Monday, September 28, 2009

A Taoist Manifesto

The more I look at the problems this nation faces, the more I'm coming to the conclusion that this me-first mentality is the root cause. It is the view that we are each a separate actor -- islands unto ourselves -- that seems to fuel much of the negativity, racism, hate and division we see played out at town halls, on talk radio and in letters to the editor. And this worldview largely is legitimized by the major religions that dominate the American ethos.

So, it seems to me, that we Taoists need to commit more time and energy to expose to the masses the idea of the interconnection of all things. I'm not suggesting we create an army to shove this idea down people's throats; it's more that we need to speak out louder in the political arena. We need to work harder to wrest control away from those who approach every issue from the perspective of: What's in it for me?

When we get right down to it, this question under-girds most of the opposition to health care reform. The groups who oppose the "public option" or a single payer system do so because they aren't sure how they -- individuals and companies -- will profit from it. Their underlying focus is on their singular pocketbooks.

But, under an ethos infused with a community vision, the question of individual profit takes a back seat. People who understand the interconnection of all things are far more apt to believe that the more healthful a society is, the more productive it is. So, the focus is shifted to insuring that the needs of all are met because, if one or more segments of the population are less healthful, it diminishes the productivity of the whole (the profits of the community).

The environment is another dogged issue that could be revolutionized. The individuals and corporations most opposed to environmental regulations are so opposed because, again, the main question on their minds is: How will I profit from this? By moving the question to "How do we as a society profit from this?" it changes the whole debate.

Here's an example of how the community vision approach so differs from the individualistic one. My wife & I do not have children. We haven't had any in the past nor will we have any in the future. Yet, despite our dearth of children, we strongly support the use of our tax dollars to fund public education.

Our reason for this support is that, while it does not provide either of us with individual benefits, it benefits the community as a whole! The more learned the members of society are, the better decisions they can render in their personal and collective lives. Unfortunately, this benefit currently is muted a good deal because of the overriding "me-first" mentality that pervades this country.

Think how much better it would be for all concerned if we had not only a strong cradle-to-grave public education system but one fused with communitarian values. We would be teaching people to be as concerned about all of creation with as much fervor as today they care for themselves.

Such a revolutionary change in our society would in no way mean that everyone would mindlessly agree on the solutions to our myriad of problems. This manifesto is not meant to create a singular path -- the antithesis of Taoist principles -- for all to follow. It's not about creating mindless zombies who are brainwashed to view issues in the same way.

All it would do is shift the focus in people's mind away from how each will profit individually to how will our world profit collectively.

So, I'm calling on all philosophical Taoist to unite to help our nation cast off its individualistic fetters!!


  1. I am not of any religion but I see you as being right about this. If we saw instead how someone who cannot get health care hurts us we would look at it all differently. If we saw ourselves as united and whatever happens to the least of us happens to us, there'd be no debate over health care today.

    If you haven't seen the Ken Burns documentary on PBS, give it a try. It really does talk about this me first attitude and how it impacted the formation of the national parks we take for granted today. It's about the parks but about human nature equally so-- both the positive and negative side. Religion could make us better to all around us-- but it usually doesn't.

  2. Trey,

    I greatly appreciate this blog. Divisiveness is the root cause of many, if not all of man's problems. Creating boundaries between ourselves and others is a recipe for disaster and if the current wars, global warming and politics doesn’t remind us of this fact, then the ugly face of racism, hatred, separatism and death of the 20th century surely serves a glowing reminder of the nature and sheer insanity divisiveness represents.

    Like you, I too believe that it is our obligation as human beings to commit the time and energy to expose others to the interconnection of all things because the survival of our planet and all sentient beings is at stake. Mahalo for all that you do!


  3. i am not opposed to my tax dollars going toward funding education. i'm opposed to my tax dollars going toward funding crappy half-assed education. i've worked in a couple public elementary schools and i have to say most were very crappy and very half-assed.

    i would be more leftist in my political views if i had had any sense that the government could use my dollars efficiently and produce effective programs with them. the problem is most of our $$ go toward beurocracy... paperwork and salaries of people who talk about problems and twiddle their thumbs. i mean, what percent of our money goes toward actual learning expenses such as updated books, lab supplies, teacher salaries, etc... and how much goes toward the school board and overextended useless programs?

  4. I'm not really associated with any kind of faith however We observe a person to be correct relating to this. In the event that all of us noticed rather exactly how somebody that can't obtain healthcare affects all of us we'd view it just about all in a different way. In the event that all of us noticed ourself because u . s . as well as what ever occurs towards the minimum people occurs in order to all of us, there'd end up being absolutely no discussion more than healthcare these days.

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