A poor man must swing
For stealing a belt buckle
But if a rich man steals a whole state
He is acclaimed
As statesmen of the year . . .
Moral: the more you pile up ethical principles
And duties and obligations
To bring everyone in line
The more you gather loot
For a thief like Khang.
By ethical argument
And moral principle
The greatest crimes are eventually shown
To have been necessary, and, in fact,
A signal benefit
― Thomas Merton, The Way of Chuang Tzu
I wish i had the energy and discipline to record Merton' entire rendering of Chuang Tsu, ix, 2. Here is my favorite part:
of weights and measures
makes robbery easier.
Signing contracts, setting seals,
makes robbery more sure.
Teaching love and duty
provides a fitting language
with which to prove that robbery
is really for the general good....
Kwang, if i recall correctly, was the legendary (?) leader of a most notorious gang of thieves. He acquired his leadership position, not through strength or aggressiveness or ruthlessness or intelligence, but by following Taoist principles. Whoever (probably not Chuan Chou) wrote this particular section), felt that since there were more bad men than good men in the world, wise teachings would do more harm than good since they are equally useful for everyone.
Perhaps this "wisdom" was "Confucian wisdom" rather than "Taoist wisdom," the author does not say. Sages are blamed for the problems in the world, for the departure from simplicity.
This brings up my main problem with Taoist philosophy. At the same time that it is democratic, even anarchic (though Merton would disagree), it is also elitist.. "One in ten is a follower of Tao." "If that were not so it would not be the Tao." "Taoist teaching should remain a secret treasure," "hidden in the ragged robes of the sage." It reminds me of what a follower jokingly said of Dorothy Day. "She believes in anarchy as long as she gets to be the chief anarch." (The Archanarch? :) )