Do something? Anything? Even if it’s the wrong thing?

“[Stillwell] had been struck by the Taoist motto on the virtues on inaction which he had copied down from an example in the Great Audience Hall of the Forbidden City. Only the first two characters for Wu Wei, or ‘Do nothing,’ were given there, leaving the Chinese viewer to add mentally, ‘and all things will be done.’ Deciding that ‘Do nothing’ exemplified the Chinese character, Stillwell concluded, ‘They are constitutionally averse to influencing events.’ Though there were increasing exceptions to this proposition, his finding represented a fact of life in the Orient that made for infinite impatience among Westerners, as Kipling noted when he wrote the epitaph, ‘A fool lies here who tried to hustle the East.’ By contrast, Europeans and their American descendants had been driven by the impulse to change the unsatisfactory, to act, to move away from oppression, to find the frontier, to cross the sea. They were optimists who believed in the efficacy of action. The people of China, on the other hand, had stayed in one place, enclosed by a series of walls, around house and village or city. Tied to the soil, living under the authority of the family, growing their food among the graves of their ancestors, they were perpetuators of a system in which harmony was more important than struggle.” – Barbara Tuchman, Stillwell and the American Experience in China

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