Will

How should I deal with political discussion? (Daoist perspective)

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Posted (edited)

What thoughts do people here have about how to deal with political discussions at high school and at home? (asking as a quasi-Daoist)

 

This is something I've struggled with recently. Sometimes I stay silent due to fear of judgement. Other times I speak up but later regret it (not because I said anything particularly bad but because I inherently am averse to disagreement and like to be on good terms with everyone at my high school). 

 

I very much enjoy legal writing and studying the law, which often necessarily becomes at least somewhat political. 

 

On the other hand, my Daoist intuitions strongly tell me that I probably shouldn't be very involved in politics. Already, my political views are fairly "fluid," and I constantly question them. Daoism, as I understand it, teaches epistemic humility, and it can often be hard for me to see holding political beliefs as anything other than the very authoritarian, moralistic crusading Zhuangzi argued against (of course, if being Daoist counts as a political belief, then I guess Zhuangzi had one too...).  

 

Of course, one possible option would be to stop actively engaging in politics entirely, and only maintain the very minimal level of fake political concern necessary to look "normal" among peers. This, of course, would not be very fun or satisfying, at least at first, and would require some fundamental changes in how I live my life -- particularly because, as mentioned, I'm very interested in law, particularly the contentious area of constitutional law, and I plan to go to law school eventually. 

 

Ultimately, one major issue is that I keep running into the fundamental problem that I find it very difficult to pursue a certain cause if I am not convinced that I'm doing the right thing! Thus, I begin to feel like political beliefs or "taking a stand" are crucial to living a meaningful life. 

 

Furthermore, the pull of Confucian sincerity (discussed eloquently in Moeller/D'Ambrosio's Genuine Pretending interpretation of the Zhuangzi) can be difficult to escape. I feel like "faking it" won't cut it in terms of political beliefs. I want to be sincere

 

I know no one here has all the answers, but does anyone have any thoughts? To be clear, this is not a thread to discuss specific political beliefs or doctrines. It is about the very concept in general and its effects.  

Edited by Will
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Who cares?

Whatever you say?

It does not matter at all.

There is no right or wrong thing here.

 

Pretending to be someone you are not has no point whatsoever.

I say you should go with whatever is fun or satisfying for you now, or you will regret this later.

This whole thinking about limiting oneself due to some fake belief is just an energy blockage on some energy body.

Daoism has nothing to do with humility, with being something like that or this. People read too many of those dumb books written by dumb people, who studied daoism from other dumb books. You have energy tension, you remove it, that's it.

 

1 hour ago, Will said:

know no one here has all the answers

 

I don't have all the answers, but I surely got most of them. 

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2 hours ago, Will said:

does anyone have any thoughts?

 

Make sure you know yourself first. Know what you value and why you value it. Learn the counter opinion. Try to understand why someone would hold a view opposite yours. If you still feel strongly one way or another then own it, otherwise perhaps political discourse is not your thing. That's OK too.

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6 hours ago, Will said:

On the other hand, my Daoist intuitions strongly tell me that I probably shouldn't be very involved in politics. Already, my political views are fairly "fluid," and I constantly question them.

 

It sounds like your answer is hiding there in plain sight. :)

 

Does being Daoist preclude you from discussing politics? No, of course not. But it does preclude you from being embroiled in the drama surrounding politics. 

 

The question is how can you engage in politics without getting embroiled in drama.

 

Well you’ve mentioned humility, but the other great pillar of Daoism is humour.

 

Just remember that we’re only slightly more sophisticated versions of those chimps in nature documentaries - with all their shit slinging, rivalries and vying for status. And it’s easy to find the humour in that.

 

The Daoist approach is to slowly shed a little piece of acquired mind every day. Political beliefs and taking a stand may well be meaningful to most folks, but to a spiritual cultivator, they are just layers to be shed - not gripped on to!

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While I like GSm's answer for this question, I think Chuang would tell you, (if you were sincere enough) that if you asked enough people, you would eventually get the answer you were looking for. 😁

Am I right? Or Am I right?

There's more certainly, but you'd have to tell me I was right, or you wouldn't be ready for more. 

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I mostly agree with Taoist scepticism about politics, but not completely. If we value democracy (and I do) than we cannot do without some involvement with politics, political discussions, and elections. There are fanatics on all sides (right, left, religious) who would love to force their country or even the whole world to follow their ideals and to take down the "cumbersome" system of democracy as a perceived unnecessary obstacle to "doing the one right thing". So I see participating in some measure of political activity for us all as a necessary evil to avoid the much worse situation that some form of dictatorship would take over.

