During the Warring States era in China 春秋末战国, the Lu King of Lu country 鲁国wanted to conquer his neighboring country. Mo Zi 墨子, a renowned Chinese philosopher, heard of it and went to try to talk him out of it, saying, “If in this country of ours, the larger provinces attack the smaller provinces, the stronger families attack the weaker families, killing and stealing from each other, what would your Highness think?”
The Lu King answered, “They all are my subjects. If the stronger bullies the weaker, stealing from each other, then it is a very serious crime that must be severely punished.”
Mo Zi asked, “All of us are subjects of the Heavens. If we invade our neighbors, aren’t we committing offenses with the Heavens?”
The Lu King replied, “Why are you trying to talk me out of this expedition? This invasion is consistent with the Heavens’ mandate. Our neighboring country’s King killed his father to usurp the throne. Consequently, the Heavens have punished his country with three successive years of drought and disastrous harvests. Therefore, my punitive conquest is consistent with Heavens’ wishes.”
“While it is true that the Heavens have punished his country for three years as a result of his evil actions,” Mo Zi commented, “That is enough. However, for you to claim that your invasion is a heavenly mandate, is no different from the case of a father whipping his disobedient son and a neighbor father also grabbing a whip to give him a beating, claiming that his actions are in accordance with his father’s wishes. Is this argument defensible?”
* * * * *
Using one’s strength or skills to oppress the weak while using excuses to disguise one’s selfish motives is immoral. When the cause is immoral, the pretenses are indefensible.
To use false pretext to disguise one’s greedy mind to steal from others is unprincipled. Leaders such as these will be severely judged by human history and the Heavens.