Tango is not only a fascinating dance, but also a fascinating culture, idea, lifestyle, and philosophy. In many ways, tango is a metaphor of life. The pursuit of tango is the pursuit of connection, love, 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 species. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc., but interconnected and interdependent members of the human family. We are humanists. Tango calls us to tear down the walls, to build bridges, and to regain humanity through connection, cooperation and compromise. If you believe in this cause, please join the conversation and let your voice be heard, which is urgently needed and long overdue.

Together we can awaken the world.




January 22, 2017

Tango and Equality


Tango is created by people living at the bottom of the society. Their prints still remain in the dance. The original tango is a lowbrow dance. It is raw, simple, sensual, soul-searching and comforting, touching the heart of one's humanity. Dancing that tango reminds Beatriz Dujovne of a birthing mother's ecstasy, struggle, agony, sweat, pain and joy. Whether a maid or a queen, the basic birthing experience of all women is identical, just like that in tango, she wrote. "Tango is all of us in life's common places. It is who we are at the core, behind our social masks." (See The Tango in All of Us.)

That shared humanity in tango is a huge source of sublimation for people struggling at the bottom. Tango liberates them because in tango they have regained the dignity of being on an equal footing with others. All dancers are created equal in tango whether they are taxi drivers or CEOs, servant girls or first daughters. You enjoy that person dancing with you for who he/she is as a human being regardless of his/her social status. Tango is where Cinderella and Prince Charming fall in love. "It melts down differences by zeroing in on our commonality," Dujovne wrote, "it feeds our hunger for being on a level with others." (See The Tangoin All of Us.)

Equality has been a dream of the American people since the creation of this nation. When the early immigrants to America were unfairly treated by the English King, they called for equality. Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1776: "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 document, The Declaration of Independence, laid the foundation for this nation.

After 240 years, however, the gap between the rich and the poor in America did not narrow. In fact, it is widened in our times. Power corrupts. When we were under the oppression of a despot who mistreated us, we wanted equality. When we gained the control of our own destiny, we started to do the same thing to others. Compassion and self-interests are juxtaposed in human nature. When we keep a balance between the two, we are doing fine. But when we lose that balance, when we only think about ourselves and disregard others, when we formulate theories like personal liberty, individual rights and individualism to legitimize selfish behaviors (see Tango and Individualism), when we misinterpret the founding documents from a narrow, individualist perspective in favor of the self rather than the society, the rich rather than the poor, and the criminals rather than the victims (see The Freedom in Tango), when we allow ourselves to pursue self-interests at the expense of others, when we form monopoly groups and build unfair systems such as those in our financial, insurance, healthcare, pharmaceutical, commercial, real estate, and legal institutions to benefit and protect special interests (see Mammonism), when we allow the rich to use their money to influence the policy making, when we use freedom to promote violence, obscenity, homosexuality and alternative life styles (see Tango and the Relationship of the Opposite Sexes), when personal liberty is used to undermine traditional marriage and family - the very foundation of the society (see Tango and Family Values), when divorce, irresponsible sex, single parent family and gay marriage become the accepted norms and are sponsored by the state, etc., we get ourselves further and further into the mess we now are in.

Ours is the lesson of freedom lost for the majority of people when we only seek for personal freedom. Only few can be winners in the competition if equality and justice are not the premise of all other human rights. True freedom is the freedom from being violated by others, not the freedom to violate others. It is the right to act within the limits of law necessary to the public good, not that to harm the society. It is a self-disciplined human right under the principle that all men are created equal, not the right to do whatever one pleases at the cost of others. A free society is an equal society based on compassion and cooperation, not on self-interests and competition. It is where individual rights are subject to the common interests of mankind as a whole, where nobody's freedom will be deprived by other's freedom, and where coexistence, brotherhood, compassion and sharing are the common values of all people. It is a society consistent with the spirit of tango.


Related Reading

The Freedom in Tango




December 11, 2016

Tango and Family Values


I raise chickens in my backyard. In cold winter days like now, they huddle and tango together to keep themselves warm. Individualism is a luxury chickens couldn't afford. They rely on each other for survival, just like early human beings. (See The Spirit of Tango.)