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19 minutes ago, wandelaar said:

I mostly agree with Taoist scepticism about politics, but not completely. If we value democracy (and I do) than we cannot do without some involvement with politics, political discussions, and elections. There are fanatics on all sides (right, left, religious) who would love to force their country or even the whole world to follow their ideals and to take down the "cumbersome" system of democracy as a perceived unnecessary obstacle to "doing the one right thing". So I see participating in some measure of political activity for us all as a necessary evil to avoid the much worse situation that some form of dictatorship would take over.

Interesting...

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Keep in mind that political discussions change constantly. A radical position of the past is now what most everyone believes in, but the radical has moved to what was true in the past or might be in the future. Getting caught up isn't finding us any closer to the Dao, it's better to follow nature's rhythms and listen to it's music.

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10 hours ago, Will said:

....

 

Ultimately, one major issue is that I keep running into the fundamental problem that I find it very difficult to pursue a certain cause if I am not convinced that I'm doing the right thing! Thus, I begin to feel like political beliefs or "taking a stand" are crucial to living a meaningful life. 

 

Furthermore, the pull of Confucian sincerity (discussed eloquently in Moeller/D'Ambrosio's Genuine Pretending interpretation of the Zhuangzi) can be difficult to escape. I feel like "faking it" won't cut it in terms of political beliefs. I want to be sincere

 

I know no one here has all the answers, but does anyone have any thoughts? To be clear, this is not a thread to discuss specific political beliefs or doctrines. It is about the very concept in general and its effects.  

 

 

Hi,

 

Good question.

 

The word 'politics' comes from old words meaning 'city', like Latin 'polis' and Sanskrit 'pur' and a city originally is a walled enclosure for defence.  When people live in cities they develop politics - and this is because we are constrained by the walls (made for mutual protection) into close relation whether we like it or not.  So there has to be a way to deal with the fact that we have individual wills and contain a great deal of historical 'material' - subconscious forces, memories and so on which influence us, make us into a jumble in fact - and yet we need to act together.  Hence the need of rulers from the earliest times to use images and slogans and so on to affect the minds of the masses.  So politics as practiced is often a sham of covered up truths, power plays and manipulation.  It is dangerous waters to step in.

 

Because of the suppression of instinct and naturalness usually politicos work on hating the other.  This is particularly true at the moment where there is a big divide between conservatives and liberals.  Working in anger and hate is ultimately harmful because it generates bad chemicals in the body which lead to disease.

 

However, you talk about meaning - and this is key - finding something you value and working towards it is important to a person and if those things you find important involve working with others - if you are convinced it is a good thing - then you should work towards it - but while you do - watch the process and its effect on yourself and others - and you might find through educating yourself through experience that even higher ideals emerge like compassion and understanding for instance.

 

Just my thoughts :)

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I've wondered how often national politics impact my daily life, apart from the illusion that it does.

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48 minutes ago, Fa Xin said:

I've wondered how often national politics impact my daily life, apart from the illusion that it does.

 

Technology has a much bigger impact.

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Posted (edited)

I think the point of view Wandelaar poses is worth keeping in mind. It is only in a society that is relatively free and open that we can even entertain these kind of discussions.

 

What makes the OP question difficult is that politics is a societal thing ... and much of Daoism is interpreted as being opposed to societal conventions. Not saying that is strictly true, just saying. I think an anti-Confucian (anti-societal) camp of popular Daoism misses the point ... and finds itself being anarchical ... which is another extreme to be avoided. We have to recognize the practical necessity for having some basis for living together.

 

So what position does a Daoist take? I would hope an independent one ... that is detached from the common fray. Certainly, the heated emotional environment created by the various points of political view is contrary to the Daoist way ... recognizing that by reducing the emotional content one can better see into the heart of things.  Recognition that all things are in a state constant flux would seem Daoist. What may be auspicious at one point in time under one set of conditions may be inauspicious at another. Viewing each societal issue independently and measuring it against the needs of the times is important. Often, there is truth to be found in both sides of an argument. Taking a stand often puts one in the position of denying the truth of the opposition ... and in doing so, the stand itself assumes primacy and both truths become lost. A Daoist I would think would resist the either/or tempatation and be capable to recognizing both truths. Finally, I would think that, if anyone, a Daoist would recognize that when an ideal ... even a political one ... reaches its fullest expression, it will tend to reverse direction. So, in the greater scheme all things will level out.

 

 

 

 

Edited by OldDog
Manually correcting the autocorrection
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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Fa Xin said:

I've wondered how often national politics impact my daily life ...

