Understanding Confucian Societies

‘Not by Reason Alone’ seems to be the guiding principle of the Legalist who, as has been traditionally the case, turns the debilitating socio-psychological consequences of living in an Orwellian state into ‘culture’ and relies on cultural pride delivered by economic success as reason enough. In that, the Legalist at least has a refuge wherein s/he can continue to feel good about herself, post-perspectival lobotomisation, in the face of the thus-intellectual superiority of the western other.

I have briefly alluded to the ‘Confucianisation’ of the United Kingdom in a previous observation, but I thought a dedicated article for this would be appropriate to focus on what this entails in its core aspects.

Firstly, I must state that whilst this term has been associated with east Asian civilisation, it must be noted that one does not have to be an east Asian to be a ‘Confucian’, nor does one have to be a ‘Confucian’ to be east Asian. Rather, ‘Confucianism’ is appreciated as a system of governance that is not dissimilar to the alienation-inducing capitalist ethos, or the Protestant Work Ethic discussed by Max Weber in ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’.

Briefly, a ‘Confucian’ society is quite the misnomer. ‘Confucian’ is the sleight of hand of elites running ‘Confucian’ societies as it focuses on popular and relatively innocuous culture whilst distracting one’s attention from its underlying ‘Legalist’ foundations that actually determines which aspects of Confucianism are relevant for the support of Legalist agenda. Hence, it would be more accurate to terms such societies, Legalist or Legalist-Confucian societies.

Legalism, in essence, believes that humans are naturally selfish creatures; ought to be controlled by a system of reward and punishment; and that people are generally a ‘means’. The pervasive notion underlying Legalism views government as the business of the elite or professional politicians, and which, as a corollary, requires blind subservience on the part of the population. But Legalism is not without its pragmatism. It does realise that the minimum that is required by a government is the provision of an economic milieu wherein the people can meet with varying degrees of economic success. However, how this diverges from western civilisation is that the people are not allowed to expect this at governmental expense by way of welfarism, unions, demonstrations, or any efforts to extract resources from them that cannot be acquired via ‘self-help’ strategies. This, economically, provides their respective governments with the requisite resources to circumvent the economic consequences of popular intellectual docility by way of buying up foreign capital and importing ‘foreign talent’ produced by non-Confucian societies.

Confucianism can be appreciated as the supportive mechanism that trains the people at the popular level to be accustomed to the overarching Legalist ethos. For instance, it stipulates ‘cultivated’ proprieties promoting subservience to authority at all levels from the familial to the social and work arena. Unquestioning traditionalism, conformity and uniformity are some of the key aspects of this popular culture that in turn serves to prepare the individual to not deem anything amiss in the face of the supreme rulers.

The third and essential component of ‘Confucian’ societies is that of Taoism and other supernatural, spiritual, or cultural implements that enable the population to complement their economic aspirations and political condition with vicarious efforts at ‘self-determination’. For instance, good luck charms, symbolism, feng shui, lucky numbers/words, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, gambling, amongst a host of others serve as compensatory, recuperative and self-determinational devices which comprise the self-help ethos of ‘Confucian’ societies that serve to undermine political and collective pragmatism amongst its victims-then-practitioners.

Such societies are marked with empathetic and intellectual decrepitude as, on the one hand, people can’t afford to be empathetic as the most obvious means by which unquestioned top-down pressures are contended with is via opportunism and its supportive corollary, apathy. Additionally, as popular empathy has a way of transitioning to politically expressed empathy, and as this has been frowned upon by Legalist governments for more than 2 millennia, the evolution of culture necessarily led to its containing practices that evidences the contraction of empathy to include little other than the self or the family unit Hence, it is not surprising that, for instance, the Chinese New Year sees gambling as a traditional pastime where monies are extracted from one’s ‘friends’ and ‘neighbours’; or people pushing against each other to be the first to place their fortune-inducing joss-sticks in temple urns at the stroke of midnight; prayers for luck and fortune; reliance on lucky numbers and zodiac animals to bring in the wealth; giving of oranges that symbolise gold; amongst others. Whilst some of these practices may seem ‘exotic’ or ‘quaint’ to the culturally magnanimous western eye, it comes at the price of not appreciating the Legalist foundations for these practices and its evidencing popular political failure.

With the relegation of popular and democracy-inducing empathy to the dustbin of ‘western culture not ours’ by Legalist societies, and the growing emergence of ‘Asian democracy’ vs. ‘western democracy’ conceptions in east or easternised Asia amongst its intelligentsia, one can say that moral development amongst the victims of such societies exists within legal boundaries. In other words, empathy gives way to economic pragmatism which manifests itself in terms of ruthless competition, popular mutual opportunism, and apathy. This is exacerbated by the critical faculty being compromised by traditionalism and required subservience in the face of authority, and the empathetic propensity that is compromised by its not being allowed expression in the political sphere unless it abides by governmental proscriptions that are structured to maintain its continuing rule.

In essence, the Legalist belief in the selfish nature of humanity enabled them to make the most of the said ‘selfishness’ by constructing a pervasive system that enabled its elite and self-aggrandizing expressions without compromising their interests or causing social self-destruction. As a corollary, other cultural practices could be said to have emerged as compensatory, recuperative and self-determinational by-products that served to symbiotically maintain the system that led to its emergence. Hence, the said belief in the selfish nature of humanity can be said to be a self-fulfilling prophecy that bode well for the interests of what inevitably led to its state-capitalist evolutionary end.

However, with time, the allegation that such states aren’t democratic becomes false as the people are reduced to little more than economic and self-serving units whom would have no use for the thus-defined, ‘western democracy’ and its ‘chaotic’ demonstrations, civil rights, and other ‘western’ frivolities. It has been said that ‘Confucianism’ is not a religion, but the evolution, or diminution, of the victims of such societies does indeed turn it into a matter of faith as difference is discounted purely on the basis of difference – such as ‘western democracy’ being a ‘western thing’….which is not dissimilar to the stance of the adherents of various faiths, whom, whilst tolerating other faiths, don’t see any reason for taking on their precepts.

A good and recent example may be observed in quite an amusing article written by a member of the ‘PAP Youth’ of the verifiably fascist state of Singapore, or the oriental version of the ‘Hitler Jugend’, where he criticised local (but quite similarly fascist) activists (as they are generally seeking more rights for a racially-defined and elevated ‘majority’) as ‘devotees of western democracy and human rights’. It is by ‘faith’ and ‘familiarity’ that is to be found the distinction between religion and ideology. ‘Not by Reason Alone’ seems to be the guiding principle of the Legalist who, as has been traditionally the case, turns the debilitating socio-psychological consequences of living in an Orwellian state into ‘culture’ and relies on cultural pride delivered by economic success as reason enough. In that, the Legalist at least has a refuge wherein s/he can continue to feel good about herself post-lobotomisation in the face of thus-intellectual superiority of the western other. And in that, one can appreciate how this Mephistophelean east Asian faith, supported by the Holy Trinity of Legalism, Confucianism and Taoism, or putting in another way, the Father, Son, and the dubitably Holy Ghost, has elevated fascism as faith.