XXIX – “Whoever lays hold of it will lose it”

Whoever takes the empire and wishes to do anything to it I see will have no respite. The empire is a sacred vessel and nothing should be done to it. Whoever does anything to it will ruin it; whoever lays hold of it will lose it.

Hence some things lead and some follow;

Some breathe gently and some hard;

Some are strong and some are weak;

Some destroy and some are destroyed.

Therefore the sage avoids excess, extravagence, and arrogance.

 

The message becomes more and more clear to me: the sage neither struggles nor conspires to achieve and sustain the power of the state.

 

 

 

 

XVIII – “The greatest cutting does not sever”

Know the male

But keep to the role of the female

And be a ravine to the empire.

If you are a ravine to the empire,

Then the constant virtue will not desert you

And you will again return to being a babe.

Know the white

But keep to the role of the black

And be a model to the empire.

If you are a model to the empire,

Then the constant virtue will not be wanting

And you will return to the infinite.

Know honour

But keep to the role of the disgraced

And be a valley to the empire,

Then the constant virtue will be sufficient

And you will return to being the uncarved block.

When the uncarved block shatters it becomes vessels. The sage makes use of these and becomes the lord over the officials.

Hence the greatest cutting

Does not sever.

There is gentleness in the role of the female, and depth in the ravine; on the other hand there is the black, the strong, the uncarved block. Make use of officials’ knowledge, not their conspiratorial obsequiousness (disgrace is lack of favour; do not court favour). When you rule, cut, show you can cut, but do not sever.

After Representation, pt 5

In a theatre, the actor is supposed to express feelings in public which are normally bottled up. In a way, the actor is truly allowed to be himself on stage – the rest of the time he is bottled up. The audience makes this possible – and accesses feelings normally bottled up. So the actor is not representing someone else to the audience when he is playing Hamlet, rather there is an experience, shared by actor and audience, of something bottled up. Applause is the expression of the success or otherwise of the evening’s entertainment in that respect. Here, the audience is not handing over responsibility for certain feelings to the actor, or allowing the actor to have certain feelings that the audience member is denying himself; rather, theatre opens up these feelings for everyone.

This what the celebration of the actor expresses. It is excellent when it is not accompanied by the diminishing of personal responsibility.

At each moment it is important both to maximise the sense of personal responsibility, and authority – by not giving it to someone else – but also to circumscribe its limits in relation to others and to the earth – by not taking it from anyone else.

Representational democracy might well be a contradiction in terms. The concept of representation, without God, is rotten, God’s corpse we could almost say. If there is to be an advancement of democracy in Europe, it will be towards direct democracy.

After Representation, pt 4

Of course, I would love to be elected, to speak for you, to represent you, to have you cheer my every word. I find it hard to imagine how that could not be desirable, except that I have always also felt sickened by the idea, that it would be an awful denigration of your nobility to do something like that. I would disrespect you for it, and hate myself.

But it is good to be cheered on in art, at least in sport and theatre, from personal experience. But here you are willing me on because there is an identification between us which surpasses representation.

Take sport. As a runner I enjoy competing in cross country races for my club. One could say, I represent my club, it’s true. But really it’s a group of people I’m running with, and we are being cheered on by people who belong to our club. When club comrades cheer me on as I struggle up a hill, they are identifying with struggle and the feelings of success and failure… they are not giving me the authority or responsibility to struggle for them: they are identifying (in some way empathising) with that struggle.

After Representation, pt 3

So “the people” have replaced “God” as the absent thing that is to be represented. Cetainly “the people” is not a preferable god to God. If we are going to do ditch God it is calamatous to enthrone the people in the sky (“the bludgeoning of the people, by the people, for the people…”).

What is really necessary is to flip the concept of representation overboard. The concept of representation has not adapted to the democratic age, and it cannot: the idea of democracy and all the ideals of the self-proclaimed “Enlightenment” are quite antithetical to the notion of representation. How can it be that a man or woman is not fit to engage in legislating the society in which he or she lives? How can sapere aude have come to mean handing over political responsibility to someone else?  Are we waiting for this man or woman to arise before we leave them their power? Are the people not good enough for democracy yet, as they once were not good enough for socialism? The answer is that it is a natural instinct to want to aggrandise oneself with others’ power. It is not that the people are not yet “good” enough for democracy: it is that people are not “good” enough to represent others; but whereas people are indeed qualified enough to take responsibility for legislating their society, people will never qualified enough to represent others.

After Representation, pt 2

God as the source of all power is no a longer politically significant idea. With regards to art in an empirical age, something which has never been present, God, is not thought to exist in a certain absence, he is not thought to exist at all; so he is no longer represented by artists.

So the concept of God may be dead, but his eternally proceeding offspring, the concept of representation? In art, representation has become less prevalent than expression, perception and deconstruction. As for politics, there was once something very important existing in perpetual non-presence (God) required representation (in person by prophet-kings; in words and images by prophet-artists): but this representation is no longer required….

Yet Representation is still an important concept for politicians. Our European culture has put representation of the people as its centre. Hence elections, in which representatives beg to be given power; or coups, in which politicians do not bother to ask. The king once represented God; the dictator and the democratically elected MP represent the people.

The idea of representing the people also has a religious history: for the priest represents the people to God when he enters the presence of God. But in representative democracy the politician represents the people to themselves, when legislating within her realm. It is true that represents the people to representatives of other realms, but that is only because they have not yet been integrated.

Our representative democracy has flipped God for the people.

After Representation, pt 1

Presence is related to the concept of existence. Empirically, nothing is deemed to exist or have existed which has not been present. Seen metaphysically, presence is a concept which presupposes the concept of existence: something is existing here, ‘at’ the present- rather than somewhere else (absence, non-presence) or ‘in’ the past.

Representation presupposes absence: something which is absent is made present through something else. Representation thus presupposes a metaphysical conceptuality. So for Plato, our mundane perception is the perception of representations; you had to think your way to presence/true perception.

Representation is an important concept for art and politics; we see this especially in religion which in many cases is a perfect mix of the two. It is easy to see that God has been represented by images and words and also that God is the source of all power. If artists represent then art will be interested in representing that which is most absent; if politicians represent, they will represent that which is most powerful.