Humans, like all social species, have some form of governance. Social species need their ‘alpha male’, even if that’s a queen in a beehive.
Being a more complicated species than bees, hierarchical governance is multi-layered. Even within our species, the more sophisticated the culture/civilization, the more layers. Hunter gather groups have few, if any, layers — no courts, parliaments, congresses, or special interest clubs.
Just as a pyramid needs its base, a social hierarchy relies on the support of the governed base. To be viable, a government must have the Mandate of Heaven (1), as the Chinese used to say. Viewed from a symptoms point of view, the particular governing system a society adopts necessarily reflects the inherent needs of that society. However, most may see this the other way around. For example, many see democracy as the cause of modern progress and freedom. That is putting the cart before the horse. Instead, democracy is the kind of governance that is conducive for this current era’s circumstance. Democracy is a story about what we want, not truly about reality.
Whether a governance system is benevolent or ruthless has little to do with whether it is a democracy or not. After all, under the United State’s democratic system, we had slavery, killed Indians, and despoiled the environment. Moreover, citizens with the loudest mouths or the fattest wallets dominate our free speech.
In the end, it is all about power. The big powerful dog is the leader of the pack. Civilizations have more sophisticated ways to express power. In a capitalist country like ours, money is the big power dog. In Islamic and communist regimes, ideological ‘dogs’ hold the reins of power.
Jim Cramer, a veteran of Wall Street, has a useful observation on this power aspect. He bemoans the ironic discrepancy between what we say and what we do, and how money influences US politics. The struggle to accept how things actually are versus the story we want to believe is extremely difficult (See The Story Trumps Truth.)
Speaking of Wall Street
Jim Cramer’s goal is to help people participate successfully in the stock market. I began experimenting with the stock market during the 2009 crash. I’ve found it to be a most effective way to actually apply and test Taoist theory to real world practice — the Dao of Dow as it were.
Yoga, blowing Zen (shakuhachi), and tai chi have been effective expressions of the idea of marching forward when there is no road as chapter 69 puts it. However, such practices happen over the long-term, the feedback is constant but never grabs me emotionally. Conversely, the stock market offers immediate visceral feedback when I attempt to put into practice what chapter 43 describes as The teaching that uses no words, the benefit of resorting to no action, these are beyond the understanding of all but a very few in the world.
The stock market offers us a literal opportunity to put our money where our mouth is. Money is a universal representation of survival. The more we have, the better our chances of survival. Money stimulates us to jump in and resort to action and either sell or buy. As the more literal translation of chapter 16 puts it, Not knowing the constant, rash actions lead to ominous results. (See Tao Views of the Dow.)
(1) The Mandate of Heaven (天命) was a principle used to justify the power of the emperor of China. According to this belief, the heavens, which embody the natural order and will of the universe, bestows its mandate to a just ruler. I see this more simply as, whatever happens happens naturally, or as chapter 5 says, Heaven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs.