Tao Te Ching
THE TAOISM OF LAO TZU
Tao Te Ching
We are all aware that war is the worst. Still, there are not many years in history when the world has been free of wars. Are there any countries that have escaped them completely?
There have been recent claims that democratic nations have never been at war with one another. That might be true. It makes sense. The basic principle of democracy is that it's ruled by what the majority of the people want, and peace is certainly on the top of that list.
Democratically governed nations are therefore very unlikely to commence war.
Unfortunately, there are still plenty of nations governed differently, and there the statistics are less promising. Democracies have not avoided war, although they never initiated them. Other countries did. History, from ancient times to the present, tells us that we should not count on avoiding wars in the future.
Lao Tzu comes to the same sad conclusion. There will be wars. What he advices is to avoid them, and if they commence anyway, to swiftly end them. It's accomplished by remaining with that priority. Additional ambitions are only likely to prolong the war. Victory may even turn into defeat, if the troops are not halted or the peace is not fair.
Not victory, but a swift end to the war should be the goal. There is a difference. The warrior who hungers for victory will indulge in it and try to extend it. For each victory the hunger will increase, and each new enemy will be treated with less mercy.
The one who longs to lay down arms will not stoop to arrogance, scorn, pride, and the like. Even in the midst of battle, the wish for peace must be vivid.
War brings its own rhetoric. The enemy is said to be evil, so the war is just, no matter at what cost. Hatred arises in the pain and the fury, and it doesn't stop when the war does. The winners want to punish their former enemies, who become bitter and plot revenge.
That's not peace. Although the war might have been started by the ones defeated, peace is always primarily the responsibility of the winners. The way they handle it decides how long it will last.
This is no news to us. We have known it for as long as we have had wars. Still, it's easily forgotten at the end of the next one. That may be one of the major causes for the persistent reappearance of war. Forgive and forget, we say, but we rarely do.
The last lines of this chapter give the impression of changing the subject, but the victorious are often exalted. That's the beginning of their downfall, which is accelerated if they encourage and participate in their own exaltation. We quickly get fed up with praising a winner who lacks modesty. Well, even the modest idols have a hard time keeping their fans for any length of time.
Heroes of a battle do wisely to escape, well before the celebration becomes tiresome to those participating in it.
My Taoism BooksClick the image to see the book at Amazon (paid link).