Machiavelli and Politicians

Why Things Happen As They Do

In full knowledge that only about three people might perhaps be interested in reading about how Political Strategic Thought is derived at, I feel that it is the Christian thing to demonstrate to those who are ruled, how the rulers think of them and the basis of the rulers’ opinion of the ruled. If that makes any sense.

In every MilitaryAcademy of the world, from the USA through Russia to Surinam, their students are taught the strategies of Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Genghis Khan and other great generals, PLUS the theories of the same three basic authors. One of them is the Italian Machiavelli (3 May 1469 – 21 June 1527), the other is the Chinese General Sun Tzu (6th Century BC) and the third is the creator of modern military theory, General Carl Von Clausewitz (July 1, 1780 – November 16, 1831).

 

Niccolò Machiavelli

You have all heard of the genius whose political thought has ruled international politics for hundreds of years and whose writing in fact was the reason that the term “Machiavellian” was coined.

In fact, according to Wikipedia, he is “considered one of the main founders of modern political science. He was a diplomat, political philosopher, musician, and a playwright, but foremost, he was a civil servant of the Florentine Republic. In June of 1498, after the ouster and execution of Girolamo Savonarola, the Great Council elected Machiavelli as Secretary to the second Chancery of the Republic of Florence

Now hold on to your hats because I am about to shock you. The only thing true in Wikipedia’s claim is that he was a civil servant. Otherwise, because someone plays the banjo, it does not make him a musician. Because he wrote two terrible plays that failed dismally, does not make him a playwright and because I am writing this, I am not a political philosopher.

There are geniuses who contribute to the advancement of humanity with ethical thought which raises us above the beasts, there are geniuses who invent the wheel or similar, there are evil geniuses who want to rule the world and there are geniuses who are simply arseholes. Machiavelli belongs to the latter category, despite the voluminous theories which come out of the mouths of ignoramuses who have actually read him without bothering to research the man and politicians who may have read him but have no real idea of what he is talking about and why he is saying what he is.

If you ask any politician in the world to list his/her favourite books, you can safely bet the farm that Machiavelli’s “The Prince” will be on that list. Do the same politicians understand the motives behind Machiavelli’s work? Not a chance in a million. And for a change politicians are not alone in their fathomless ignorance. Even Wikipedia, when it talks of Machiavelli, it talks through its hat.

Simply look at the facts and judge for yourself, so you are not a slave to anyone’s personal opinion, including mine:

The Republic of Florence was founded in 1115 but in 1434 the Medici family took control, until 1494 (Machiavelli was 25 years old here) when it reverted to being a Republic once more through French military intervention.

The Medici re-conquered the republic in 1512 (Machiavelli was 43 years old here),lost it again to the Republicans in 1527 (just before Machiavelli’s death) and finally the Medici re-assumed their rule in 1531, after an 11-month siege of the city. Please note the dates.

Machiavelli (1469 – 1527), was the son of a lawyer of moderate means, essentially middle class, whose main contribution to his son was to educate him well. Even then, despite this good education, Machiavelli the so called “philosopher” never learned Greek, which was the language of the student of philosophy and of philosophers of the time, so this says much as to his philosophical leanings and/or inclinations. Are you following, Wikipedia?

Now, anyone with a good education was GUARANTEED employment by the State, albeit a low paid one. So why did Machiavelli accept the position of a low paid clerk? He needed the money as was the case throughout his whole life. In other words, he NEVER had any money because he never had positions important enough which might have facilitated the creation of wealth!

It was in 1498 that Machiavelli eventually managed to get appointed as a secretary and Second Chancellor becoming a senior civil servant at last. For fourteen years he had mainly diplomatic responsibilities serving executive committees of government, with no authority to act on his own initiative.

In 1512 the Medici defeated the Republicans and returned to power so Machiavelli, a DEDICATED REPUBLICAN found himself out of work. In fact, in 1513 he was tortured by the Medici, on suspicion of treason, but was eventually allowed to retire to his family property just outside Florence.

His correspondence with third parties shows that he was desperate to get back into employment and to that end, he needed to get on the good books of the Medici. It was at this time, in 1513, that he wrote The Prince which he dedicated first to Giuliano de’ Medici and later changed the dedication to Lorenzo de’ Medici. He eventually slowly managed to be introduced to the Medici family.

His elastic loyalties speak volumes as to his motives, especially when a short time previously he published a pro Republican document, roughly saying approximately the opposite of what he was saying in The Prince.

This little weasel was, indeed, very intelligent and was probably a genius. But his genius was in managing to turn arse kissing into a science by putting on paper in a comprehensive manner the ACTUAL practices he had observed while a servant of the State, as opposed to the theoretical practices the politicians were purporting to operate by.

