道 經 與 聖 經

Early Dao and Sage Dao
(Daojing and Shengjing )

A much earlier and significantly different version of my work,
from before I had seen the Guodian text: A Stratification of Laozi,
Journal of Chinese Religions, Vol. 23, No. 1, 1995, pp. 1-28.

The most important difference between my translation of the Daodejing and all earlier versions is that I divide the Daodejing into two parts, Early Dao and Sage Dao, which roughly represent the earlier and the later stages of the development of the text (though there might be some overlap). This division required the extensive rearrangement of the chapters of the Daodejing and the division of a number them.

Continue reading “道 經 與 聖 經”

Yang Dao

Yang Dao, the first of the 13 groups into which I have divided the Daodejing, develops ideas derived from or related to the ideas of 楊朱 Yang Zhu, a legendary sage who probably lived (or whose works appeared) sometime not too long before before 350 BC . This group consists of chapters 13, 24, 30, 31, 44, and 46. Of these, I think that chapters 13, 30, and 31 are the earliest and represent the Yangist origins of the Daodejing. These chapters are clumsily put together and textually difficult, with sometimes-opaque maxims accompanied by multiple attempts at elucidation. In particular, the early texts of chapter 30 vary widely, and I think that we can conclude that the final editors of the Daodejing inherited in these three chapters in garbled, very early forms which they tried to fix. These chapters might be words of the earliest Yangists, or even of Yang Zhu himself, and despite their textual problems, their general idea anti-militarist, anti-pride message is clear enough.

Skip James and the Fed’s Killing Floor

Skip James and the Federal Reserve’s Killing Floor

Sometime before 1990 I was reading a story about how industry was having so much trouble finding workers that companies were sending buses to inner city Milwaukee to pick up workers who didn’t have transportation. Heartwarming! Capitalism works!

But elsewhere in that same issue there was a different story about a meeting where a group of bankers worried about overheating and inflation, and concluded that interest rates must be raised. This is the Federal Reserve’s killing floor.

One thing all this shows is the way that economic issues and race issues are closely related and not mutually exclusive. If some group is going to be sacrificed every time the Fed turns the spigot, it makes sense for them to be people that no one else else cares about. Black Americans.

Daniel Kato, “Liberalizing Lynching”

Liberalizing Lynching

But this subtlety of accommodating something that was anything but subtle reveals the dark side of constitutional flexibility. If it is the case that “Our Constitution is so simple and practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by changes of emphasis and arrangement without loss of essential form”, then what exactly is the point of having a Constitution?”

Daniel Kato’s book Liberalizing Lynching describes the way the Supreme Court allowed the Fourteenth Amendment (1866) to be suspended in the Southern states for the greater part of a century (1877-1965). Lynch-mob justice came to be accepted as normal in about a third of the US, and black Americans in the old Confederacy lost their voting rights, their right to the protection of the laws, their right to a fair trial, and their access to education.

Kathleen Pistor, “The Code of Capital”

The Code of Capital

Pistor’s book shows how the law, in various ways, has been tweaked to favor the biggest businessmen and often leaves everone else holding the bag. Poeple in general do not think of the law and the courts as enemies, but there are good reasons why they should.

Contracts and property rights support free markets, but capitalism requires more – the legal privileging of some assets, which gives their holders a comparative advantage in accumulating wealth over others. Not all assets are equal; the ones with superior legal coding tend to be “more equal” than others.

Not the asset itself, but its legal coding, protects the asset holder from the headwinds of ordinary business cycles and gives his wealth longevity, therefore setting the stage for sustained inequality. Fortunes can be made or lost by altering an asset’s legal coding.

Today’s entrepreneurs no longer need to seek redress at home, and the fate of their wealth is no longer tied to the communities they have left behind. Instead, they can choose among many legal systems whichever one they prefer, and can enjoy its benefits even without physically moving themselves.

(All citations from Pistor.)

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Post-decadent Novel “This Side of Paradise”

F Scott. Fitzgerald’s Post-decadent Novel “This Side of Paradise”

This Side of Paradise is usually understood in terms of its present and future future (the Jazz Age / Lost Generation) but it is also illuminating to look at it in terms of its past. The voluminous reading lists comprising Amory Blaine’s literary education show us this book’s literary background in detail, and authors of the decadent tradition are found on these lists from the very beginning.  Along with Midwestern  Catholicism, it is the decadence he inherits from his mother that gives Amory a feeling of otherness that plagues him  throughout the book.

People, the Devil, and Mirrors in Fitzgerald’s “This Side of Paradise”


People, the Devil, and Mirrors in Fitzgerald’s “This Side of Paradise”

Amory / Fitzgerald was superstitious and guilt-ridden and believed in the real presence of ghosts and the devil. He was stagey and narcissistic and acutely aware of staginess in others. Imagination was central to him as an escape from Philistines, Pharisees, the bourgeois, smelly immigrants, and People, and he was acutely aware of good and bad smells. Amory / Fitzgerald was simultaneously upwardly and downwardly mobile, and like everyone else in the America of that time, he had an obsession with success, though he did not value it entirely positively.He was acutely aware the succession of generations and promoted himself as one of the inventors of youth culture.

20th century America

[From the archives]

Sigmund Freud’s shadow hung over the Twentieth Century like a dark storm cloud. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ditzy 1920 heroines were “hip to Freud” , and it was Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays who invented the science of public relations which rules us today. During WWI Bernays — along with the two other PR founders, Rockefeller press agent Ivy Lee and the neoliberal philosopher and pamphleteer Walter Lippmann — was in charge of manipulating a reluctant populace into accepting the war (with the help of the usual contingent of jackbooted thugs). From this came the American dream of world domination in the service of freedom and virtue.

After the war Ivy Lee worked for the Nazis, while Bernays worked to gain the right to smoke cigarettes for the beaten-down women of Puritan America, who were never allowed to have any fun.   As for Lippmann, already the brains behind the New Republic tabloid, he became one of the  elder statesmen of the American media and of the Democratic Party and one of the founders of neoliberalism. He convinced the Democratic powers that the general public is a mindless mass, and a detriment to wise governance which only responds to gimmicks and buzzwords. And finally, in 1956, Ivy Lee’s nephew William Burroughs revolutionized American literature and showed us America as it really is. (Burroughs got his cynicism from the source).

That’s a lot of culture to pack into 40 years, and everything you need to know is right there. Various other Americans were once thought to have been culturally important in some way, but in the long haul none of them amounted to a hill of beans.

“Arise, you sons of bitches”

Robert Walburn, Miles Lord

Federal Judge Miles Lord is preparing his closing statement on the Dalkon shield case (as reported by his secretary):

He meets me in chambers Saturday morning to work on the draft. I listen to his recording: “Rise, you sons of bitches….” The judge looks at me. “Maybe we should tone it down a bit”, I offer.