When governing is lacklustre
The people are simple and honest
When governing is scrutinizing
The people are shrewd and crafty
Misfortune is what fortune depends upon
Fortune is where misfortune hides beneath
Who knows their ultimate end?
They have no determined outcome.
Rightness reverts to become strange
Goodness reverts to become wicked.
The confusion of people
has lasted many long days
Therefore the sages are:
Righteous without being scathing
Incorruptible without being piercing
Straightforward without being ruthless
Illuminated without being flashy
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 58
Translation by Derek Lin
Taoism is an extremely ancient Chinese philosophical system - the Tao Te Ching was written around 600BC - much beloved of Thomas Merton, who produced an interpretation of another great Taoist text, Zhuangzi, named after its author, writing in the 4th century BC.
As an aside, Taoism is not in any sense contradictory to Christian belief, a fact which is recognised by most contemporary Taoists. It is a living philosophy, not a religion, as has repeatedly been pointed out from the Tao Te Ching on: its metaphysical views are strikingly in accord with the Christian account of creation; its ethics, and its teaching on simplicity, share many things with the teachings of Jesus... and hence with the Franciscan way!
I just wish our Western governments would read this passage, and live by it! "When governing is scrutinizing / The people are shrewd and crafty" - isn't this just what we see around us every day? Lacklustre government is the last thing the spin doctors would ever wish to see, but it may well be the only way to a world of simple and honest folk!