Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Reader's Diary #1837- Niccolo Machiavelli: The Prince

I don't know that we shouldn't be concerned that Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince still enjoys a readership today, nearly 500 years later.

There's a reason Machiavellian is a pejorative term for actions that serve the self rather than any real moral code. In The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli advises a prince how to conquer and rule based on historical precedent. His cold, calculating, matter-of-fact style is almost scary. If he advises befriending or granting favours to anyone it's merely to benefit the Prince and Machiavelli is just as quick to advise ruthlessness and cruelty if he deems it beneficial.

On my recent trip to Italy, I went to two torture museums. Yes, two. Reading Machiavelli's violent historical summary of Italy's past, combined with images of spikes, screws, and stretching racks, etc that would be awe-inspiring for their creativity if not for the horrible purposes for which they were created, all reminded me of the hypocrisy of the earliest European explorers to North America (Columbus himself was Italian). Imagine the audacity for those from such a methodically cruel, violent society to call the indigenous people they encountered "savages."

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