Tango is not only a fascinating dance but also a fascinating philosophy, culture and lifestyle. The search of tango is the search 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 community and people. 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.

October 28, 2016

Meeting in the Middle

For many, life is good. For many others, it is not. We live in our own realities. But the fact is, as Guy de Maupassant wrote in his 1883 novel A Woman's Life, "Life is never as good or as bad as one thinks."

"I think, therefore I am." (Discourse on the Method by Rene Descartes.) In order to think there must be a thinking entity, the self. Human cognition is biased by personal experiences, thus tends to be partial and rabid. Truth often lies in between two opposite views. For this reason, Confucius argues that the gentlemen's approach to life is to take a mean course, or to meet in the middle. (See How You Dance Matters.)

Meeting in the middle is not only a method of thinking or approach to life. It is also a civilized way to resolve a conflict. Opposite parties insisting on having their own ways can be stalled, unable to reach an agreement. But if they are willing to meet in the middle, they become less divided and more united. A compromised deal may not be as good as either party would like, but it is a common ground for them to move forward. In fact, that is how nature works. The black tulip does not come from the original parent plants overnight, but through a series of small improvements or compromises over generations, as Alexandre Dumas wrote in his 1850 novel The Black Tulip. Politicians often fight for a one-time deal. In actuality progress is a process. You move an inch through a compromise, then move another inch through another compromise. You probably will never get all you want. But everyone will be better off if they all agree to move forward by meeting in the middle.

The result is something better, the black tulip. Aristotle said, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." When individual parts are united, it creates a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual effects. You can easily break individual sticks, but you cannot break them when they are tied together. Logically, the whole is the sufficient condition of its part, but the reverse is not true. In other words, what is good for the society benefits all, but what is good for an individual does not necessarily benefit the society. Individualism is erroneous as a methodology. It is also antidemocratic as an ideology, because it acts in accordance with the law of the jungle. (See Tango and Individualism.) Those who insist on having their own way and refuse to take the concerns of others into account are tyrants. A democracy formed by such individuals does not work, as proven by the increasing polarization, hostility, uninhibitedness, uncooperativeness, aggression and lawlessness in American society.

If we still hold "all men are created equal" to be a self-evident truth, if we still believe a united, cooperative and harmonious society is in the best interests of all its citizens, if we still need each other, and if we do not want to be disregarded by others, then we must take others into account and not insist on having our own way. A democracy is government by people, not strong individuals. It is based on the cooperation of the people, not on antagonism and sabotage. It aims at the balance, harmony and well-being of all, not the self-interests of a few. It follows the Golden Rule, not law of the jungle. It requires us to resolve conflicts through compromise, not guns and force. A democracy must educate its people on its principles. If we believe these to be true, then meeting in the middle is the sensible, practical and civil attitude we must have in our approach to each other, the approach of tango. I must say, right now we are not doing very well in our politics, and in our dance. 

October 9, 2016

Tango and Individualism

We all assume certain roles in life. Husband and wife, father and mother, president and vice president, center forward and linebacker, leader and follower, etc., are all different roles. (See The Gender Roles in Tango.) One must act in compliance with one's role in order to live and work together with others as a group or team. Acting in excess of one's role often is the cause of a failed partnership, whether in marriage, family, politics, sports, or tango.

Not only so, we also need to be agreeable with each other in order to function as a team. If team members are disagreeable with each other, they cannot work in unison for the same cause. For this reason, agreeableness was once regarded as an important virtue. People may have personal interests and personal opinions, but as members of a team they must think from the vantage point of the group and be empathetic, overcome their own ego, seek common ground and be willing to compromise, regarding them as a part of the whole that is bigger and more important than themselves. (See Pluralism vs. Monism.)

But, when individualism becomes the dominant philosophy in a society where everyone thinks of himself or herself as the most important, that is no longer the case. In today's America, for example, individual rights and personal interests take precedence over the interests of the society as a whole. As a result, people disagree and bicker with each other on everything. The gridlock in our politics is but a reflection of the pettiness, selfishness, rabidity and obstinacy that characterize a nation's lack of broad vision, magnanimity, fraternity and common cause. 

The disregard for personal rights is a regrettable fact in human history. Liberalism, which places individual liberty at the center of its cause, has played a positive role in human history. However, the view of men and women as free and independent individuals is an unbalanced proposition. Human beings are not only free and independent individuals, but also interconnected and interdependent social beings. Our life, liberty and happiness depend on collective efforts and a stable and harmonious society. Human rights must not be conceived only as individual rights, but the collective rights of the mankind as a whole also, among these rights are equality, coexistence, sharing, cooperation and fraternity. (See The Freedom in Tango.)

In today's America, however, the collective rights and well-being of the mankind as a whole are often being ignored while individual rights and personal freedom are overemphasized and are pushed to the extreme by the right and the left alike. Business aggression and expansionism, the exploitation of other human beings, squandering, monopolization, the destruction of the environment, the depletion of natural resources, the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, the influence of big money on politics, the promotion of obscenity and violence, gun culture, sex freedom, homosexualism, same-sex marriage, etc., all in the name of personal freedom and individual rights, are typical examples. Too many people think only about themselves and disregard the common interests of the society and humanity as a whole. (See Tango and the Relationship of the Opposite Sexes.)

Our tango reflects the same kind of thinking. Many dancers do not see themselves as a part of the team or community, but as independent individuals. (See 惜缘.) Freedom is being interpreted as against any compliance. Equality is being interpreted as against any submission. (See Tango and Gender Equality.) Gender roles are repudiated. Men do not lead, but only give suggestions. (See How Tango Is Led.) Women remain independent, may disobey men, interrupt the lead, or reverse roles. Tango embrace is being replaced with an open dance hold to allow more individuality and independence. Personal performance supersedes intimate cooperation. The relationship of the partners becomes a cold work relationship, and so becomes the environment of the milonga. Everybody demonstrates a strong ego. Those who seek partners are often being humiliated by the rude response of the invitees. There is a lack of friendliness, brotherhood and cooperation in our milongas. 

But, we are human beings still. Our individualistic illusion does not blot out our loneliness, yearning, interdependence and need for others. That is why we come to tango in the first place - to be in close contact with each other, to enjoy intimacy and cooperation, to satisfy our hunger for affinity and affection. Unfortunately, these needs are often being stymied by our independence, arrogance and disagreeableness.

Tango puts us in such an intimate relationship with one another that we are forced to rethink what it means to be men and women, to change our self-centered attitude, to be better connected and cooperative partners, and to dance in unison and harmony through abiding by the roles and being agreeable with each other. The lessons we have learned from tango are valuable and applicable to other areas of life as well. (See The Lessons of Tango.) We need leaders who understand the truth revealed in tango, to unite people, set aside the difference, find common ground, restore brotherhood, focus on the common cause instead of the differences, and work as a team. Our milonga will be a better place in which to dance, and our society will be a better place in which to live, I believe, if we embrace the spirit of tango and reject individualism.