Kabo Peasants’ War, a 1989 group work by Our People’s Art Institute (Kyore Misul Yon’guso)

Old man:
Dissent is not disloyalty.
Be careful before you retaliate.
Your steel wrapped in cotton
May only be brittle bone wrapped in fat.

No one is a supreme authority. People seek leaders, priests, gurus, and hermits thinking that someone has a precise formula for living correctly. No one does. No one can know you as well as you can know yourself. All that you can gain from a wise person is the assurance of some initial guidance. You may even spend decades studying under such an extraordinary person, but you should never surrender your dignity, independence, and personality.

There is no single way to do things in life. There are valid paths, even though they may differ from the ways of respected elders. Diversity is good for tradition. Too often, elders confuse dissent with disloyalty and punish people for the crime of having a different view. They are no longer in touch with Tao but instead mouth self-serving convention. Perhaps the panic of their own impending death makes them clutch. When the leaders become repressive, it is a sign that their time is drawing to a close.

A saying about old masters was that they were like steel wrapped in cotton: They appeared soft on the outside but still held great power on the inside. We all hope for elders like that. But oftentimes, the old masters have lost their mandate of Tao. Then, when tested, they are merely brittle bone and fat. How can we respect such people?

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

There are so many people in America that I have lost respect for these days, I can’t keep count anymore. My dissent is quiet, but for me, it is effective. I live more simply than I can afford to, spend my dollars to buy from companies that treat their people and the environment well, buy organic products whenever possible, don’t bother with fancy clothes or makeup very often or any of the trappings most Americans seem to care for. I grow an organic garden with lots of native plants. I speak up about the events going on in the world and am honest about my own feelings in life, often to the point of losing people from my life who once called themselves my friends but proved otherwise. I support those people and causes that are working to create something better in this country and in the world. I raise my children to be independent, thoughtful people instead of mindless worker bees or consumers.

To me, dissent is not just attending a protest event or writing a letter to the editor or calling your Senator, alothugh those are good things to do when it’s needed. It is about how I live my life, the things I value, the lessons I teach my children and share with those around me. I had thought perhaps this posting would turn out much differently, full of angry words or my own personal disgust at what is going on in this country right now, but I find, instead, the calm center that knows my life as it is lived every day is my own best protest. To those who would have me mindlessly follow their God, or rather, their interpretation of their God in order to increase their own power over me and others, I simply say, you’ve failed. I think for myself, and live my own life, and that is what you hate most of all, isn’t it?

The ultimate dissent is simply knowing yourself.