Posts Tagged ‘government’

Private Endeavors will popularize the Supremacy of the Relationship-Defined Cardinal Obligations

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

Now who will make the Cardinal Obligations supreme? Will it be decreed by government authority and foisted on us from above? No, no, absolutely not. Only individuals, one by one, family by family, can adopt the supremacy of the Cardinal Obligations. And that can only be done voluntarily, by each individual, each family and each extended family, when they see and come to understand the advantages of making the Cardinal Obligations supreme in their own lives. This people come to see not because of any act of government, but because of the persistent and tireless preachings by enlightened good hearted, kind people, who understand that the more people who adopt the Cardinal Obligations, the better for society and for the enlightened people themselves, and because of the good examples of happiness and moral conduct set by such enlightened people.

That is why in Imperial China, the Confucian ideal has always been that when government rules well, there should be nothing for it to do, as the people are harmonious, happy, prosperous, and of good conduct, without the authorities having to interfere.

Feng Xin-ming


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Why the Supremacy of the Relationship-Defined Cardinal Obligations is Good for Freedom

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

The reason the supremacy of the Cardinal Obligations is good for freedom is because, except for the relationship between the government and its citizens, the obligations are voluntary and government authority and legal coercion is unnecessary.

The obligations are based on mutual benefit; one violates them at one’s own peril. One gets punished by natural means; if one violates one’s obligations one then loses the reciprocal obligations the other party owes oneself.

Thus, if a son is not xiao he risks his parents becoming unkind, as the reciprocal of the offspring’s xiao is the parents’ kindness; and if a husband is not respectful and cooperative he risks his wife becoming disrespectful and uncooperative, as spouses’ respect foir and cooperation with each other are reciprocal.

Furthermore, other people who have a relationship with him, seeing that he does not carry out his Cardinal Obligations, may also cease carrying out their obligations to him. Thus the son who is not xiao risks having his own son being not xiao to him, and the seller who cheats his buyers risks having people who sell to him cheating him.

Not only that, but also other people who do not now have a relationship with the obligation violator/reneger will cease to come forward to have relationships with him. Since relationships mean mutual help, this means the violator will get very little help and therefore will not succeed in life or find happiness. Thus, a seller who violates his obligations will find fewer and fewer customers, a husband who violates his obligations to his wife will lose friends and few will become his friends, and so forth.

The supremacy of the Cardinal Obligations is the supremacy of mutual help, nothing more. It is the honor code for mutual help. It codifies honorable conduct for relations of mutual help in human society, relations that can be life long, relations that no human can live without. Adopting this honor code is entirely voluntary, but extremely beneficial. It is most conducive to success and happiness. Having such weighty incentives, once people understand the idea, they will conduct themselves according to this honor code, and there is no need for external coercion in the form of legal authority and government.

People are free to adhere to the honor code or not. If they do, they get rewarded, automatically, without getting the authorities involved. If people don’t adhere to the honor code, they get punished, again automatically, without getting the authorities involved.

Government can be as minimal as possible, intrude into the lives of citizens as little as possible, and yet society runs harmoniously and justly, with everyone looked after. The weak, the aged and the disabled will be cared for by those who know them and are close to them, rather than by some anonymous big brother government agency.

As more and more people adopt the idea of the supremacy of the Cardinal Obligations, it will usher in a new era of free societies.

Feng Xin-ming


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Modern Free Society Needs the Supremacy of Relationship-Defined Obligations

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

(Please also see my paper on my website “The Traditional Chinese Supremacy of Relationship-Defined Obligations vs. the West’s Supremacy of Love”)

Making the Cardinal Obligations supreme, treating them as the supreme value, as the Confucian-Chinese tradition has done for over two thousand years, is most compatible with a modern free society. Nay more, making the Cardinal Obligations supreme is extremely conducive to the development of an even freer society than what we have now.

How so? Many will ask, shocked. Isn’t the Confucian-Chinese tradition autocratic? One young man has actually told me that he has always thought that Confucianism is fascist! Oh wrong, wrong; oh how wrong! Oh times! Oh morals!

True, historically there has been significant streaks of autocracy in Confucianism and true, China has had a totalitarian system of government for over two thousand years, where government control has been remarkably pervasive for a society based on technology quite primitive today. Traditional Chinese autocracy and totalitarianism, however, have been based mainly on Legalsim and the idea of Craft* (Shu` or 术), not Confucianism. In fact, historically Confucianism has been the restraining and humanizing influence on traditional Chinese totalitarianism.

Let us not get into a huge debate about exactly where, when, and how much are the autocratic and totalitarian streaks in Confucianism; let us just look at the core idea of Confucianism: the Cardinal Obligations. Quite opposite to autocracy and totalitarianism, the essence of the Cardinal Obligations is that they enable a society to function with the least amount of coercion, the least amount of government control, and thus the maximum freedom and voluntary choice.

It is now the twenty-first century, and it is high time to purge the autocratic and totalitarian streaks that have contaminated Confucianism, the core teaching of which, the supremacy of the Cardinal Obligations, is by nature against autocracy and totalitarianism.

Feng Xin-ming

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*Political and historical writings from traditional China often distinguish between Dao` (the Way) on the one hand, which is the good and the benevolent, and Shu` (Craft) on the other, which is the “art” or “craft” involving Machiavellian deceit and cruelty but considered justified means to achieve the greater good. Writers would laud a personnage, for example an emperor or a prime minister, for adhering to the Dao` in carrying out good and benevolent deeds, and would exonerate the same personnage of his heinous and underhanded deeds by invoking the necessity of Shu` (Craft). The term Shu` (Craft) can be expanded as Zhi` Guo’ Zhi- Shu` (the Craft or Art of Ruling a State)

Feng Xin-ming


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The Cardinal Obligations Continued: Mutual Help

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

What do all six Cardinal Relations have in common? They all have in common the fundamental feature of human society: mutual help.

