Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Imagine two ancient, primitive humanoids meeting in a remote glade. One has a big bunch of a delicious fruit, the other is hungry possibly starving. The first wants the fruit for a child and won’t share, the second may have only the choice of fighting or starving. Can we honestly say that either is “right” or “wrong”? And yet, it’s easy to see the development of ever-expanding warfare from this basic experience to the creation of clans, tribes, cities, and nations—all trying to defend what they have or take what the other group has. The most basic and simple motivation, and yet this simple factor can go a long way toward explaining the long history of civilization. Both internally and externally, government mainly exists in service of these two aims. As long as we have separate groups competing for the same resources, we’ll never know—either personally or as a society—true peace. As long as we cling to “Me-first,” “My-country-first,” we’ll only perpetuate more conflict and fighting at the same time as more lethal and dangerous weapons and bombs. For humanity to survive, human culture and politics will have to evolve beyond personal, group, and national ego into a One World Government, a federation of nations, a "United States of Earth.”

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Quotes (78)

“Local rulers establish laws that are each different, and cultivate customs that are mutually antagonistic. They pull out the root and abandon the foundation... After this, the world can never be at peace in its essential life.”

Wenzi 文子 (fl. 5th century BCE) via Thomas Cleary, Shan Dao
"Authentic Presence of Pervading Mystery.”
from The Wenzi, Wénzǐ 文子

Themes: Nationalism

“Everyone believes his own native customs, and the religion he was brought up in, to be the best.”

Herodotus Ἡρόδοτος c. 484 - 425 BCE
“The Father of History”
from Histories

“The mob is the mother of tyrants.”

Diogenes 412 – 323 BCE
(of Sinope)
from Lives of Philosophers

“Place a monkey in a cage, and it is the same as a pig, not beause it isn’t clever and quick, but because it has no place to freely exercise its capabilities.”

Liú Ān 劉安 c. 179–122 BCE via Thomas Cleary
from Huainanzi

Themes: Nationalism

72. Helpful Fear

“That you are patriotic will be praised by many and easily forgiven by everyone; but it is wiser to treat men and things as though we held this world as the common fatherland of all.”

Erasmus 1466 – 1536 CE
(Desiderius Roterodamus)
"Greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance"

“For our country, wrong is right.”

Machiavelli 1469 – 1527 CE
(Niccolò Machiavelli)
from The Prince

Themes: Nationalism

“To wish the greatness of our own country is often to wish evil to our neighbors. He who could bring himself to wish that his country should always remain as it is, would be a citizen of the universe.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE
from Philosophical Dictionary

“The use of gunpowder… was soon propagated to the extremities of Asia; and the advantage of the European was confined to his easy victories over the savages of the new world.”

Edward Gibbon 1737 – 1794 CE
from Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire

“The Ambassador [of Tripoli] answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Muslim who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”

Thomas Jefferson 1743 – 1826 CE

“National hatred is something peculiar. You will always find it strongest and most violent where there is the lowest degree of culture.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE via Johann Peter Eckermann, 1830

“The pretense of collective wisdom is the most palpable of all impostures.”

William Godwin 1756 – 1836 CE
Provocative and influential social, political, and literary critic
from An Inquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793)

Themes: Nationalism

“The more narrow-minded a system is the more it will please worldly-wise people.”

Novalis 1772 – 1831 CE

41. Distilled Life

“The cheapest sort of pride is national pride... it argues that he has no qualities of his own... Every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud, adopts as a last resource pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and happy to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE
from Parerga and Paralipomena, "Appendices" and "Omissions"

Themes: Nationalism

72. Helpful Fear
78. Water

“Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of prevailing opinion; against the tendency of society to impose its own... rules of conduct on those who dissent from them”

John Stuart Mill 1806 – 1873 CE
from On Liberty (1859)​

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Abraham Lincoln 1809 – 1865 CE

Themes: Nationalism

“Men, it has been well said, think in herds but it will be seen that they go mad in herds. They only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

Charles Mackay 1814 – 1889 CE
from Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

26. The Still Rule the Restless

“take the Jewish people, the aristocracy of the human race—how is it they have kept their place apart, their poetical halo, amid surroundings of coarse cruelty? By having no State to burden them. Had they remained in Palestine, they would long ago have lost their individuality in the process of their State's construction, like all other nations.”