Sometimes I wonder, are modern people really superior to chickens? Why they formulated so many theories like individualism, feminism, homosexualism and "marriage equality" to justify behaviors that are not to the best interests of the mankind as a whole? Why they are so obsessed with self-interests and personal rights but are apathetic to other people? Why they mistreat, exploit, take advantage of, rob, abuse, torture and slaughter their own kind? Why they greedily accumulate wealth far exceeding their needs at the expense of their fellow human beings? Why little by little they abandoned all the values that held them together and made them strong as a species?

I realize that, as history has shown, sometimes evil prevailed over good and people lost conscience allowed themselves to go with the flow. Perhaps we come across such a time again.

I am not willing to give up hope, though, because I still see goodness in people like firefighters, doctors without borders, and tango dancers alike. I appreciate them because it takes a big heart to open your arms to others, to provide a supporting shoulder for those in need, and to be a good Samaritan. Tango is created by such people, immigrants and street women who are homeless, vulnerable, lonely, looking for a refuge in a strange land, yearning to be loved, and who are sympathetic to others like themselves. Like chickens, they huddle and tango together to keep themselves warm in a cold world. (See Why People Dance Tango.)

I also see hope in parents who love their children and teach them to love each other, to take care of their little brothers and sisters, and to work as a team. When such children grow up, they will become responsible members of the society. Evil prevails only when family is disintegrated, when family values are lost, when human bonds are faded away, when everyone becomes egocentric, and when individualism, feminism, hatred, divorce, single parent family, irresponsible sex, self-indulgence, gun culture and materialism become the accepted norms in a society.

But I don't think that will be the case forever, as history has also shown, because as long as there are men and women, there will be love, family, children, family values, and tango, so evil cannot prevail for very long. Family is and always will be the cornerstone of human civilization. Our collective desire to survive and our collective conscience reject what is bad for us as a species. After all, we are a part of nature, and the law of nature overrules the law of man.

Perhaps that's why in times like this more and more people turn to tango now, a dance that connects us, a dance that is consistent with family values, a dance that teaches the world to love, and a dance in which many rediscovered conscience and compassion. (See Tango Is the Search of a Dream.)

November 5, 2016

The Lessons of Tango


Having a broad vision, or being trivial, the results are different.

Seeing things from the vantage point of the team, or seeing things from the perspective of the individual, the results are different.

Zooming out to see yourself as a part of the whole, or zooming in to see yourself as everything, the results are different.

Focusing on what's in common, or focusing on the difference, the results are different.

Sympathetic, or unsympathetic, the results are different.

Taking the concerns of others into account, or rejecting opposite views, the results are different.

Being agreeable, or being disagreeable, the results are different.

Moderate and balanced, or rabid and extremist, the results are different.

Being willing to meet in the middle, or insisting on having one's own way, the results are different.

Building bridges, or building walls, the results are different.

Cooperative, or competitive, the results are different.

Team spirit, or individuality, the results are different.

Working for the common cause, or working for self-interests or group interests, the results are different.

Striving to achieve harmony, or striving to win competition, the results are different.

The former are magnanimous and patriotic, the latter are petty and self-centric.

The former, which are germane to tango, lead to a better society.

The latter, pertinent to individualism, lead to dissension, disunity and failure as a nation.

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 not 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 if 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 uninhibitedness, uncooperativeness, hostility, polarization, inequality, aggression and lawlessness in American society.

If we still hold that "all men are created equal" to be a self-evident truth, if we still believe that a united, cooperative and harmonious society is to 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 gun 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 add, right now we are not doing 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 with others together as a team. Acting in excess of one's role is often 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 we are disagreeable with each other, we are unable to work in unison for the same cause. For this reason, agreeableness was once regarded as a virtue. People may have personal interests and opinions, but as members of a team they must think from the vantage point of the group, be sympathetic, 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.

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 small-mindedness, selfishness, rabidity and obstinacy that characterize a nation lacking broad visions, magnanimity, brotherhood and common cause. 

The disregard for human rights is a regrettable fact in human history. Liberalism, which places human liberty at the center of its cause, has played a positive role in human liberation. However, the view of men and woman as free and independent individuals is an unbalanced one. 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. Therefore, human rights must not be conceived only as the rights of the individual, but that of the mankind or society as a whole also, among these rights are coexistence, equality, sharing, cooperation, and fraternity. (See The Freedom in Tango.)