For example, Machiavelli claims that there is bad cruelty and good cruelty. Bad cruelty is when The Prince (the ruler) selectively slaughters his opposition over a long period of time. Good cruelty is when the same people are slaughtered over the very short term, without wasting time.

The theory is certainly based on logic. When you slaughter over a protracted period of time those you “have” to slaughter, you create terror in the survivors who will not know if and when their turn will come. In other words, you daily create new enemies in the relatives of those you slaughter and even worse, you create a visible threat to the lives of the survivors, who can never be sure when they will be next, with the strong possibility of causing them to decide to die fighting rather than to quietly await their turn to die.

In the case of good cruelty, when you slaughter all the candidates at once, you clear the air. The message goes out that you have had your fill and you do not intent to continue slaughtering. In such a case, the relatives of the departed will take a deep breath of relief and forget at some stage. The descendants prosper and get used to the status quo and as a result they become less willing to risk their prosperity, their well being, their very lives and the lives of their loved ones.

Now, after all this effort on the part of Machiavelli, the Medici began to think that anyone who was willing to kiss ass so enthusiastically as Machiavelli, might become a useful lackey, but just then, in 1527, they were kicked out once more and the Republicans returned.

At this time, the Republican in Machiavelli could no longer be denied and he came forth to claim his rightful place as a sufferer for the cause in the hands of the Medici. Regrettably, the Republicans knew how to read and they had read The Prince, so they told him to shove off. That’s when Machiavelli decided it was not worth it and he died.

Naturally, the ignoramuses that rule us translate Machiavelli’s theories to suit their purposes at will and it is usually the strong that tend to implement the theories of this “Great Diplomat and Political Scientist”.

Our only revenge on these morons is to have a good laugh at them every time they mention Machiavelli, because you and I now know that they really have no idea of what they are talking about and they are simply making a horse’s arse of themselves.

QUOTE:

So, Your Magnificence, take this little gift in the spirit in which I send it; and if you read and consider it diligently, you will discover in it my urgent wish that you reach the eminence that fortune and your other qualities promise you. And if, from your lofty peak, Your Magnificence will sometimes glance down to these low-lying regions, you will realize the extent to which, undeservedly, I have to endure the great and unremitting malice of fortune.

UNQUOTE

Part of Machiavelli's letter accompanying the book, when Machiavelli sent 'The Prince' to Lorenzo de Medici

Dimitris Mita

De Greek

More by this Author


Comments 38 comments

msorensson profile image

msorensson 6 years ago

First, I learned about Clausewitz the first time, so thank you.

Even in the serious topics as this one you manage to make me laugh..another thank you [smiles]

We had to read it in college and my son in High School is reading it..that is all I can contribute.


christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 6 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

Now that was a really good hub, well written, and very witty. For some reason it reminded me of "The Emperor's new clothes. Keep up the good work.


thevoice profile image

thevoice 6 years ago from carthage ill

terrific hub work god speed thanks


Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 6 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

An interesting hub on a very famous person, and told with wit and style! I enjoyed this!


Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 6 years ago from India

Hmmm (thinking furiously)...why does Machiavelli interest you so? Thanks for this informative hub DG, and for the warning not to take wikipedia too seriously! :)


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 6 years ago from India

Enlightening! Who'd have thunk?


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK Author

Hi MS: If your son is reading about Machiavelli at school, DO NOT teach him the De Greek point of view, as he will not pass his exams and I do not want the boy on my consience :D

TheVoice, thank you for commenting

Cheeky Girl, how kind to refer to wit and style, unlike some other person who will no doubt take this opportunity to say that my study of Machiavelli is reflected in my personal behaviour. :-) Thank you :-)

Hi FP!!! Always glad for a sweet word from you :D My Aunt told me to stock up on Machiavelli just in case I came across certain type of people :-))

Shaline, who would have thunk indeed! But thunk of how much fun you will have from now on every time a politician tries to sound wise by mentioning Machiavelli :D PRICELESS!


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK Author

ChristpherRanton, I did not otice you behind ms's skirts :-) Thank you for your comments :D


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS

You're wonderfully incorrigible! Poor old Niccolò Machiavelli didn't stand a chance with your eagle eye focused on him!

What a delightful poke at the verities as presented in Wikapedia's alms-paying to this overly-revered "Great Diplomat and Political Scientist”.

It has me breathlessly awaiting your next clarifying spotlight on some more great strategists (yeah! Self-gratifying strategies!) Haha.

Who else can have us simultaneously learning from & laughing at the exposure of the famous historical figures?


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK Author

Hi AF. I feel particularly annoyed with politicians who pretend to have read books that they haven't and it gives me pleasure to prick their pompous balloons :-))


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Really enjoyable jab at some pompous balls .. er balloons! Politicians are too often blown like like ballons and need a good prick (did I say that?). Never liked old Nic anyway - but the thought of him as arse-kisser is just too good!