Henrik Ibsen 1828 – 1906 CE
"The world's 2nd most-performed playwright"
from Peer Gynt (1867)

“by whatever name men may all murder—murder always remains murder and a criminal and shameful thing... we must stop seeing as something else what we call now service of country, heroism of war, military glory, and patriotism. We must learn to see these as they really are—the naked, criminal business of murder”

Leo Tolstoy 1828 – 1910 CE

“The man who prefers his country before any other duty shows the same spirit as the man who surrenders every right to the state. They both deny that right is superior to authority.”

Lord Acton 1834 – 1902 CE
(John Dalberg-Acton)
Prolific historian and politician
from Nationality (1862)

Themes: Nationalism

“For property is robbery, but then, we are all robbers or would-be robbers together, and have found it essential to organize our thieving, as we have found it necessary to organize our lust and our revenge. Property, marriage, the law; as the bed to the river, so rule and convention to the instinct; and woe to him who tampers with the banks while the flood is flowing.”

Samuel Butler 1835 – 1902 CE
Iconoclastic philosopher, artist, composer, author, and evolutionary theorist
from Erewhon

“If a million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.”

Anatole France 1844 – 1924 CE
(Jacques Anatole Thibault)

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“Madness is something rare in individuals — but in groups, parties, peoples, and ages, it is the rule.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE
from Beyond Good and Evil

Themes: Nationalism

“Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious.”

Oscar Wilde 1854 – 1900 CE

“We must eliminate the fanatic devotion to exalted ideals of national egoism and pride”

Nikola Tesla Никола Тесла 1856 – 1943 CE

“Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it....”

George Bernard Shaw 1856 – 1950 CE
UK playwright second only to Shakespeare

Themes: Nationalism

“Nations are herds of cattle.”

Arthur Desmond 1859 – 1929 CE
from Might Is Right

Themes: Nationalism

“Race and nationality are catchwords for which rulers find that their subjects are willing to fight, as they fought for what they called religion 400 years ago.”

Dean Inge 1860 – 1954 CE
Christian mystic and philosopher

Themes: Nationalism

“A nation is a society united by a delusion about its ancestry and by common hatred of its neighbors.”

Dean Inge 1860 – 1954 CE
Christian mystic and philosopher

Themes: Nationalism

“Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.”

Santayana, George 1863 – 1952 CE
(Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás)
Powerfully influential, true-to-himself philosopher/poet
from The Life of Reason

“We should recognize that nationalism does not mean discriminating against people of a different nationality. It simply means not allowing such people to seize our political power, for only when we Han are in control politically do we have a nation.”

Sun Yat-sen 孙逸仙 1866 – 1925 CE

Themes: Nationalism

“Conscious faith is freedom. Emotional faith is slavery. Mechanical faith is foolishness.”

G. I. Gurdjieff 1866 – 1949 CE

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“Another great deficiency of the democratic machinery of the Roman Republic was the absence of any general elementary political education at all... The ordinary Roman was not only blankly ignorant of the history of mankind but also of the conditions of foreign peoples”

H. G. Wells 1866 – 1946 CE
A father of science fiction and One World Government apostle
from Outline of History

Themes: Nationalism

“Our true nationality is mankind.”

H. G. Wells 1866 – 1946 CE
A father of science fiction and One World Government apostle

“It was a Roman [Horace] who said it was sweet to die for one's country. The Greeks never said it was sweet to die for anything. They had no vital lies.”

Edith Hamilton 1867 – 1963 CE
from Greek Way

“Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs... Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home”

Mahatma Gandhi 1869 – 1948 CE

“Sin is geographical.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”

Themes: Nationalism

“Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”
from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Nationalism

“In a moment the fruits of patient toil, the prospects of material prosperity, the fear of death itself, are flung aside. All rational considerations are forgotten... Thus whole nations are roused to arms.”

Winston Churchill 1874 – 1965 CE
from The Story of the Malakand Field Force

Themes: Nationalism

“National consciousness… no longer allowed peoples to be guided by historical realities and by reason. Nationalism of the worst sort was displayed in the last two wars, and it may be regarded today as the greatest obstacle to mutual understanding between peoples.”

