Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Extolling the Human Scale in the Dao De Jing

Here are two passages from the Dao De Jing that summarize the importance of the human scale, which is characterized by insularity and rejection of high technology. Let them serve as an epigraph for my post on the Islamic State and the human scale.

The more taboos and inhibitions there are in the world,
The poorer the people become.
The sharper the weapons the people possess,
The greater confusion reigns in the realm.
The more clever and crafty the men,
The oftener strange things happen.
The more articulate the laws and ordinances,
The more robbers and thieves arise.
--Dao De Jing, Chapter 57
Ah, for a small country with a small population! Though there are highly efficient mechanical contrivances, the people have no use for them. Let them mind death and refrain from migrating to distant places. Boats and carriages, weapons and armour there may still be, but there are no occasions for using or displaying them. Let the people revert to communication by knotting cords. See to it that they are contented with their food, pleased with clothing, satisfied with their houses, and inured to their simply ways of living. Though there may be another country in the neighbourhood so close that they are within sight of each other and the crowing of cocks and barking of dogs in one place can be heard in the other, yet there is no traffic between them, and throughout their lives the two peoples have nothing to do with each other.
--Dao De Jing, Chapter 80 (transl. John C. H. Wu)