Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Not So Absolute Way for George Yeo

Less George, Less Yin for the PAP – Part 2
(Chinese Books that George read)

Judging from the Chinese books that George Yeo likes and read, it seems that he is traveling in a not so absolute way.

In his Facebook, George has clearly stated that he likes the phrase “道可道,非常道.” Lin Yu-tang translated this into “The Dao that can be told of is not the Absolute Dao.”  So, is George heading for a not so absolute way?  And so he needs time to seriously think about his Presidential ambition.
道可道,非常道” is also the first sentence of the first chapter of Laozi’s “Dao De Jing”, a favorite book of George. Not only Dao (Tao or the Way) can not be defined, so do Name. Dao is the highest order of philosophical Daoism and so there is no possibility to explain, describe and name it.   Let look at Chapter 1 of Dao De Jing:

1. On the Absolute Tao (translated by Lin Yu-tang)

The Tao that can be told of
Is not the Absolute Tao;
The Names that can be given
Are not Absolute Names.

The Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth;
The Named is the Mother of All Things.
Oftentimes, one strips oneself of passion
In order to see the Secret of Life;
Oftentimes, one regards life with passion,
In order to see its manifest forms.

These two (the Secret and its manifestations)
Are (in their nature) the same;
They are given different names
When they become manifest.
They may both be called the Cosmic Mystery:
Reaching from the Mystery into the Deeper Mystery
Is the Gate to the Secret of All Life.

Wikisource has another translation of Chapter 1, which seems easier to understand:

The Dao is able to be stated, but it is not the common Dao / stating;
[Its] name is able to be named, but it is not the common name / naming.
Wu is the beginning of the heaven and the earth;
Yu is the mother of all things.
Being always Wu is necessary, So do such can perceive its wonder;
Being always Yu is necessary, So do such can watch its border.
These two have the same origin, and they differ in name;
Both are called Xuan.
One Xuan plus another Xuan, are the sources of all wonders.

Wu (无)and You (有) – Nameless and Named

Dao is engaged in a journey of Nameless and Named or “haven’t and have”. Human beings may achieve Named (have) position, but spiritually, he or she still remain Nameless (haven’t). You may be rich but still feel emptiness.

Applying to economics, Singapore has achieved high GDP growth. However, we are not happy.

For philosophical Daoism, achieving internal satisfaction is more important then external or physical satisfaction. So, when George  attended the Cabinet meeting in the past, he was different from others and voiced out policies that would lead to internal dissatisfaction (of the people).

Perhaps, this is why Mr. Shanmugan commented that George was special, a unique person and even irreplaceable. Records of Cabinet meeting are not open to public, and so there is no way to prove it – the contribution of Yin elements from George.  However, other Cabinet members should have the fine memories of George’s input and were they taking this into consideration when they formulated strategies and implemented government policies?

From the Changes to the Way

In the previous blog, we discussed about Yin and Yang, i.e. changes (Yi Jing or I-Jing). Now, we move to Dao – the Way.  Laozi liked to emphasize Yin in problem solving, decision making and strategy formulating. Yin is like mother, like baby, like water, like weakness, like the lower class of the society, etc.

Laozi’s strategy is “step backward for the purpose of moving forward”.   He wants to withdraw (from the physical sense), reduce (desires and needs), and remove (unnecessary) so that the opposite side will underestimate the situation, becomes less aware and alert of the actual strength of his opponent.  Hence, stepping backward, being humble, being underclass, being poor is in fact in preparation of moving forward.

Laozi’s withdrawal principle is to teach people how to make use of “Wu” (Nameless, haven’t).  The “You” (Named, have) needs to sit on Wu to be Named (as compared to Nameless), to show the Have (as compared to haven’t).  Just imagine, you are rich because others are not rich; you are famous as others are not famous; you are scholars since others are not.

The Way to Create, Delete and the Computer

The basis programming is simple: 1 (posses, You) and 0 (emptiness, Wu).  From here, it gives birth to a compute.  To use the computer, internet, blog, Facebook, …. etc.  You need to create (1) and when there are too many rubbish, too many files, and they slow down your computer, you need to delete (0) the unnecessary, scan the computer for virus, re-format to make the computer moving faster.

Imagine a world that there is no deletion, no reduction, no withdrawal, and many other no(s), the world will become less efficient, less productive and less livable.  This is why there are too many rubbish in the internetDao is advising and suggesting the application of Wu.

You can keep on creating policies, rules and regulations. The more you create, the less space will make available for people to move about. For the past 50 years, the PAP has implemented many policies, changed the Constitution, introduced GRCs, elected President, etc. For Singapore to move forward, it is important to listen to Singaporeans on how to remove the unnecessary, to reduce the restrictions, and to free the press etc.

This is to prevent a crash on the computer. An occupied computer with full of useful and useless information and documentation is functionless computer.  A Singapore with full of necessary and unnecessary policies, rules and regulations will not function as well as the past.

The Art of War and Anti-War

Just a short note on another book, The Art of War that George likes.  Many people consider this book as a master of strategy. Few have realized that the book has its origin (or at least influenced by) from Dao De Jing.

Dao De Jing and the Art of War are both against war and anti war. They do not consider war as the best solution and if possible, the best option is to avoid war and seek peaceful settlement through negotiation, even with some sacrifices or forgoing own benefits.

War is only the last resort and even there is a war, those involved should prevent massive killings, casualty, and dead.  This is inline with the principle of withdrawal, reduction, and removes.

Free Spirit – Dao – the Way

When asked about his greatest regret in his last public news conference as Foreign Minister, George’s reply was philosophical: “Many people have asked me that question. To be very frank, that’s not the way my mind is constructed. It’s not the way I think.

“I’m a bit of a Taoist, so I tend to detach myself and see myself in a larger role. Things happen for a reason and we are part of bigger flows in life.” (

And about the running for President, his answer is also very philosophical.  In response to this, he laughed and said: “I’m flattered by all these proposals but I’m a free spirit. I don’t think my temperament is suited for such a job.”

By giving answers like ‘not the way my mind is constructed’; ‘a bit of Taoist’; and ‘free spirit’; can we summarize that George is adopting a ‘backward strategy’ and giving himself rooms to move forward?

Shall we conclude that this is another Not So Absolute Way for George?

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