I used to know this old guy.
Attorney from Japan.
He’d done a bit of traveling (including a few excavations) and had an interesting view on things.
He told me the story about Tokugawa, the first Shogun who ruled all of Japan.
If you watch any of the old Samurai movies, they take place BEFORE that happened.
This was the “wild west” period of Japanese history.
When there were rogue bands of samurai’s everywhere.
If you are going to be a leader of any country, you need to have a lot of skills.
Tokugawa had a particularly interesting problem.
He took power right around the beginning of the 1600’s.
AFTER a lot of European explorers had visited Japan.
The first thing Tokugawa did was kick them all out.
The real problem was that most Japanese had either experienced or heard stories about these Europeans.
And at that time, the Europeans had FAR SUPERIOR technology.
So Tokugawa’s task was to rule AND figure out a way to get them to “forget” about the Europeans.
He needed his people to feel superior to the “outsiders,” as all rulers do.
Nobody is going to last long as a leader with the idea that “we suck, and we better hope our superior enemies decide to invade us.”
People like their leaders to tell the people how AWESOME they are.
Which was difficult for Tokugawa, since they’d all seen the HUGE gunships and technology the Europeans had.
And all the stories of different cultures on the other side of the world.
This is where Tokugawa was an absolute GENIUS at social engineering.
He came up with the idea that “technology” is evil.
It’s better to be poor, and sit and watch the rocks grow.
Or spend an hour preparing pouring a cup of tea.
(Interestingly enough, it was this super attention to detail that made the Japanese super rich super quick when the Industrial Revolution showed up).
But as my lawyer friend explained, another aspect of Tokugawa’s genius was to put the merchant class at the VERY BOTTOM of society.
Who was on top?
The Samurai of course.
But the Samurai had to take a vow of poverty.
The idea of pursuing money was not becoming of a Samurai.
This sounds curiously similar to the early Roman Empire, especially when they took on Christianity.
The idea that it is “holy” or “divine” or “pure” to be poor.
It’s also a VERY EFFECTIVE way to ensure nobody raises an army against you.
Armies take money. Lots of money.
This is EXACTLY how Julius Caesar took over Rome.
He had money, and an army.
So if you ever become a ruler or an emperor or a shogun, the first rule is to convince everybody that “money is evil.”
So you can keep it all for yourself.
Or you can FORGET about becoming a ruler and just make a bunch of money.
Let everybody else find holiness through poverty.