Reflecting the fundamental property of human society, the Cardinal Relation between government and subjects is but a relation of mutual help: the government is there to help its subjects by protecting them and keeping order, and in turn the subjects help the government by cooperating with the government so as to make order possible, and by paying taxes to sustain the government.

Also, the Cardinal Relation between parents and offspring is a relationship of mutual help: the parents help the offspring survive, grow up, and learn (become educated). When still immature the offspring help the parents by cooperating with them in the upbringing by obeying and respecting the parents, and when grown up, the offspring help the parents by providing sustenance and care to them in their old age and debility.

The Cardinal Relation between older and younger siblings is a relation of mutual help: the siblings help and cooperate with each other.

As for the Cardinal Relation among spouses, the husband and wife help and cooperate with each other in building a life together.

Of course, mutual help is clearly the real link underlying friendship. Never mind encouraging and admonishing each other, even when it comes to just friends mutually entertaining and amusing each other, that is a form of mutual help.

Feng Xin-ming


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The Cardinal Relations and the Attendant Cardinal Obligations; the Genius of Confucius

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

The genius of traditional Chinese (Confucian) thinking is that by emphasizing the Five Cardinal Relations (五伦 “wu^ lun’” or “ng-3 lueun-4″ in Cantonese) and the correct Obligations the parties in those Relations owe each other, the entire fabric of a proper civil society is set. The Cardinal Relations and their attendant Cardinal Obligations (伦常 lun’ chang’ or lueun-4 seurng-4 in Cantonese) work like how the DNA in a cell: the DNA sets the template for the proteins to be manufactured by the cell, and in turn the proteins determine the structure, operation, life cycle, and all major properties of the cell. The Cardinal Relations and Obligations likewise determine the structure, operation, and all major properties of the society.

First, the Cardinal Relation between the ruler (government) and the subjects. The ruler (government) is obliged to rule with benevolence and competence in providing protection and peace and order to the subjects. The subjects are obliged to obey (i.e., obey the laws) and to pay sustenance (taxes and service) to the government. Also, the subjects are required to point out the ruler’s mistakes and wrongdoings, should any occur, and not obsequiously pander to the ruler.

Second, the Cardinal Relation between the father (parents) and the son (offspring): the parents are obliged to be kind, and to raise and teach the offspring, and the offspring are required to be good to, or xiao` 孝 (how-3 in Cantonese), to the parents. That includes obeying, respecting, supporting parents when they are aged, and dissuading parents from doing wrong.

Third, the Cardinal Relation between the older brother (older sibling) and the younger: the older sibling is friendly and solicitous, and the younger sibling is respectful. The older sibling looks after and helps the younger, and the younger obeys the older. Sibling rivalry is a no-no, definitely not considered healthy in traditional Chinese thinking. Growing up during the fifties and early sixties in Hong Kong, although my brothers and I fight almost on a daily basis, because of the then still prevalent Confucian thinking we absorb from school, radio, and movies, we would be deeply ashamed if we were ever seen fighting by people outside the family. Because society back then, still imbued with Confucian thinking, frowns upon fighting among siblings, and especially for the younger sibling as he is supposed to defer to and respect the older, our fights are always private, carried out in the privacy of our homes.

Stay tuned–more on the Cardinal Relations in my next blog.

Feng Xin-ming


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Repaying En- 恩 or Kindness, the Five (or Six) Cardinal Relations

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

The concept of the repayment of “en-” 恩 (- = first tone; this is my “home-made” pinyin for easy keyboarding) or in Cantonese, “yun-1″ (-1 = Cantonese first tone), is a very important one in traditional Chinese culture. “en-” means a kindness, a significant, great kindness, not just a little tip to the waiter or something like that. In traditional Chinese culture, it is very important to repay kindness. In fact, repaying “en-” is considered to be the basis of society itself.

To repay the kindness (the “en-”) bestowed one by one’s parents is the basis of “xiao” (”how-3″ in Cantonese) or “being good to parents.” Now “xiao” or being good to parents is considered in traditional Chinese society as being the basis of civil society and the most fundamental guarantee of moral conduct. So, by extension, repaying kindness or “en-”, in this case that from one’s parents, is regarded as the fundamental foundation of civil society in traditional China. Repaying of “en-” is indeed considered very important.

In traditional China, what transpires between the parties in society’s Five Cardinal Relations (wu^ lun’ 五伦 or ng-3 lueun-4 in Cantonese), is described by the term “en- yi`” 恩义 (”yun-1 yee-6″ in Cantonese). “en-”, as we already know, is kindness. Now “yi` (义)” is a bit harder to translate, as in Chinese it’s used for a lot of different things. In this context I think the correct translation is “obligation”. So what transpires between the parties in society’s Five Cardinal Relations is kindness and obligation.

To explain, the Five Cardinal Relations are those between the ruler and the subject (between government and citizen), between the father (parent) and the son (offspring), between the older and the younger brothers (siblings), between husband and wife, and between friend and friend. These comprise the most important relations in society. Of course, today we would add a sixth, that between buyer and seller, where buyer also includes the employer since he’s buying labor power, and seller includes the employee who is selling his labor power.

So, in the traditional Chinese thinking, what the parties in society’s fundamental relations do is to bestow kindness on and carry out obligations to, each other.

Feng Xin-ming


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