Albert Schweitzer 1875 – 1965 CE
from Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

Themes: Nationalism

“Fanaticism turns into a means of salvation, enthusiasm into epileptic ecstasy, politics becomes an opiate for the masses, a proletarian eschatology; and reason veils her face.”

Thomas Mann 1875 – 1955 CE
Deep, psychologically insightful author
from "An Appeal to Reason" (1930)

“No nation keeps its word. A nation is a big, blind worm, following what? Fate perhaps. A nation has no honor, it has no word to keep. …”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist

75. Greed

“Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

Themes: Nationalism

78. Water

“that worst outcrop of herd life, the military system, which I abhor… This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed… and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriots – how passionately I hate them!... this bogey would have disappeared long ago had the sound sense of the peoples not been systematically corrupted by commercial and political interests.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

31. Victory Funeral

“Nationalism overrides morality, defers social reform, and becomes a religion stronger than any church.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Fallen Leaves

Themes: Nationalism

“He saw that science had become as great a hoax as religion, that nationalism was a farce, patriotism a fraud”

Henry Miller 1891 – 1980 CE
from Time of the Assassins

Themes: Nationalism

“The best of the most atrocious, zeal is always intoxicating. A world without zeal would be a world deprived of many simple but savage pleasures: but at least half its present excuses for interfering and bullying would have been taken away from it.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Erewhon, Introduction

“there is only Cone faith for which large masses of us are prepared to die and kill, and that faith is nationalism... With the 57 varieties of tribal gods, nationalism is the religion of the 20th Century.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Brave New World Revisited (1958)

Themes: Nationalism

“We are very defensive, and therefore aggressive, when we hold on to a particular belief, a dogmas, or when we worship our particular nationality, with the rag that is called the flag.”

Krishnamurti 1895 – 1986 CE
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)
from What are You Doing with Your Life

Themes: Nationalism

“The human habit of seeing only one phase of the truth, which happens to lie before our eyes and raising the developing it into a perfect system of logic is the reason our philosophy necessarily becomes more and more estranged from life.”

Lín Yǔtáng 林語堂 1895 – 1976 CE

“When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system”

Krishnamurti 1895 – 1986 CE
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)

Themes: Nationalism

“Nationalism is our form of incest, is our idolatry, is our insanity. 'Patriotism' is its cult... Just as love for one individual which excludes the love for others is not love, love for one's country which is not part of one's love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship.”

Eric Fromm 1900 – 1980 CE

Themes: Nationalism Love

78. Water

“Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power... The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”

George Orwell 1903 – 1950 CE
English, poet, humanist, apostle of doubt, and powerful political influence
from Notes on Nationalism (1945)

Themes: Nationalism Evil

“Nationalism is inseparable from the desire for power... power hunger tempered by self-deception.”

George Orwell 1903 – 1950 CE
English, poet, humanist, apostle of doubt, and powerful political influence

Themes: Nationalism Power

“Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”

George Orwell 1903 – 1950 CE
English, poet, humanist, apostle of doubt, and powerful political influence
from Nineteen Eighty Four

“I cared more about the fundamental way of thinking that causes war. This is why I didn’t like the nationalists in Japan. Their view was very one-sided and unrealistic… They created tremendous problems.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE

Themes: War Nationalism

69. No Enemy

“in the dim region where art, magic, and religion meet and overlap, human beings have evolved the 'metaphor that is meant,' the flag which men will die to save, and the sacrament that is felt to be more than an outward and visible sign, given unto us.'”

Gregory Bateson 1904 – 1980 CE
from A Theory of Play and Fantasy

“The American Revolution was not the product of a nationalistic spirit. We were singularly free from most of the philosophical baggage of modern nationalism.”

Daniel J. Boorstin 1914 – 2004 CE
American intellectual Paul Revere
from Hidden History, 1987

Themes: Nationalism

“It is when we insist most firmly on everyone else being 'reasonable' that we become ourselves, unreasonable.”

Thomas Merton 1915 – 1968 CE
from The Way of Chuang Tzu

“It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the Earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars.”