 

My political Ex used to remind me that ... Life is politics.  ;)

 

(WWMS - What would Marblehead say. Have to admit i thought of him as i wrote this. :D)

Edited by OldDog
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11 minutes ago, OldDog said:

Finally, I would think that, if anyone, a Daoist would recognize that when an ideal ... even a political one ... reaches its fullest expression, it will tend to reverse direction. So, in the greater scheme all things will level out.

 

Amen, brother.

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DDJ Verse 38

 

...

In this way, Dao is first lost and so De (virtue) arises.

De then vanishes and so compassion arises.

Compassion fades and so justice arises.

Without justice, we must rely on ritual ceremony.

...

 

Meaning that ‘ritual’ is inferior to ‘justice’ - justice is inferior to ‘compassion’ - compassion is inferior to ‘virtue’ - and virtue is inferior to Dao.

 

I’d estimate politics to be between ceremony and justice on this scale - meaning it is necessary, of course, but for a spiritual aspirant, it’s clearly pretty far from Dao.

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Posted (edited)

Hmm... I wonder if a good Daoist case could be made for voting purely based on self-interest. Because most campaign issues won't really affect me, and because the candidates will probably all have approximately the same (very small) impact on my daily life, one could argue that you should just vote for a random candidate and not worry too much about it all. 

 

There is also the concept of third party candidates. I sort of feel like that might be the most Daoist option since it largely avoids the major party political mayhem and nonsense. However, there could be strategic voting concerns because as people above alluded to we should probably try to maintain freedom through our choices, and realistically a third party candidate in the US won't win and you may have enabled restrictions on freedom indirectly by "squandering" your vote.

Edited by Will

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Above all Taoist keeps things in proper perspective.  On things they can't influence much I assume they'd keep an eye on it, but not obsess.  Ie keep there concerns on things within there sphere of influence.  I get the feeling the average man wastes time and energy on it.  Its our gossip point, our outrage outlet. 

 

If a Taoist was political be political.  If not, they'd be much less opinionated and attached.  Seeing politics like the weather, not much you can do about it but you can get out of the way of a storm you see coming. 

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Voting for a random candidate would be no more sensible than not voting at all. The effect of just one vote (your vote!) is not zero, but it is nevertheless for all practical purposes negligible given that there are millions of voters. From the perspective of pure self-interest one should stay at home, and not vote or become politically active in any way. And that's why democracy (or society in general) cannot survive when everybody would act on the basis of pure self-interest. I think one could make a good case that Taoism (of the egoistical type) fails as a social theory, and that Confucius was correct in this matter.

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My view isn`t particularly daoist, just my own experience.

 

Whether or not it`s good to engage in political discussion depends entirely on what part of the self is doing the engaging.  Are you debating from your small egoic self or your big sky self?  It makes all the difference.  In itself, politial discussion is neither good nor bad.

 

Pay attention to how a given political discussion feels in your body.  That`s a big clue.  Do you feel shut down or opened up?  Do you feel heavy or light?  The answers to these questions will tell you whether you`re debating from your best and brightest self or a sniveling imposter.  

 

Politics can and should be joyful.  (And that`s my political opinion on the matter.)  

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Self-interest, self-gratification is a pretty unfulfilling way to exist and as pointed out no basis for society. Anyone who lived through the 60s would understand that. Doing what you want sounds pretty enticing ... and no responsibility to anything or anybody. That is not Daoism.

 

This is where a study of Confucian ideas becomes useful. Confucius was concerned about how best to order society. He was not anti-Daoist any more that Daoists are anti-Confucian. What Daoists decry is that there should be a need for justice, humanity and filial piety ... of the artificial kind. These things should come naturally when people are in accord with the Way.

 

Regardless  of the circumstances,  a real Daoist's conduct would be guided by compassion, frugality and humility. Sound familiar?

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Ah I just found an article that might be interesting:

 

Authority without Authenticity: The Zhuangzi’s Genuine Pretending as Socio-Political Strategy by Paul D’Ambrosio and Hans-Georg Moeller

 

https://www.mdpi.com/2077-1444/9/12/398/pdf

 

No time to read now but I suspect it might have some interesting things to say. 

 

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1 hour ago, OldDog said:

Self-interest, self-gratification is a pretty unfulfilling way to exist and as pointed out no basis for society. Anyone who lived through the 60s would understand that. Doing what you want sounds pretty enticing ... and no responsibility to anything or anybody. That is not Daoism.

 

Daoism is lettings things go, it does not mean being responsible, or being non responsible, it does not mean bringing benefit or not bringing benefit, you just let it decide on your own.

 

Most people will feel better doing things in society / interacting, bringing benefit to others e.t.c

 

Another example.


