Tango is not only a fascinating dance, but also a fascinating philosophy, culture, and lifestyle. The pursuit of tango is the pursuit of connection, love, unity, beauty, harmony and humanity, i.e., an idealism that is not consistent with the dehumanizing reality of the modern world. The world divides us as individuals, but tango unites us as a people and species. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc., but interconnected and interdependent members of the human family. Tango calls us to tear down the walls, to build bridges, and to regain humanity through connection, cooperation, reconciliation and compromise. It is a dance that teaches the world to love.

December 16, 2014

The Freedom in Tango

The freedom in tango is not that of the part in a lower sense, but that of the whole in a higher sense. 

In our society, many people think of freedom as such: Every human being is an independent individual with certain unalienable rights conferred to him/her by the Creator, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Since happiness is the motivation of each individual person, competing with others for self-interests is justifiable from one's own perspective. The purpose of government is to protect such personal interests and to secure everyone's rights to pursue self-interests and to compete with others. Education is designed to empower individuals so that they may succeed in the competition, concerning little about the interests of people as a whole and the cooperation among people. Economics aims at stimulating growth by promoting competition and consumption, disregarding that the natural resources are shared by all people and need to be exploited wisely and utilized prudently, the cooperation among people, and the fair distribution of wealth, etc. Politicians are more concerned about the special interests that they represent than environmental protection, ecological balance, rational use of natural resources, fair distribution of wealth, social harmony, public good, and other things relating to the common interests of all people. 

This civilization, based on self-interests, competition, predatory development, and irrational consumption, is facing grave crisis. On the one hand is the unchecked greed, on the other is the depleting natural resources. On the one hand is the extravagant lifestyle and tremendous waste, on the other is the deteriorating environment. On the one hand is the surge in GDP, on the other is the increasing inequality. On the one hand is the exorbitant wealth of a few, on the other is the struggles of many, etc. Obviously, the theoretical foundation of our civilization has serious flaws. It created only a tiny minority of winners but a vast majority of losers. It does not give enough consideration on coexistence, equality, fairness, cooperation, and sharing(See Tango Is the Search of a Dream.)

The Declaration of Independence states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, - That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." 

It seems to me that we need to take a long hard look at these words. Do we understand their meaning truthfully? Should we decide to change the foundation upon which our society was meant to be built by the Constitution? Because it turns out, the individualistic interpretation has not brought, nor will it bring the safety and happiness that most people are seeking for. (See Tango and the Outlook on Life.)

When tango was imported, few Americans realized that a new idea was introduced. In contrast to individualismtango does not see man as an independent individual, but as a part of the whole in an interdependent, cooperative and complementary relationship with others. Without the latter the former is not complete regardless of how important he/she is from his/her own perspective. In tango, the dancers can only perform well when they cooperate with each other, and only in such cooperation can each individual person enjoy the maximum joy. The success, therefore, is not that of any single individual alone, but that of the team as a whole. The two partners are not in a relationship of competition, control, power struggle or taking advantage of each other, but that of love, submission, collaboration and complement. Resting in his arms, surrendering to him, feeling his masculine strength, following his lead without worry, savoring his attention, enjoying his protection, sharing his emotions and creativity, moving rhythmically with him in harmony, and letting her femininity display to meet and attract him, these to the woman mean security, pleasure, and realization of her value as a woman. On the other hand, being with her, winning her trust, enjoying her femininity, affection, obedience and seduction, feeling her soft body twisting in his arms, pampering her, protecting her and displaying her feminine beauty, these to the man mean comfort, pleasure, and realization of his value as a man. Tango brings men and women back to their original state, where the two sexes are in a destined fellowship, where there are no calculations of gains and losses, no exchanges of money and power, no worldly concerns, no self-interests involved, only the simple joy and satisfaction of being together, and where all Cinderellas and Quasimodos enjoy the treatment and freedom of a royalty. 

Happiness is an inner harmony and contentment. (See The Psychology of Tango and The Conceptional Beauty of Tango.) Individualism, materialism, competition, and power struggle are destructive of that end. What is regarded as virtuous in tango is love, intimacy, mutual submission and cooperation. Although tango does not involve economic activities and wealth distributions, as an action of cooperation its joy is shared. This principle can be extended to other aspects of life as well. What is not based on self-interests does not submit to the control of the invisible hand of capital and greed. We can logically infer that wealth can be distributed fairly to allow all who participated in its creation to share, rather than being hogged by a few. Just like the victory of a sport team is resulted from the cooperation of all the players, so the honor is given to all team members rather than just the ones who scored. Shareholding, therefore, seems to be a better way of distribution than minimum wages.

How we see ourselves decides how we organize our political, economic, social and cultural lives. Jean-Jacques Rousseau said, "Man is born free, yet everywhere he is in chains." We created our own chains. We must also be unchained by ourselves. Unfortunately, our civilization has not yet evolved to that stage, I am afraid, as evidenced again by the recent report on tortures, etc. To be a free people, we must first understand what that means. (See Tango and Equality.) There is still a long way before we truly gain freedom - the freedom that is stated in the Declaration of Independence. I can only hope that tango will help to gear up that process. (See The World Needs a Different Philosophy.)