Wednesday, February 04, 2004

the Godfather of Seoul

Over at Seeing Eye Blog. I was rolling.

UPDATE: Go read Owen Rathbone's latest on the backlash against Cardinal Kim and other issues. Korea has looked to Christians for moral leadership before. Christianity was probably a big factor in the propagation of Hangul under the Japanese occupation, and is associated by some with the literacy ethic (cf. Donald Clark on these matters... the Korean alphabet's been around since 1443 [promulgated 1446], but hasn't always occupied the foremost position in matters of reading and writing, for various reasons). Cardinal Kim has spoken out about Korean social ills before; it's only natural that stupid people won't want to listen.

Owen writes:

Whether it be at the hands of China, Japan or Western powers, Koreans have often felt they lacked the ability to shape their own destiny. The division of Korea into North and South is a painful testimony to Koreans' inability to thwart or adroitly harness foreign influences while keeping the nation whole and intact.

I recall my favorite prof at CUA talking about some of the theories regarding the Tao Te Ching, which most people-- including but not limited to the ones whose spirituality has a Barnes & Noble pedigree-- would call a deep little treatise on the nature of reality and what it means to live within that reality. It might interest you to know that some theories are floating around that the TTC may in fact be a Legalist School (or quasi-Legalist) manual for statecraft: a guide for how a small country can survive when surrounded by much larger powers. Go back and read the TTC with that in mind, and you'll be blown away by how different it sounds. It's almost Machiavellian.

This isn't to suggest that the Chinese, throughout history, haven't themselves viewed the TTC as a philosophical work. Plenty have. Surely Chuang Tzu's work seems in keeping with the philosophical themes, though his tone is much more playful and he seems less interested in politics overall. But the TTC is small and very general; its vagueness lends itself easily to a wide range of interpretation. So before you dismiss the Legalist theory out of hand, go back and reread the TTC. No, seriously. I'll wait.

Then write me. Maybe the Koreas should be paying more attention to this manual.

A little less conversation, a little more action, please...


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