You can do X, because you feel like this is what must be done due to views (1)

You can do X, simply, on your own volition, as you feel it natural good(2)

 

With first choice you will generate tension and get tired and eventually create negative energy and internal blockage and may even hate your job / life in the end.

With second choice, you are doing all the same, but you feel no pressure, no tension, nothing is forced, freedom in doing whatever you want

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Posted (edited)
14 minutes ago, Will said:

Ah I just found an article that might be interesting:

 

Authority without Authenticity: The Zhuangzi’s Genuine Pretending as Socio-Political Strategy by Paul D’Ambrosio and Hans-Georg Moeller

 

https://www.mdpi.com/2077-1444/9/12/398/pdf

 

No time to read now but I suspect it might have some interesting things to say. 

 

 

 

an abstract 

 

Quote

Abstract: In this paper, we present a socio-political reading of the Zhuangzi based in part on a brief review of contemporary Chinese scholarship on the text. We will argue that the approach to dealing with authority in the Zhuangzi can be summarized by the phrase “externally transforming without transforming internally”.

 

When applied to situations where the individual engages with political or social authority, this idea commends the art of retaining a non-conforming and non-committed internal state while, to an extent, conforming to external circumstances and committing to certain actions. In this way the Zhuangzi not only aims at ensuring safety in potentially dangerous encounters with authority, but also the avoidance of “authenticating” authority. Following the language and logic of the Zhuangzi, the emphasis is on “forgetting (wang 忘)”, “losing (sang 桑)”, and “negating (wu 無)” one’s social self, rather than constructing or discovering an “authentic self” that might ultimately only reify authority. We will refer to the Zhuangzi’s strategy in terms of what we call “genuine pretending”.

 

Dont think when they talk about  political or social authority, 

Its meant as casual conversation with people who can not put one in jail

or make their life very unpleasant.  

 

nice story

 

Quote

The story of a huge tree in this section exemplifies this point. As a carpenter and his apprentice walk by the tree, the young man asks his master why they do not chop it down. The carpenter replies that anything made from its wood would be useless.

 

That night the tree appears to the master in a dream. It explains that being considered useless by society has been extremely useful for it, allowing it to live extremely long. When the carpenter tells his apprentice about the dream, the young man questions why the tree has become a shrine—the focus of much social attention.

 

The carpenter quickly admonishes his apprentice saying that if it was not used as a shrine, it would likely be cut down. Moreover, the tree did not choose to become a shrine, it was simply designated as one, and then went along with this designation to ensure its safety. In other words, as we argued elsewhere,

 

Quote

[the] tree reacted to the social inclusion it could not avoid by playing its role without identifying with it. It did not personally commit to its socially ascribed usefulness.

 

It did not affirm the value that society eventually foisted on it, and it withstood the pressure to acknowledge and recognize this value. At the same time, of course, it performed the role associated with the value.

 

And here lies the difficulty of [“externally transforming without transforming internally”]: one has to manage (as the . . . tree did) to maintain “a difference from the people” (yu zhong yi 與眾異) while in their midst and, unlike them, refuse to pretend that such a thing as a shrine has any intrinsic usefulness.

 

It thereby resisted the temptation to adopt its socially ascribed usefulness as its own identity and to conceive of itself as especially valuable. (Moeller and D’Ambrosio 2017, pp. 140–41) The tree accomplished its difficult task, which it says nearly killed it, by not internal

 

Edited by windwalker
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On 3/26/2019 at 6:08 PM, Will said:

This is something I've struggled with recently. Sometimes I stay silent due to fear of judgement. Other times I speak up but later regret it (not because I said anything particularly bad but because I inherently am averse to disagreement and like to be on good terms with everyone at my high school). 

 

I very much enjoy legal writing and studying the law, which often necessarily becomes at least somewhat political. 

 

Politics is the art of imposing your will unto others. Fear of judgment is your main problem, you will be judged regardless of what you say or don't. Opinions are inherently wrong, so are the people bearing them. If you want to be a leader, and the others to follow your beliefs, you need not to care what others think, or be afraid to make a mistake.  

 

On 3/26/2019 at 6:08 PM, Will said:

Ultimately, one major issue is that I keep running into the fundamental problem that I find it very difficult to pursue a certain cause if I am not convinced that I'm doing the right thing! Thus, I begin to feel like political beliefs or "taking a stand" are crucial to living a meaningful life. 

 

Life does not have a meaning if you have to do things to prove it to yourself that your life is meaningful. Evaluate your beliefs first and stand by them. You will be turning off people by not agreeing with them, it's okay. If you have good intelligence and open mind, with time your beliefs will evolve.

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