Sunday, March 22, 2020

Confucianism's Ideal Society

In East Asia, Confucianism is a powerful force in society. This recent issue of the Catholic Times gives the readers an understanding of this underlying philosophy. Pastoral work needs to remember this.

The culture contains the traditional values, social order, and lifestyle of the region. East Asia has been widely influenced by Chinese culture in its long history. Therefore, understanding Chinese culture is a prerequisite for evangelization.

Confucianism considers the following of sound thinking (right reason) as important: distinguishing among the different responsibilities in society, maintaining public order in pursuit of harmony. Even concerning the king, reasonableness comes first. A desire for 'Great Unity'.

'Great Unity' (Dadong) is the ideal society—the prehistoric society to which they desire to return. Society needs to follow the 'tao', understood as the natural law, and when we live the 'tao' we are practicing virtue.

In the words of Confucius, a society of 'Great Unity' seeks to select people, who are kind, capable, honest and are willing to work together harmoniously. They do not seek group self-interest for their own family or friends: they respect the old, are ready to hire young people, and have concern for the raising of children. They take care of lonely people and provide support for the sick. Men have jobs that fit them, and women have a proper spouse. Wealth is plentiful, not stored; ability not used selfishly, so we have few thieves. No need to lock the doors; we call this society (Dadong) 'Great Unity'.

This ideal of Confucian society became a common political ideal of later generations. This 'Great Unity' is a world where there is no distinction between nation, race, and class, and a society where people of all classes are respected. This is still the utopian dream.

Meanwhile, Confucianism also refers to the society of (Sogang) 'Small Tranquility'. In a 'Sogang' society, rank and class, rich and poor still exist and each is concerned with their own needs. The ideal  'Dadong' society is still far distant. However, to create a more feasible ideal society, we need to create a 'Sogang' society that considers reality first.

Consequently, to stabilize society we need social distinctions for without them society will soon be confused but at the same time making sure that all people in all relationships are united. To do so, care must be taken to ensure that all policies are in line with public sentiment; when this is the case, relations between the classes are harmonious. As such, the 'Sogang' society in which each group coexists, despite the classification and distinctions lives in harmony with all the others.

The 'Great Unity' was the prehistoric society we have lost. It was the society of our ancestors. A utopia that we continue to seek; the 'Tranquil Society' is the step before this is achieved; still a supposed ideal of Communist China. We have similarities with our own Christian vision of the world.

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