Monday, September 5, 2011

The Art of Not Being Governed

Another look at the controversial book of that title about that "anarchistic region in Asia," which "encompasses parts of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Burma, as well as four provinces of China," whose "100 million residents are minority peoples" "who ended up in the hills... either escaping the state or driven out by it" — The Battle Over Zomia.

A summary of the author's thesis about what he calls "the largest remaining region of the world whose peoples have not yet been fully incorporated into nation-states" by The Chronicle of Higher Education's Ruth Hammond's review:
    Over the past two millennia, "runaway" communities have put the "friction of terrain" between themselves and the people who remained in the lowlands, he writes. The highland groups adopted a swidden agriculture system (sometimes known, pejoratively, as "slash and burn"), shifting fields from place to place, staggering harvests, and relying on root crops to hide their yields from any visiting tax collectors. They formed egalitarian societies so as not to have leaders who might sell them out to the state. And they turned their backs on literacy to avoid creating records that central governments could use to carry out onerous policies like taxation, conscription, and forced labor.
Coming to mind is the LVVth Chapter of the Tao Te Ching:
    In a little state with a small population, I would so order it,
    that, though there were individuals with the abilities of ten or a
    hundred men, there should be no employment of them; I would make the
    people, while looking on death as a grievous thing, yet not remove
    elsewhere (to avoid it).

    Though they had boats and carriages, they should have no occasion
    to ride in them; though they had buff coats and sharp weapons, they
    should have no occasion to don or use them.

    I would make the people return to the use of knotted cords (instead
    of the written characters).

    They should think their (coarse) food sweet; their (plain) clothes
    beautiful; their (poor) dwellings places of rest; and their common
    (simple) ways sources of enjoyment.

    There should be a neighbouring state within sight, and the voices
    of the fowls and dogs should be heard all the way from it to us, but I
    would make the people to old age, even to death, not have any
    intercourse with it.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home