Tao Te Ching – Verse 19 – Notes

If we could renounce our sageness and discard our wisdom, we would serve the people a hundred times better.

Because few things disgust the people more than being condescended to by their leaders. Wisdom decreed from the top of the mountain is just another form of tyranny.

If we could renounce our benevolence and discard our righteousness, the people would again become filial and kindly.

Because no-one likes to feel the paternalism the elites. Action begets reaction. When we try to impose compassion with a heavy hand. People’s hearts harden. We see it in the way people rebel against the politically correct.

If we could renounce our artful contrivances and discard our schemes for profit, there would be no thieves or robbers.

Most people feel happy with very little. Food on the table, some creature comforts, enough money to keep the bill collectors at bay, and a bit extra to put aside for hard days.

Some people steal for greed, it’s true; but many steal due to resentment, because they struggle while seeing others live like the gods of Olympus -fantasies sold to them by television and social media, wiles woven by those who enrich themselves by making people long for luxuries that won’t really make them happy.

But simple views, and courses pain and true,

Would selfish ends and many lusts eschew.

A leader must trust in the good nature of those around him (without falling into naïveté). Paranoia, believing in the worst of others, enduring them merely because they are needed, but in constant mistrust – this is Nero’s way.

Nero, to whom no-one wished any evil, who was left a legacy of wise advisers to guide him. Him, whose distrust in his allies turned them against him one by one, until his prophecy that he would be murdered by betrayal became self-fulfilling. Death awaits in Samarra.

The leader must be willing to believe in the best of others – without, of course, letting his guard down. Trust, (but verify).

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