At first glance, the Netherlands in the Golden Age People quite give people a sense of high-spirited and high-spirited son of heaven. With a cramped place that is often flooded and suffering from floods and a small number of citizens, he can fight the old empire Spain for 80 years and finally earn his living. Being free, and even under the attack of the two great dynasties of Britain and France, has led the world’s maritime trade for hundreds of years, which makes people have to regard it as a miracle.
But in the pen of art historian Simon Schama, the high-spirited Golden Age Dutch often gives people a sense of tangle. Expect a strong leader, but fear the emergence of a dictator. We must prevent powerful enemies from invading, and we are also afraid that the ruling class will become stronger and infringe on our own rights. They are more loyal to the community, and hope for a wider and higher level of unity in order to more effectively deal with the threat of heaven and man surrounded by powerful enemies and frequent floods. I want to be part of a larger community, but at the same time I don’t want to lose my unique ethnic and cultural identity and self-government status, so that I often struggle with whether I should go beyond the North-South dispute and the “map gun” complex, and truly unite as a Dutchman , or Dutch, or Flemish, or simply continue to be Amsterdam.
When he is free, he falls into various tensions and entanglements between morality and pleasure, religion and secularism. It is both moral and unwilling to give up luxury. However, when enjoying a luxurious life, they are afraid of going beyond their duty and being punished by God. I am also full of worries about the roles of housewives and children: what is the appropriate boundary between family and society, how to respect women’s independent status and let them be content with their husbands and children, are children pure angels, or are they little children who need to be strictly guarded? grown ups? There are all kinds of hesitation.
This state is attributed by Simon Sharma to the “dilemma of affluence”. Society lives and works. Specifically for the Dutch in the golden age, it is how to straighten out the relationship between religion and secularism.
The sense of impermanence unique to pre-modern society has made people develop the habit of turning to religion and morality to cope with their spiritual difficulties. Now the discomfort and anxiety of getting along with wealth is superimposed, and the function of religion to comfort people is even more indispensable. For the Dutch, religion has added a sacred color of revolutionary founding religion. Faced with powerful enemies and floods, the Calvinists, full of religious fanaticism, quoted the Bible as an example of reality, and constructed the Dutch as the chosen sons to inspire people, and made contributions to the independence and prosperity of the Netherlands. With the endorsement and blessing of such a historical aura, the Calvinists’ desire to intervene in the daily life of the Dutch people with divine will is not easy to be contained. In particular, shortly after the Netherlands gained independence, it encountered various natural and man-made disasters such as resurgent wars and storm surges, which is enough to become a clear proof of the wrath of God and the punishment of the Dutch for forgetting their original intentions and exceeding the rules.
However, in the face of the halo of theocracy and various setbacks and tensions in real life, the Dutch kept the bottom line of separation of church and state. Dealing with the “dilemma of affluence” such as drinking and drinking in the name of national celebrations and religious festivals or even the activities of self-governing bodies. People now only remember the tulip mania, but they don’t say much about the aftermath of the Dutch’s classic soft landing. Relevant records in the book show that the Dutch are well versed in the way forward, and understand that if people are permanently afraid of risks because of the temporary fanaticism, it will only kill the vitality and vitality of the society, and long-term sustainable development is almost impossible.
Of course, the Dutch did not absolutely reject the interference of religion in ordinary life. They hope to give full play to the function of religion in correcting current problems, soothing people’s hearts, and providing relief, and they also have a deep understanding of the role of religion in alleviating social conflicts and improving social cohesion.
The key is to straighten out the relationship between faith and secularity. Religion and morality endow life with ultimate meaning, while the daily meaning of life lies in the stability of this world. Morality provides meaning and cohesion, and maintains social order. If life is only the pursuit of materialism, people will easily fall into mental laxity and nihilism. What is the point of being human if life is but a relentless struggle and self-denial, refusing to enjoy the abundance of pleasures that this world offers. Calvinism’s overemphasis on merit is not only insufficient to meet people’s spiritual needs, but also risks tearing society apart.
Only when the relationship between the laws of heaven and human desires is straightened out can we truly step into the modern society. The various tangles of the Dutch and the efforts to overcome them, as well as the imperfect but acceptable results achieved, give an initial model of modern society. Moving forward in entanglement is far better than turning back without hesitation. The latter seems to be decisive, but in the final analysis it is nothing more than a kind of conservativeness due to intellectual slack and fear of the future.
Looking back, the success of the Dutch stems from the separation of church and state at the institutional level. This kind of separation not only refers to avoiding tangible theocracy, but to put religious belief in the personal sphere, and not to forcefully interfere with the operation of society in the name of religion and morality. In this sense, even the United States has not fully straightened out the tension of the role of religion in social life: the sense of morality is overwhelming at every turn, with religion as the driving force, and in the name of the Constitution, legal wars are launched time and time again, and the whole society should be grateful to the Puritans gift etc.
Similar to the embarrassment of the Dutch affluence, at the other end of the Eurasian continent, the Ming Dynasty also ushered in its own “perplexity of indulgence”.
In Huang Renyu’s view, Ming lost to the Eight Banners because the mobilization power of simple pre-modern social organizations was often better than that of the silver economy that had just stepped into the modern threshold. At that time (and even now), many Confucian scholars attribute Ming’s setbacks to a life of profligacy and moral degradation. As a result, the Ming and Qing Dynasties brought double trauma, both the fear of corruption brought about by economic development, and the sense of fate that the wealthy society was defeated by the simple and violent pre-modern organizations.
The encounters and legacy of the wealthy societies at both ends of the Eurasian continent in the 17th century are embarrassing. A rich and complex society is bound to be more difficult to control than a simple small peasant society. People must face the division of interests and the dynamic reorganization of social classes, and if they are dealt with properly, they can enter a situation of long-term stability. If hard work always results in Sisyphean setbacks and stays in the stage of pre-modern semi-finished society, people tend to fall into the concept of fatalism, thinking that all efforts will eventually be no match for the fiddle of fate. This is of course not conducive to the establishment of a stable and dynamic society.
If you fall into the myth that the pre-modern primitive society is more efficient and more moral, it is not a good omen for the country, society and nation. Always wanting to return to the pale and clean starting point, Gandhi’s spinning wheel era, is also a kind of quasi-theocracy. Both history and reality have proved that theocracy cannot effectively deal with the tension of a complex society, and can only harm advanced productive forces and social vitality in the process of forcibly pulling society back to a crude and vulgar state. The world is safe and secure, and it will not fail the Tathagata and not fail the Qing. Only by putting moral and quasi-religious feelings in the right place, and managing the conflicts and tensions brought about by the wealthy society, can we move forward smoothly.