American Politics and the Taoist Mind
I was recently asked by a friend about my intolerance of American Politics and my refusal to engage in the voting process. While my friend made the effort to encourage me to “get involved” by attempting to persuade me with impassioned rhetoric (which I’ll address in a few moments), they ultimately suggested that I was “not doing my part” in demonstrating my lack of interest by refraining from casting a ballot in any given election. In his opinion, I was lacking in the performance of “my patriotic duty” and “contributing to the downfall of our great nation” (I am paraphrasing a little here as I cannot recite his phrases word-for-word, but I am suggesting as accurately as possible the tone of his words).
Before I go any further, I’d like to explain where I am coming from on this and why I am addressing American politics specifically instead of offering opinions on the greater variety of governments around the globe. Though I am sure that virtually every form of governance around the globe would provide numerous frustrations for the Taoist mind, I personally lack the necessary knowledge or experiences to comment with any accuracy or justification on any political climate outside the borders of the United States of America. I have not studied the governments of other nations extensively nor have I lived under the rule of any other nation, so I do not feel that I could adequately explain why I would also be abstaining from involvement in other governments as well, though I am confident enough in my limited knowledge of foreign political entities to be assured that they would hold just as little value to me as the American government does.
The Tao Te Ching offers many statements on how a ruling body – be it a monarchy, empire, theocracy, or otherwise – should govern the people. The text is written to specifically address a Feudal Monarchy, as that was the type of government that Lao Tzu had worked for in being a record keeper for the Zhou Dynasty. However, the suggestions of his text would prove applicable to any governing body, though it would be easy to assert at this time that few ruling entities would care to hear anything of practices of fairness, justice, and encouraging the people to strive further on their own with the smallest amount of government interaction or interference possible. In fact, most politicians are far too busy trying to convince their constituents of how desperately they need their government to ever consider just administrating the laws of the land without pride, prejudice, or – most importantly – greed.
The Taoist mind would much prefer to be left alone by those that seek the power and profit of politics. To the Taoist, most politicians and monarchs are far too self-serving, superficial, and ambitious to be worth anything to society as a whole. In the American political climate, any candidate that could actually earn a Taoist’s endorsement would probably not see much hope of election, even at the lowest levels of government, because that person would probably lack the necessary biases and prejudices to win the favor of any measurable accumulated votes. The candidate would likely remain neutral on most social issues and abstain from voting on those issues unless they had already received a majority approval to one side of the issue from the people they represented. Campaigning would be virtually impossible for such a candidate, as they could offer nothing but honest representation of the people as a platform of election, and would be largely ignored for not engaging in the aggressive and misleading campaign tactics that have become the status quo for American politics. For the Taoist mind, American politics is a territory that is better to be left ignored as much as possible, as it has strayed about as far from its intended function as it could.
Here are a couple of the statements that were made to me in our discussion and how I feel they should be addressed:
- “If you don’t vote, then you have no business complaining about how the government performs.” I could not possibly disagree more with this sentiment. First, the United States of America was founded on a fundamental principle that ‘free speech’ and ‘questioning the government’ were essential rights of the people and wholly endorsed by the legislation that established the country. To that end, refusing to actively engage in the electoral process would afford a person the same rights as the voting person by virtue of exercising a right not to vote for someone or something he or she doesn’t believe in. The idea behind such a statement was actually a political one: it was nothing more than an effort to get more people to vote in elections. Beyond that, I don’t think you could possibly be more “un-American” than to suggest that a person should remain silent on government affairs simply because they chose not to lend endorsement to one of a limited number of people that all fail to represent the people without bias or personal desire.
- “As a citizen, you have a patriotic duty to your locality, county, state, and/or country to vote.” I must have missed the portion of the United States Constitution and its Amendments that established voting in political elections as ‘compulsory.’ I’ll reiterate that refusing to vote when no worthwhile candidates are on the ballot is supported by the idea of a free-thinking society. Moreover, the very concept of ‘patriotism’ has already been recognized by Lao Tzu and Taoism as a state of mind created to draw support for a government that gives a person no other reason to support it. ‘Loving your country because it is where you live’ is nothing more than a marketing tactic to garner backing for a government that is otherwise failing to win the favor of the people.
I find it to be amusing in some aspects and disgusting in others that the general perception among most Americans is that ‘politicians cannot be trusted,’ that ‘all politicians are liars,’ and that the elected government is nothing more than a collection of ‘crooks,’ yet there is virtually no effort being made to remedy the overall lack of faith in the system or the people that perpetuate it. It only serves to prove that most people would rather not be bothered with fixing something that is obviously flawed and, all-too-frequently, will ‘choose the lesser of two evils’ instead of rejecting the clear and undeniable evil and demanding something better.
To the Taoist mind, modern politics are not anything but frustrating and far too transparent in the perpetual efforts to mislead and manipulate a populace that doesn’t want to be bothered thinking for itself. For as much as many people might like to tell me that the polarity of a ‘two-party system’ reflects Taoism much like the Yin and Yang do, until a system of complete balance is established in which both parties have equal representation in the government at all times, I cannot endorse the bipolar nature of the system at all. So long as the governments of the United States of America propagate a ‘house-divided’ approach to administration of the nation, all of its states, commonwealths, counties, and localities, it is such that the Taoist mind cannot truly embrace it. The Taoist mind is conditioned to recognize that all things can and should exist in non-conflicting harmony rather than in vehement opposition of one-another. In this, it is clear to the Taoist that practicing non-action is far better than committing to an action that selects one wrong above another.