In the US, however, the collective rights and liberty of the mankind or society are often being ignored while individual rights and personal freedom are overemphasized and often pushed to the extreme by the right and the left alike. Business aggression and expansionism, the exploitation of other human beings, the destruction of the environment, squandering, monopolization, the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, the influence of big money on politics, the promotion of obscenity and violence in the name of free speech, gun culture, sex freedom, same-sex marriage, etc., are typical examples. Too many people think only about themselves and disregard the overall 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. The embrace is being replaced with an open hold to avoid physical contact and emotional involvement. Personal performance supersedes intimate cooperation. The relationship of the partners becomes a cold working relationship, so does the atmosphere of the milonga. Everybody demonstrates a strong ego. Those who try to dance with others are often being humiliated by the rude response of the invitees. (See How to Get More Invitations in the Milonga.) There is a lack of friendliness, brotherhood, intimacy and cooperation in our milongas. 

But, we still are human beings. Our individualistic illusion does not blot out our loneliness, longing, interdependence and need for each other. That is why we come to tango in the first place - to be in close contact with others, to form an intimate relationship, to satisfy our hunger for connection, affection and affinity. Unfortunately, these needs are often 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 behaviors, 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 learn from tango are valuable and applicable to other areas of life as well. 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 batter 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.


June 18, 2016

Mammonism


In the beginning there is no money. People barter. I fish, you farm, and she weaves fabric. I use my fish to trade your vegetables and her cloth. As this becomes a common practice, the issue of equivalent trade emerges and the exchange rates of all kinds of products have been established. For example, one foot of cloth equals two pounds of fish or three pounds of vegetable - according to the amounts of labor involved in producing these products. But such direct barter is inconvenient. You may want my fish, but I don't want your vegetables but her cloth, and she doesn't want my fish but your vegetables. What shall we do? Thus, money, as a universal equivalent, comes into being. With money, trade becomes easier.

Initially, money is things that people all desire, such as salt, silk and gold. People first convert their own products into such goods, and then use these goods to exchange for other products. A pound of fish is worth ten ounces of salt because the labor involved in producing a pound of fish is equivalent to the labor involved in producing ten ounces of salt. Gold eventually becomes the most popular form of money because it is easy to carry and can be conveniently cut into pieces to accurately measure the values of the products.

But people soon realize that this way of exchange is cumbersome. Since the function of money is to measure or represent the amount of labor involved in producing the product, a piece of paper can do the same job and be easier to use. Thus, money changes form from a material good to a bill. People then discovered that even the bill is not necessary. Since the value is expressed in numbers, the exchange can be done numerically without a piece of paper. Thus, money changes form again from the bill to the digital figure on a bank card. This digital figure now becomes the life ambition of the modern people. In political terminology, this is called "the pursuit of happiness."

In the beginning there is no accumulation of wealth, because fish and vegetables cannot be stored in large number, they will rot. Trade is only for daily consumption. But with money that is no longer the case. Money can be accumulated infinitely and passed on to future generations. It can also be used to loan, invest and speculate in order to generate returns. With money I can buy vegetables from you and sell to her, and buy textiles from her and sell to you for a profit. It is soon discovered that I don't even need to possess the commodities to trade. One can do short sales and still make money. Thus trade is no longer for consumption. It becomes the mere means of accumulating wealth.

Making money through trade is a tricky business. Strictly speaking there is no fair trade, or no profit can be made. One can only gain from someone else's loss. For example, an employer makes money by taking advantage of the employees. Wall Street takes advantage of the regulators' ignorance on the dubious formulas they created to make money at the expenses of the ordinary investors and loanees. The insurance company takes advantage of people's sense of security, since more people are healthy than sick and alive than dead, the insurance company can make money by selling an empty promise. Jealous of the insurance company, the drug company increases the price of their product 5000%. You either buy or die, and it is paid by the insurance anyway. Hospitals make their money in the same way. I went to a hospital for a skin condition. They first sent me to a family doctor, who sent me to the lab to have the test down, and then sent me to a specialist. The specialist knew immediately it was eczema without seeing the test. The prescribed cream cost me $15 and the eczema was cured. But the hospital bill is $800, which is paid for by the insurance. The insurance company shifts the cost to the consumers by raising the premium and reducing the coverage. Health insurance once covered everything, now you have to buy separate insurances for teeth, eyes, ears and drugs. House insurance once covered everything, now you have to buy separate insurances for fire, flood, tornado and earthquake.

