The essay ‘Horse’s Hoofs’ by Chuangtse(c.335-c.275) is given in part here below.
Horses have hoofs to carry them over frost and snow and hair to protect them from wind and cold. They eat grass and drink water, and fling up their tails and gallop. Such is the real nature of horses. Ceremonial halls and big dwellings are of no use to them.
One day Polo(Sun Yang 658-619 BC-a legendary horse trainer) appeared, saying,’I am good at managing horses.” So he burned their hair and clipped them, and pared their hoofs and branded them. He put halters around their necks and shackles around their legs and numbered them according to their stables. The result was that two or three in every ten died. Then he kept them hungry trotting them and galloping them, and taught them to run in formations, with the misery of the tasseled bridle in front and the fear of the knotted whip behind, until more than half of them died.
The potter says,’ I am good at managing clay. If I want it round,I use compasses;if rectangular a square.” The carpenter says,” I am good at managing wood. If I want it curved,I use an arc; if straight, a line”. But on what grounds can we think that nature of clay and wood desires this application of compasses and square, and arc and line? Nevertheless every age extols Polo for his skill in training horses, and potters and carpenters for their skill with clay and wood. Those who govern the affairs of the empire make the same mistake.
I think one who knows how to manage the empire should not do so. For the people have certain natural instincts-to weave and clothe themselves, to till the fields, and feed themselves. This is their common character, in which all share. Such instincts may be called ‘heaven- born’. So in the days of perfect nature, men were quiet in their movements and serene in their looks…. For in the days of perfect nature, man lived together with birds and beasts , and there was no distinction ..who could know of the distinction..? Being all equally without knowledge, their virtue would not go astray. Being all equally without desires, they were in a state of natural integrity. In this state of natural integrity, the people did not lose their (original) nature…’
This essay becomes all the more relevant when we consider the Human Rights abuses record of the Chinese regime. When man has lost his integrity he needs controls. And who applies controls but those who are as clueless as the governed? This is a vicious circle into which abuse of power is added because of the fear and certainly is a direct result of power wrongly applied. Fear of the rulers is that their ignorance may be seen through so they apply the whip all the more harshly. At least these ignoramuses know those who are smarting from the whiplashes cannot think straight or see as they might in a calm and settled mind would. The sage of recent memory albeit a fool, who spoke of perpetual revolution merely rephrased the fear of every megalomaniac that he will be found out