A civilizing mission


Confucius wanted to live among the nine barbarian tribes of the East. Someone said: “It’s wild there. How would you cope?” Confucius said: “How could it be wild once a leader goes to live there?”

No doubt his motives were honorable, but Confucius sounds insufferably arrogant in his assumption that he can “civilize” the barbarians merely by going to live with them and showing how they should conduct themselves.

Despite his bluster, Confucius never accomplished his noble mission (though he did have more than a handful of hairy moments in the wilds of China during his exile from his home state of Lu). Perhaps he was leery of actually putting his theory to the test.

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