second bests

In the degradation of the great way
come benevolence and righteousness.
With the exaltation of learning and prudence
comes immense hypocrisy.
The disordered family
is full of dutiful children and parents.
The disordered society
is full of loyal patriots.

Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin’s version

More ideas that seem contradictory. Collapse leads to positives. Chaos leads to positives. But the exaltation of learning and prudence comes immense hypocrisy?

It’s a difficult thing to come to terms with, since it’s not what we want to believe of the world. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this happen often all over the world and across time periods. There are a lot of examples within China itself, but it seems to be a symptom of any imperial power.

What begins as a positive movement gradually decays until we measure ourselves by the husks of ideology and the emptiness of wisdom.

Being an anarchist, this poem especially appeals to me, as it tries to demonstrate the usefulness of a weak and decentralized government. It does this by jarring you with these juxtpositions, beginning with the personal, and then elevating that image to encompass an entire society.

It’s something worth thinking about, now that the Golden King will sit on his imperial throne after being sworn in on a sacred book.

And so I want to leave you with Masha Gessen’s latest column: The Threat of Moral Authority.

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