Arthur C. Clarke 1917 – 2008 CE
from The Exploration of Space

Themes: Nationalism

78. Water

“remember that not so many years ago men were burned at the stake just for saying the earth went round the sun!”

James Clavell 1921 – 1994 CE
Fictionalizing and fictional historian
from Tai-Pan, 1966

“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”

Howard Zinn 1922 – 2010 CE
Historian of the oppressed and defeated

Themes: Nationalism

“The landscape should belong to those who see it.”

Malcolm X الحاجّ مالك الشباز‎‎ 1925 – 1965 CE via Leroi Jones, 1966

Themes: Nationalism

These people are not exactly human. They don the dress but they’re like monkeys dolled up in the circus. They’re clever and can learn, but that is all.

Philip K. Dick 1928 – 1982 CE
Legendary consciousness provocateur
from Man in the High Castle,

Themes: Nationalism

“No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.”

Robert M. Pirsig 1928 – 2017 CE
from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

“Nationalism always has a way of oppressing others.”

Noam Chomsky 1928 CE –

Themes: Nationalism

“Having one king, one god, one belief, they can act single-mindedly.”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE
from Voices

Themes: Nationalism

“to continue to see a race of people, any race of people as one single personality is an ignorance of gothic proportions, an ignorance so vast, so public, and perception so blind and so blunted, imagination so bleak that no nuance, no subtlety, no difference among them can be ascertained.”

Toni Morrison 1931 – 2019 CE
(Chloe Ardelia Wofford)
Story-telling voice of American wisdom
from A Humanist View (1975​)

“These cultural mind prisons. . . . have been crippling to human moral and spiritual growth… freedom of thought.. and clearly a barrier to world peace. So long as we continue to attach more importance to our own narrow group membership than to the ‘global village’ we will propagate prejudice and ignorance.

Jane Goodall 1934 CE –

18. The Sick Society

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

George Carlin 1937 – 2008 CE
One of the most influential social commentators of his time

“No matter how you care to define it, I do not identify with the local group. Planet, species, race, nation, state, religion, party, union, club, association, neighborhood improvement committee; I have no interest in any of it. I love and treasure individuals as I meet them, I loathe and despise the groups they identify with and belong to.”

George Carlin 1937 – 2008 CE
One of the most influential social commentators of his time
from Brain Droppings

“When we talk of nationalism, that is a sign of weakness. A person wants to fight just anyone who enters his territory, to defend himself. As a sign, a symbol, that becomes an expression of a source of territory and patheticness.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from A Buddhist Approach to Politics

Themes: Nationalism

“Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I'm liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That's what's insane about it.”

John Lennon 1940 – 1980 CE

Themes: Nationalism

18. The Sick Society

“Imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do - nothing to kill or die for, no religions too.”

John Lennon 1940 – 1980 CE

18. The Sick Society

“There were a few, an extremely few, people in the world who by sheer dint of their intelligence and their sensitivities could overcome the limitations of national identity, the stupidities of their own bureaucracies to navigate a path to world survival.”

Neal Stephenson 1959 CE –
(Stephen Bury)
Speculative futurist and cultural social commentator

from The Cobweb

“if anyone, even the writer, tells you that something only means one thing, they are ALWAYS wrong. Because nothing only means one thing.”

Neil Gaiman 1960 CE –
Myth-transmitting creative maelstrom

belonging is as quintessential to Staten Island–ness as toughness is to the Bronx and starting over is to Queens and weathering change is to Brooklyn”

N. K. Jemisin 1972 CE –
from The City We Became (2020)

Themes: Nationalism

“The only modern ideology that still awards death a central role is nationalism. In its more poetic and desperate moments, nationalism promises that whoever dies for the nation will forever live in its collective memory. Yet this promise is so fuzzy that even most nationalists do no really know what to make of it.”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

from Sapiens

Themes: Nationalism

“Nationalism—an escapist indulgence that may doom humankind and the entire biosphere to disaster... Zealous nationalists who cry 'Our country first!' should ask themselves whether their country by itself, without a robust system of international cooperation, can protect the world—or even itself—from nuclear destruction.”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

from 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Themes: Nationalism

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