’s substantively completely different from people who have been raised in houses the place they spent a substantial amount of time legitimately scared for his or her security.

Two Himilayan rabbits, raised at completely different temperatures.
Original photograph from Genetics: A Conceptual Approach
from an article in Nature
Used below copy-rite “honest dealing” provision


These other ways of experiencing the world can manifest themselves in numerous methods of residing. For instance, when most of my buddies have been heading out and taking dangers like going abroad on growth initiatives, beginning up small NGOs, making use of for grants, and many others, I used to be in search of a safe job with advantages and a pension. That’s why I received my job on the University—which is nearly the one place in my city that has by no means laid anybody off and nonetheless has a gold-plated, defined-benefit pension with a built-in cost-of-living adjustment. As I strategy retirement age, most of my buddies have expressed a point of envy to the retirement advantages that I’ll take pleasure in as in comparison with their conditions. (To be honest to myself—many of them have acquired very giant inheritances when their middle-class mother and father died—I do not anticipate to inherit a dime.) 

How I expertise the world has a huge effect on the political worldview that I discover interesting. I believe that because of this I’m more and more drawn to Confucianism. It particularly posits a world that consists of paternalistic, reciprocal relationships between completely different elements of society. It says that individuals ought to look out for each other as an alternative of competing. Bosses ought to preserve individuals on, even when there actually is not sufficient work to justify their retention—because it is the benevolent factor to do.  Workers

Robert Frost,
photograph by Walter Albertin
Library of Congress,
c/o Wiki Commons

needs to be diligent and never anticipate an excessive amount of pay as a result of they should take into consideration the pursuits of the homeowners and managers of the corporate. The authorities ought to assume that it must intervene within the lives of extraordinary individuals, as a result of it has an identical obligation in the direction of its residents {that a} mum or dad has to every of its kids. A superbly Confucian world would give everybody of its residents the sensation that they’re house, as within the sense of Robert Frost’s assertion “‘Home is the place the place, when it’s a must to go there, They should take you in.”  (If you have not learn Frost’s poem The Death of the Hired Hand, I might advocate you do. It completely encapsulates most of the feelings that I’m discussing on this publish.)

In distinction to my anxiety-disorder fueled neo-Confucianism, I not too long ago was listening to somebody espousing a type of Libertarianism that recommended that we must always rely on competitors to unravel main social problems—such as racism. In impact, he recommended that there needs to be no legal guidelines towards discrimination towards individuals primarily based on race or gender as a result of this interferes with the constitutional proper of “freedom of meeting”.  How this works, in keeping with him, is that any enterprise that does not rent blacks or girls could be out-competed by different firms that do, both as a result of the primary one could be artificially limiting its expertise pool, or, as a result of customers would arrange boycotts towards it. I will not go into why I believe that it is a naive suggestion, apart from by suggesting that there are historic explanation why social change has by no means arrived by these means, which is why governments have intervened in conditions like this.


What I’m concerned with is what kind of psychology is concerned in an individual espousing Libertarianism versus Confucianism.  Who’s it going to be, Ayn Rand?  Or Confucius?

Ayn Rand, the apostle
of Libertarianism
photograph c/o Wiki Commons
Confucius, the unique
proponent of the “Nanny
State”, c/o Wiki Commons 

I suppose I’m suggesting an enlargement of the saying by Tom Wolfe that “If a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged, a liberal is a conservative who’s been arrested”. That is to say, our politics is knowledgeable by our life expertise. Moreover, I’m going one step additional and suggesting that our early childhood—to some extent—“hardwires” us to generally tend in the direction of one sort of politics versus one other.

This is not to say that individuals are doomed to both be timid Confucians or adventurous Libertarians. I’ve executed some very dangerous things—suing Walmart involves mind—but in these cases I used to be pursuing social objectives as an alternative of private ones. I used to be keen to danger shedding my home, my pension, and, my whole life financial savings so as to assist protect my group. This is Confucian danger taking, not Libertarian. It may be very completely different from, for instance, somebody who hops into an airplane and goes as much as the far North in the hunt for employment and finally ends up making large bucks within the tar sands. Or, who borrows some huge cash to begin a enterprise.


Up till this level, I’ve made it sound like I’m one thing of a broken particular person as a result of I assist Confucianism. Actually, I do not suppose that that is honest, however reasonably an artifact of our society’s language. (Another large subject for Confucius was the “rectification of language”, however that is a subject for one more publish.) I recognized myself as having an “nervousness dysfunction”, which is sort of true. I’ve had all of the traditional signs of PTSD—reoccurring nightmares, disassociation, flashbacks, etc—but I’m additionally high-functioning and it has by no means actually induced main issues in my day-to-day life. But on this publish I’m attempting to work by how this subject could have affected my political worldview.

Having admitted this, I wish to recommend that our society “masses the language” towards the Confucianist worldview. In the language I used above, I described an individual from a non-dysfunction household as being “pleasant, out-going, and, adventurous”. These are all optimistic attributes. But all of them might be a part of a persona that’s shallow, self-centred, and, egotistical. Being pleasant and out-going might be shallow and insincere—nothing greater than the previous “would you want a cherry pie together with your Big Mac?” script. And being “adventurous” might be nothing greater than working away from the obligations that might maintain somebody in a particular place.

