How the Analects of Confucius and 20th and 21st Century Politics are Connected?

Updated January 13, 2022

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How the Analects of Confucius and 20th and 21st Century Politics are Connected? essay

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Confucius (551-479 BCE) was one of the most influential thinkers in not only Ancient Chinese history, but also world history. He’s probably recognized as China’s first truly great teacher during the Zhou Dynasty. His ideas have not only enhanced Chinese culture and history to where it is today, but also other countries in Eastern Asia like Japan and Korea. None of Confucius’s writings and teachings were entirely made up on his own though. In fact, his teachings and ideas seem similar to Western Philosophers from Greece or Rome.

All that is known for certain is that his ideas stem from many of his teachings, his life and his signature text that was translated into English by Roger T. Ames and Henry Rosemont Jr., The Analects of Confucius and was published in 1998 (Ames, Roger T., Rosemont Jr., Henry, pg. 1). Some of Confucius’s ideas can be put to practice when it comes to running a government, it will just be very difficult considering not only the political tension in America right now but also throughout history.

A term that is thrown around a lot in the Analects is the Dao, which means the path or way. The philosophical meaning of the Dao is little bit varied with Confucians viewed the Dao as a way of how people should behave in society. While on the other hand Daoists see the Dao as something more involving nature. Ways that you could reach the Dao are removing yourself from society and becoming natural. Along with not having too big of an ego in certain situations and just go with the flow; or sometimes just let events unfold in front of you.

Just as the Dao has many scholars and religions divided over the meaning of the term, the same goes for the term of Te. Te means Virtue, which is best described as a good moral character. Having a moral compass means not committing a crime or knowing the difference between right or wrong. Another term that has some of the same meaning is Jen, which means either having humanity or sincerity. Basically meaning that you have the ability to show love, compassion and have creativity.

According to Confucius in the Analects, more specifically Chapters 1, 3, 19 and 20, government leaders and rulers should behave In Chapters 1 and 3, leaders are supposed to guide and be a role model to the people who they rule over; kind of like the North Star (Ames, Roger T., Rosemont Jr., Henry, pg. 76). For example, like how a kid looks up to a sports athlete as a hero or role model for themselves to do good. Unfortunately, that idea hasn’t always been an idea of most leaders throughout the millennia. In fact, some leader chose to abuse that power for their own selfish benefits.

The First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huangdi of the Qin Dynasty adopted a legalist system that controlled the feudal aristocrats of China and burned books related to Confucius or any other philosophical texts related to the great teacher by declaring “The world starts with me.” And Legalism is only a great ingredient for the recipe for dictatorships like Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Russia. Chinese communist dictator Mao Zedong even called Qin Shi Huangdi his “hero.”

In Chapter 19, Confucius talks about how corruption and mistrust of those in power will cause the people to oppose them. Especially if those people believe that they’re above the law in government. And if the unrest against the government grows large enough, it will result in them being overthrown and taken over by either a worse or better government. Examples of this happening include the American, French and Russian revolutions (Ames, Roger T., Rosemont Jr., Henry, pg. 80). Chapter 20 is much of the same explained in both chapters 1 and 3. But Confucius suggests a leader that has Virtue is the best kind of leader. Showing respect for your people, having pride and teaching the ones who are weaker (Ames, Roger T., Rosemont Jr., Henry, pg. 80).

In Chapter 23, Confucius explains how the rules of governing society can always be taken from one civilization to another without them being altered unrecognizably. “Confucius said, ‘The Yin Dynasty adapted the observances of ritual propriety (li) of the Xia Dynasty and how they altered them can be known. The Zhou adapted the observances of ritual propriety of the Yin, and how they altered them can be known. If there is a dynasty that succeeds the Zhou, even if it happens a hundred generations from now, the continuities and changes can be known” (Ames, Roger T., Rosemont Jr., Henry, pg. 81). So no matter how advanced one society will be compared to the previous one, the standard rules of society will almost always remain the same. Confucius also mentions in Book 3 Chapter 14 that the Zhou Dynasty had looked back at both the Xia and Shang dynasties (Ames, Roger T., Rosemont Jr., Henry, pg. 85).

Nowadays, it’s more about what a political leader says he will do or accomplish once he is elected into office in most democratic countries rather than the skill and/or intelligence of the person. For example, Donald Trump always said leading up to the 2016 Presidential Election that he was gonna “build a wall” on the border between America and Mexico to keep all of the Mexicans out who bring according to Trump, “They bring crime, drugs, rapists, etc.” Even though his statements weren’t always scientifically or politically correct, people always listened to what he said regardless. And not only that, but people sometimes like “a strong leader” to rule their country which is how most republicans view Trump. What I am trying to say is that Confucius’s idea about picking candidates for leadership is a little outdated and obsolete considering politics right now.

In Book 8 Chapter 13, it explains how a leader in office will always act properly in dire situations. In the case of a country that is in stable political condition, then poverty and illness are looked down upon. Compared to a poorly ran country, the rich and wealthy are seen as a problem with the government. A great leader just simply can’t dwell in a failing state, either they start to turn things around or they have to remove themselves from office; either by force by the people or voluntary by resignation (Ames, Roger T., Rosemont Jr., Henry, pg. 123). What is stated by Confucius in Chapter 21 in Book 2 when he responded to a question of why he wasn’t in a political office. He replied with that you would give up on everything you know and love just to solely focus on the job of leadership (Ames, Roger T., Rosemont Jr., Henry, pg. 80).

Most of Confucius’s ideas on Politics and Leadership seem to somewhat relevant with today. No matter what your top skill set is, the smartest, fastest or most quick thinking person in the world still cannot be President of the United States. When Confucius said that leaders should be viewed like a guide or role model, some leaders throughout history have used that idea probably to their sinister advantage. They would portray themselves as something more than a guide, like a god or deity that was sent down from heaven and was meant to rule. For example, Joseph Stalin created a cult of personality around himself during the years of his brutal purges. Stalin used this to his advantage to control the people of the U.S.S.R., and make them afraid to resist against their oppressor.

The sad truth about all of these concepts is that it is very easy for an bad person to be a worse leader, but harder for a good man to be an even greater leader. No leader in the world currently or throughout history has ever been perfect. A good government in Confucius’s eyes means that everyone does there job, even the ordinary citizens or families. Unfortunately, Confucius’s ideas were beginning to grow unpopular throughout China long before the Qin Dynasty.

And that goes back to my example with Donald Trump, China needed a strong leader rather than a democratic government; which is partially why China is what it is today. However I still think it can be possible to achieve the Dao even as a leader. Removing yourself from society is hard to do with that kind of responsibility but not impossible. All someone would have to do is seek for Virtue, to become a role model for every one of your citizens who look up to you.

How the Analects of Confucius and 20th and 21st Century Politics are Connected? essay

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How the Analects of Confucius and 20th and 21st Century Politics are Connected?. (2022, Jan 13). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/how-the-analects-of-confucius-and-20th-and-21st-century-politics-are-connected/


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