At the Mercy of Ants - Part 1
老子曰 鯨魚失水 則制於螻蟻 人君舍其所守 而與臣爭事 則制於有司 Laozi said that a beached whale is at the mercy of ants, and the prince who forgets his place and does a servant's work is at the mercy of bureaucrats.
以無為持位 A prince keeps his throne by doing nothing. 守職者以聽從取容 He knows his place and builds trust by listening closely. 臣下藏智而不用 Ministers and subordinates respect his judgement and don't question it. 反以事專其上 Instead, they hold superiors to account by serving them.
人君者不任能而好自為 則智日困而自負責 When a prince doesn't trust the experts and likes doing it himself, his judgement gets worse every day and he has only himself to blame. 數窮於下則不能申理 行墮於位則不能持制 He can't be objective when he rubs shoulders with subordinates, and he can't stay in charge when he steps down from the throne. 智不足以為治 威不足以行刑 則無以與下交矣 And when his judgement no longer inspires obedience and his position no longer commands respect, there's no way for him to influence subordinates.
喜怒形於心 嗜欲見於外 則守職者離正 而阿上 When he takes every whim and slight to heart, when he plays favourites in public, those who once knew their place stop doing the right thing and start pandering to superiors. 有司枉法而從風 賞不當功 誅不應罪 則上下乖心 When public servants break the law and serve themselves, when they're not rewarded for merit, not held accountable for corruption, that's when ruler and ruled take grudges to heart.
君臣相怨 百官煩亂而智不能解 非譽萌生而明不能照 非己之失而反自責 則人主愈勞人臣愈佚 When the prince and his servants resent each other, when his team is in chaos and no one trusts his judgement, when problems arise and no one follows his orders, when mistakes are made and he blames others instead, that's when the master is weak and servants are lazy.
是以代大匠斲者 希有不傷其手 That's how those who wield the great craftsman's blade rarely don't cut their own hands.