Monday, May 16, 2005

Authority, Inspiration, and Education

In the 6th centure BC, the nation of China was in chaos and several people sought to create harmony in their world. Of these, there were three main sects or schools of thought: Legalists, Confucianists, and the Taoists. That is a historical oversimplification, becase these three groups developped at slightly different times and in slightly different places and in slightly different ways... but still, there were these three main schools.

A little about each school...

The legalists said that man is basically corrupt and that law is the only way to bring order and harmony. Because man behaves badly, the government should create more laws to restrict this sort of behavior and that would bring about peace.

The second school was on the opposing side. They were the Taoists. They believed that people were by nature good and that if left to their own devices, they would do good. If they were free, they would act properly. It was society that was corrupt because it tried to hard to 'force' things instead of just letting them happen.

A third school was the school of Confucius (Kung Fu Tzu). He said that rules aren't so bad, but they do not 'make people good'. In fact, people were already good, and rules helped keep social order, but education was the key to helping people cultivate themselves and therefore create a better society. You see, everything in Chinese thought was based around the good of the whole society, not just the individual.

I find these three perspectives very insightful as we look at our current global state of affairs. Here we are, 2600 years later and still looking for harmony. And I find even more interesting, the ways that we as individuals, as a society, and as a human race, can go with this.

Some folks believe that the only way to make people better is to legislate morality and create new laws. They also value authoritarian leaders... in churches, in government... perhaps even in relationships. They might applaud our President because he is such a strong man making a strong presence... setting things straight o'er there in the Middle East. They might also value other people making strong decisions for them. What strikes me as odd about this perspective is that is it is constantly reliant upon society to build these universal rules while neglecting the exception to the rule. It also assumes that people change best from outward things, not inward things.

The second school I find a great deal of hope in. In fact, I think this is a perspective that the United States used to exhibit. In matters of foreign policy, inspire, do not legislate (or declare war on). The US was inspirational to a great many countries' freedom. The notion that people are by nature good is one I can buy into. But I am always torn between the notion of the Image of God in each part of creation and the reality of the world. I think that if all were to live by Taoist philosophy, progress would not happen as quickly, but are we glad it has?...

The third school is the one that resonates most with me. Sure some laws are necessary to look out for the common good, but generally people will do well if they are educated to cultivate virtue in their lives. Wasn't it Machievelli who said that the greatest sin is ignorance? I'd believe it. I think of how many people that, if asked if they'd like to be a part of changing the world for good, would answer, "yes," but they have no idea how to. I sure as hell don't most of the time!

Okay, enough rambling for this morning. I just think we need to move beyond authoritarianism to inspiring and educating ourselves and others. Can you see that this shift needs to take place or cost us the world? Or perhaps I am being to authoritarian in asserting such a view...

No comments: