Saturdao 5

Dao De Jing, verse 3a
James Legge (1891):
Not to value and employ men of superior ability is the way to keep the people from rivalry among themselves;
not to prize articles which are difficult to procure is the way to keep them from becoming thieves;
not to show them what is likely to excite their desires is the way to keep their minds from disorder.
Archie Bahm (1958):
If no distinctions of superiority and inferiority prevail among officers, they will devote themselves to their tasks rather than to rivalries with one another.
If no special value is placed upon rare things, one will have no incentive for stealing them.
If nothing appears to arouse envy, one will remain satisfied with things as they are.
Frank MacHoven (1962):
Leaders should not seek power or status; people will not then crave power or status. If scarce goods are not valued highly, people will have no need to steal them. If there is nothing available to arouse passion, people will remain content and satisfied.
D.C. Lau (1963)
Not to honor men of worth will keep the people from contention;
not to value goods which are hard to come by will keep them from theft;
not to display what is desirable will keep them from being unsettled of mind.
Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English (1972):
Not exalting the gifted prevents quarreling.
Not collecting treasures prevents stealing.
Not seeing desirable things prevents confusion of the heart.
Stan Rosenthal (1984):
“Without Seeking Acclaim”
By retaining his humility, the talented person who is also wise, reduces rivalry.
The person who possesses many things but does not boast of his possessions,
reduces temptation, and reduces stealing.
Those who are jealous of the skills or things possessed by others,
most easily themselves become possessed by envy.
Satisfied with his possessions, the sage eliminates the need to steal;
at one with the Tao, he remains free of envy,
and has no need of titles.
By being supple, he retains his energy.
He minimizes his desires, and does not train himself in guile, nor subtle words of praise.
By not contriving he retains the harmony of his inner world,
and so remains at peace within himself.
Jacob Trapp (1987):
In government let the aim be
Less envious rivalry
For place and reward;
Less conniving and scheming
For things falsely valued;
Less over-stimulation of desire
Through noise, glitter and display.
Stephen Mitchell (1988):
If you overesteem great men,
people become powerless.
If you overvalue possessions,
people begin to steal.
Victor Mair (1990):
Not exalting men of worth prevents the people from competing;
Not putting high value on rare goods prevents the people from being bandits;
Not displaying objects of desire prevents the people from being disorderly.
Michael LaFargue (1992):
Not promoting the wise and worthy brings it about that the people are not contentious.
Not prizing goods hard to come by brings it about that the people do not become thieves.
Not paying attention to the desirable brings it about that the people's minds do not become disordered.
Peter Merel (1995):
“Without Action”
Not praising the worthy prevents contention,
Not esteeming the valuable prevents theft,
Not displaying the beautiful prevents desire.
Ursula LeGuin (1997):
Not praising the praiseworthy keeps people uncompetitive.
Not prizing rare treasures keeps people from stealing.
Not looking at the desirable keeps the mind quiet.
Ron Hogan (2002):
If you toss compliments around freely,
people will waste your time
trying to impress you.
If you give things too much value,
you're going to get ripped off.
If you try to please people,
you'll just make them pissed.
Roger T. Ames and David L. Hall (2003):
Not promoting those of superior character
Will save the common people from becoming contentious.
Not prizing property that is hard to come by
Will save them from becoming thieves.
Not making a show of what might be desired
Will save them from becoming disgruntled.
Yasuhiko Genku Kimura (2004)
When the learned is not over esteemed,
There will not be unnecessary competition amongst people.
When the treasure is not over-valued,
There will not be acts of stealing amongst people.
When we do not show people things that stir up their wants,
Their minds will not be disturbed.
Stephen Adddiss and Stanley Lombardo (2007)
Don’t glorify heroes,
And people will not contend.
Don’t treasure rare objects,
And no one will steal.
Don’t display what people desire,
And their hearts will not be disturbed.

Are we talking about not glorifying certain others -- leaders, the talented, heroes, whom we would be tempted to glorify? Or are we talking about not glorifying ourselves? It's easy to say, "both," but which is it that the text is actually emphasizing? In MacHoven and Rosenthal, the text seems to be speaking directly to the talented leader and recommending humility. In all the others, the text is talking to the government, or us, and recommending not exalting these others who happen to have talents. When it comes to humility, the Western approach has been to counsel development of this virtue in ourselves (no, really, it does; I know there's a lot in U.S. culture that encourages self-promotion, but the West also has a long and deep strain of encouragement to humility), while giving praise and recognition to others. In the Dao De Jing, we encounter a voice saying, don't reward or praise anyone. Let there be no distinctions of rank or status. What, none? Is this sort of equality possible?

In my days of green and rabid idealism -- the days when I first discovered the Dao De Jing -- I said yes, complete equality is possible. In freshman anthropology class, I argued with the professor who said that only in cultures at subsistence is there equality, that surplus is always unequally distributed. All the evidence was on his side, all the unrealistic hope on mine. Yet here is our clue: surplus. In the way of the Dao, there is no surplus.
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