(At last,  I’ll explain a word I’ve been using lately.)


“How you kowtow”  –   


It is to show deep obeisance to another.   No,   more . . .    it is to show abject  submission to your betters.    You have nothing to say,  your silence,  your body language,  your cowed expression shows that you have  betters and they are there, right before you.

Throughout ancient human history, in many parts of the world,  one lowers oneself as far to the ground as possible in the presence of one who is superior.      We associate it usually with ancient oriental potentates,  (holders of power),  in the Middle East and in  the Far East.

When West came to East in the mid-19th century,  “West”  demanded that the Chinese kowtow to them,  transferring their submission to colonial masters.

(To keep the record straight, two hundred years earlier,  when Catholic West came to the Far East,  there was none of this submission . . .   the “universal”  Church arrived to preach the Gospel to all,  equally.  As St. Paul has said,  In Christ there is no slave or free, rich or poor,  male or females, etc. etc.   St Francis Xavier, et al. did not demand that the Japanese kowtow to them.   He did not demand subservience from any of the Asians he met.)

xavier in japan


Some lessons in kowtowing for the average American:

Nevertheless, in the 19th century, it was  Protestants in China, and that’s the way the word kowtow came into the English language.     It then became used in the presence of attempted superiority or  inequality,  objecting to someone who tries to act superior.      “I’m not going to kowtow to you!       “I don’t have to do what you tell me to do!”      I don’t have to agree with you!”

Or often the word is used to express mocking  disgust with someone who  “gave in” too easily;  we say they’re kowtowing to  so-and-so.

In this day of Political Correctness,  which is an effective form of social censorship,  we find it terribly easy to kowtow to whomever has the loudest mike or the most aggressive stance.   We give up too easily.    We don’t make an argument in defense of our own beliefs.

“Just go with the flow.”   “Put up and shut up.”    “You don’t know enough about the subject anyway – let the experts do what they want.”     “You don’t have experience,  only those with actual experience have a right to speak.”

Get it?

“All that’s needed for evil to prevail is for  good men to  do nothing  kowtow.”

(With my apologies to Lord Acton who is credited with that phrase,  I’m sure you can all think of issues that you dare not speak out about,  lest you upset someone,  or annoy someone, or provoke an angry, aggressive response  —  a Radical Leftist tactic, by the way, to shout you down, shotgun style,  when you say something they don’t like to hear.)


What kowtowing is not:

I don’t want you to think that kowtowing is the same as bowing.    You can certainly kowtow to the culture around you without bowing!     On the other hand,   you can show respect,  even profound respect,  to another person by bowing – depending upon your culture.

Here is  Yuzuru  Hanyu.   He took my breath away at the Olympics when I saw him skate.


Somehow he combined grace and elegance with   strength and masculinity.    I kept thinking:  I didn’t know ice skating could be like this!      He so well deserved the Gold!  And after his performance?   He went up to his coaches to wait for his score.

And he bowed to each one,  in respect.       Yes, I know it’s their “custom,”  but  not everyone holds to it,  and his bow seemed to carry with it a genuine respectful acknowledgement of the role they played in training him,  not merely that they were his elders

Even to the children he showed respect:

Hanyu bow

He’s bowing to a child!    But not because she’s a child,  because she is performing her role too with honor.

I’m not saying Americans should suddenly start “bowing” to each other.   It’s not necessarily a superior sign of respect.     I’m  just affirming that we can all show respect for each other, genuinely, deeply, interiorly,  even when they are talking political nonsense,  and even when walking away from someone who is becoming hysterical over what you say and you must show that you are not giving in.

We can honor each other – without  kowtowing to them – and spread the truth by our example that we are all made with equal dignity.

Xavier Beloved

Beloved teacher-saint,  dying.     The last words of this Great Man were recorded:

“Jesu,  fili David, miserere mei!”        (“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”)




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One Comment on “DO YOU KOWTOW?”

  1. larryzb Says:

    “In this day of Political Correctness, which is an effective form of social censorship,” That is so accurate, PC is a form of social censorship.

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