“The ruler must not reveal his desires; for if he reveals his desires his ministers will put on the mask that pleases him.” —Han Fei Tzu, chapter 5, translated by Burton Watson
The ruling masses must not reveal their desires; for if they reveal their desires, their representatives will put on masks to please them.
The representatives will not fear the masses, and they will manipulate them with great ease, for knowledge of a people’s desires gives cunning men the means to control them.
The masses will fear their representatives, for they will sense that they know only the masks.
They will vote in ignorance, for they will not vote for a man, but for a mask.
The difficulty which the ruling masses must overcome to gain power over their representatives is immense beyond comprehension.
A wise monarch who guides the state by his own will may wear a mask. He may keep his ministers, the elites, and his people in suspense, for they will not know his desires.
Not knowing which masks to wear, they will reveal their true talents, their true faults, and their true desires to him.
But the very principle by which republics function renders concealing desires almost impossible for the ruling masses.
They must announce their will. They must choose representatives, and they must tell those representatives what they want them to do.
Soon, the representatives exploit the desires of the masses.
They tell the masses what it is that they must do to obtain those desires. They become the source of satisfaction.
In this way, republics sow the seeds of the destruction of their own freedoms.
About Stan Szczesny
Several years ago, I walked by Encyclopedia Britannica’s “Great Books of the Western World” set and realized that I was about to graduate from college without having read any of the authors listed there. So I dropped out of school and set a goal to read all of those books. The goal took eight years.
Now, I’m moving forward. I drive a 1976 van. I have a wife and 4 children under the age of 7. We don’t have much, but we stay happy talking about Francis Bacon and Confucius.
You can connect with me by reading my Great Books blog.