Such practices undermined the fundamental principle in trade. The essence of trade is the exchange of labor. A fair exchange reflects the equivalent amounts of labor involved in producing the products. Since the exchange rates of all products are proportional, the increase in price of one product will trigger a chain reaction of inflation. As a result, houses, cars, food, groceries, clothes, utilities, services, all become more expensive, and the government has to raise taxes just to keep even if nothing else. The victims are the ordinary people. In today's America, 63% of people are unable to pay a $500 surprise bill, but a small number of people benefiting from the unfair practice and the system that they have created have accumulated tremendous wealth that reached astronomical figures.

Greed knows no limit and most crimes of our times, caught or not caught, are motivated by money. In a mammonish society, science, education and medicine all become the means of making money, and money respects no morality. The winners are those who have found ingenious ways to abuse others, and the losers are the ripped-offs. As a result, people lost faith in goodness, honesty, fairness and trust. A man once could feed the whole family, not anymore because the price becomes so outrageous that women also have to work in order to maintain the middle class standard of living. Feminists may call it "women's rights" and "equal opportunities." In fact, it is the enslavement of women. A woman lamented, "More and more women work extremely hard to make money now. The society provides women with less and less security. Security used to mean a commitment, a clasped hand when crossing the street, now it is the money in our pocket and a fully charged cell phone... We all want to marry a man, only to find ourselves turned into a man!"

When a society allows people to accumulate unlimited wealth, measures success by one's money, uses the rich as the role models for the whole society to follow, provides them with legal loopholes and preferential treatments, and allows them to influence the policy making with their money, it is bound that people will want to get rich and use any possible means to make money, that the society will be subject to increasing polarization, that the morality will deteriorate, that the humanity will be corrupted, that the crime will increase, that the natural resources will be depleted, and that the environment will be destroyed. Mammonism is the cancer of the modern world, which dehumanizes people and turns them into the slaves of money. When mankind invented money, nobody thought it would lead to the alienation of the humanity. How to awaken mankind from this insanity is one of the most intractable problems facing modern philosophy, economics, sociology and political science.



May 24, 2016

Tolerance and Grit


In my spare time I enjoy fishing. Gu Feng depicts his fishing experience in a poem, "In the mist that shrouds the valley, by the stream that reflects the lush green bamboos and shiny red flowers, stood I in soft breeze, fishing in quietness. At dusk, I listened to the rain dripping on the pavilion. At dawn, I held an umbrella, in blue robe, walked in solitude along the stony path." 

Beautiful! But I am not Gu Feng. The fun of fishing to me is in the bite, without which the relaxing scenery is not enough to make me content. The disposition of the fish is elusive. In some days I don't catch any. In most days two or three fish an hour is normal. But sometimes the fish suddenly scramble to snatch. You toss the lure, and they jump up to bite. One after another you can catch dozens in an hour. This miracle happens only two or three times a year. My fancy for fishing, in addition to the soothingness of the nature, comes mainly from the temptation of such miracles. The addiction, therefore, is in the hope. In reality miracles are rare.


This situation is very much like dancing tango. The elegant venue, soft lighting, resplendent dresses, beautiful music, all are pleasant, but not enough to make me happy without a good partner. One night, fortunately, you met a person, whose height, figure, musicality, dance skill, manner and temperament are all compatible to yours. Like a perfect match made in heaven, the two of you become instant pals, giving rein to the dance that enables you not only to enjoy the seamless cooperation, but also the freedom like in an unrestrained solo. This experience changed your outlook on life, because you now tasted the feeling of being one with another person in perfection. From then on, you go to the milonga again and again, week after week, hoping to re-experience that miracle. But miracles come only by luck and not will. In my fourteen years of dancing tango in countless milongas, that experience only occurred few times. Which, nonetheless, is still the reason I am addicted to tango, because I yearn to revisit that dream one more time. Tango is the search of a dream. In reality, however, miracles are rare. 


People often forget that ordinariness is the norm of life; therefore, we need to accept, cherish and enjoy the ordinary, which is something many are not very good at. Voltaire said: "What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of fragility and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly - that is the first law of nature." Of course, appreciating the ordinary is not enough. We all yearn to transcend the ordinary and achieve the extraordinary. Excellence is the consequence of grit. Only by repeating the ordinary countless times can one obtain the extraordinary. Therefore, let us also encourage ourselves and be gritty - the miracle will happen, that is the second law of nature.