Years in the past I lived in an previous townhouse with a pupil from Shanghai. We had a neighbour named Lena, who was in her eighties and had (as close to as we might inform) no buddies or household. Her flat stank like sewage, and was over-run with cockroaches (I checked out her recycling container once—it was actually lined with the issues.) The solely time we ever noticed her was twice a day when she went out to purchase an area and nationwide newspaper. The final we noticed of her was a police officer breaking in her door so as to get her into an ambulance and off to the hospital. My pupil boarder was with me when this occurred. He stated to me “this is able to by no means occur in China”. You might inform he was completely disgusted with Canadian society. (I believe that this kind of situation is rather more widespread in China now than it was again then—progress?)

Would somebody from a future period or completely different society determine Libertarians as affected by “freedom poisoning”, or, being a “borderline psycho-path”, due to their indifference to the issues of the individuals round them?  How would individuals who actually, actually, actually care about their communities or the pure setting really feel about individuals who set out on “adventures” with out contemplating the results for the group or pure setting? Would they be disgusted by individuals who unleash big quantities of carbon into the environment for pointless jet airplane journeys? Would they suppose anybody who put the perfect of “freedom” forward of the true, concrete issues going through different individuals as being considerably sick within the head?


One final level. Confucianism is greater than only a philosophic principle, it’s a sensible way of life your life. To this finish, it prescribes a apply that helps you combine it is insights into your day-to-day residing. It places ahead benevolence as a super, however the way in which it means that an individual can actually study to manifest this behaviour is thru examine and ritual. As for examine, I’d recommend that the kind of self-analysis I’ve executed on this weblog publish would match that framework. But as for ritual, I’m slightly hard-pressed to provide you with an instance. I not too long ago listened to a podcast that helped clarify why that is. It comes from a Western apologist for Confucianism by the identify of Michael Puett. In it, he argues that what Confucian ritual does is practice an individual to know the significance of inter-personal habits and patterns of interplay, and sculpt them to have the ability to create harmonious interactions. Unfortunately, translations of Confucian texts—like the Analects—have tended to edit out the descriptions of formality as a result of Western students have tended to think about them as irrelevant. As a end result, I’ve by no means had a lot probability (as a non-Chinese reader) to show myself to Confucian ritual.

As a end result, it is exhausting to provide you with an instance that I can placed on a weblog publish, however one instance does come to me from a pleasant Japanese tv present that I not too long ago binge-watched on Netflix:  the Samurai Gourmet.


This is a wierd present to explain to others, so I’m going to let the YouTube clip above not less than introduce readers to it is weird high quality. One explicit episode concerned a flashback to when the retired “salary-man” (who’s the hero of this present) was beginning out. As a younger man, he had needed to give up his job and go do one thing else—which would have been profession suicide for him. He fingers in his letter of resignation to his boss, who as an alternative of accepting it takes him out to his favorite restaurant. 

When they’re there, the boss means that the younger man take a great, cautious take a look at the individuals working there. He factors out the super consideration to element that everybody is manifesting in each side of their work—from the chef to the busboys. Indeed, the proprietor spends a while coaching a youngster in fastidiously clear and clear a desk so not a spot of dust is left from one buyer to the opposite. The boss then tells the younger man one thing to the impact that it is not essential what an individual does to make a residing, it is the perspective that they create to the job that makes her a hit or a failure. Moreover, the implication is {that a} “success” or “failure” comes from within—a particular person is usually a super success in a failing enterprise, or, a whole failure even when they’re making a ton of cash.

The level I wish to increase is not the knowledge of the precise message, however reasonably how it’s conveyed. The boss took his underling out for a particular meal to make the purpose. This is definitely a quite common factor in each Japanese and Chinese society, the place meals are an integral a part of the connection between managers and staff. In impact, it is a ritual that’s used to get individuals to cease and reassess precisely what they’re doing of their work tradition and to construct a way of “group” that transcends a mere financial exercise. Moreover, it is very important notice that the boss wasn’t simply attempting to persuade his younger worker about how he ought to strategy the job—he was additionally illustrating how a lot the boss thought of it his obligation to do the whole lot he might to assist the brand new man adapt to the “salary-man” tradition that he had simply been accepted into. This is the two-way sense of social obligation and group that’s the essence of Confucianism.

If this sounds a bit far-fetched, take into account how widespread communal meals are in different cultures to construct a way of solidarity. In the early Christian church communion actually was an actual meal—the physique and blood of Christ weren’t only a sip of wine or a cracker, they have been actually an enormous meal the place even the poorest particular person might get a full stomach. Sikhs nonetheless do one thing like this at their temples. They have a communal meal, known as “langar” the place completely anyone—regardless of race, faith, or, something else—can have a free, vegetarian meal. The Sikhs in my town—even in far-off Canada—serve it even right here. And many have been the instances I ate along with the opposite members of the taijiquan faculty the place I used to be initiated into Daoism.


OK. Time for the begging bowl. If you want what I write, take into account supporting me by both an everyday “greenback a month” contribution by Patreon or a one-time donation. Just to let you realize I apply what I preach, here is listing of the individuals I frequently assist:  “the C-Realm Vault Podcast“, “Canadaland“, and, “Guelph Politico“. I’ve additionally given one-time donations to “The Professional Left Podcast“, “The C-Realm”, and, “The Number One Janitor“. I’ve additionally purchased podcast downloads from “Hardcore History“. I’ve spent far, far more cash supporting different inventive individuals on the Internet than I’ve ever made. I simply needed to recommend that that is what must be the brand new regular. If you possibly can afford to assist individuals create content material, you actually ought to take into account it “simply a part of the gig”. I do.   


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