Thanks for this wonderful kick in someone's balloons! I had a good laugh and learned something also. Now what could be better than that on a Thursday morning, what?

Love and peace

Tony


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK Author

Hi Tony, thanks for your comments. I dream of the time when politicians will be afraid to open their mouths, because people will break out in hillarious laughter, since the people will finally realise what useless thieves most of them are :-)


Lee B profile image

Lee B 6 years ago from New Mexico

I always think someone MUST be a genius when they agree with me! I plowed through THE PRINCE in college (thank goodness it is brief!), and wondered why anyone thought any of it was a good idea. Machiavelli really did sound like an asshole--besides advocating cruelty and amorality.

Anyway, now that I realize you're a genius, De Greek, I must be far more respectful! Does Cesare Borga(sp?) fit into this? I know one of the Medicis was supposed to be "the prince," but I've also read it was Cesare.


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK Author

Machiavelli was kissing ass of ALL princess, so he wrote his book in order to tell all of them that essentially, they are entitled to do what they want.:-)

Thank you fellow genius for your support :-)


Lee B profile image

Lee B 6 years ago from New Mexico

Yeah, that really sums it all up, doesn't it? The people in power, then and now, are entitled to do whatever they want because so many people are kissing their asses. Of course, in the case of the Medici family, it probably was wise to do just that.


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas

Machiavelli wow DeGreek you keep surprising me!


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK Author

Yes, it always surprises people that I can actually read :-))))

Thanks for passing by LadyJane:-)

And Lee, you are correct, of course. You kissed ass if you knew what was good for you with the Medici. I saw the Medici house in Florence. In the centre, with high walls, obviously for protection. They were really rich and powerful.


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada

A different way to teach a history lesson , that's for sure...

another great hub from the witty pen of DeGreek

enjoyed it as always

kindest regards Zsuzsy


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK Author

Zsuzsy, a compliment from The Master is always welcome. Thank you:-)


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

Well Machiavelli's not to my taste either ...but he did give us a new word..

Machiavellian:the employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct {Oxford Dic.]

Thankyou for an entertaining and informative hub


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK Author

Thank YOU for passing by, Young Jane :-)


Aley Martin profile image

Aley Martin 6 years ago from Sumner, Washington,USA

I use "The Prince" in my World Literature classes each semester and we have fun poking at who may be considered the modern day equivalent under the terms he implies. Richard Nixon comes close....!

Thanks for a well written and interesting HUB!

Aley


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK Author

Well now, I am afraid to open my mouth any further with someone who teaches the sod! :-)


saddlerider1 profile image

saddlerider1 6 years ago

No wonder they would round up all the aristocrats or did I mean cats? in the revolution days and put them all under the axe. It was usually a cleansing of the Prince's of that period. Don't get me started on the lawyers and politicians. Arggggh. Thank you DG for this very informative exposure of one of histories biggest Ass kissers of that period. There were many more to follow.


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK Author

Brother Saddlerider, you make me laugh :-) I love it when I hear politicians paying homage to this asshole, without really understanding what he is saying and why he is saying it :D


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California

Interesting history of the man. However, I think, and to play devil's advocate some, that the work must sometimes be taken on its own. The muse only uses the artist as the instrument, as it were.

And besides, if you really think about the wishy-washy stuff, how is that doing anything but precisely what he needed to do to survive. He was using the same "survival" logic, if you will, to try to elevate himself, or sustain himself, in an evershifting social/political climate. Not being a Prince himself, his tactics and available resources and options would obviously have to be different, have to be those of a mediocre fellow instead. Princes have armies and magistrates and tax men, mediocre fellows have ass-kissing, back-stabbing and displays of wit. I could argue that he was practicing what he preached, only relegated to doing it on a different playing field.

Great read, btw.


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK Author

Shades, of course he was doing what he was doing out of his own sense of survival. He was tortured by the Medici for God's sake! But he was NEVER the key figure today's politicians make him out to have been in their reference to him and I am sure that not many have read him all the way through, if at all. I have not problem with him kissing ass. It is the way he found to do it and today's interpretation of him that peeves me :-))


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California

So if you didn't know who wrote The Prince, what would you think of it?


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK Author

In all modesty (!) I don't think that any intelligent person can doubt the motives of the writer, even if one does not know who he is. He is kissing arse. However, there is also no doubt that the thoughts and ideas are a practical guide to how to act if you are in politics and have no compunctions.

The author’s (I will not say Machiavelli’s) thought process is not unique and has never been unique. He simply SHAMELESSLY put things on paper that were actually practiced at that period and are still practised today (in some cases… gulp …) under the cover of spin.

What was Napoleon’s statement that soldiers are “Cannon fodder”? What about Clausewitz’s “War is an extension of diplomacy by other means”??? And Clausewitz is being taught TODAY as a great politico- military thinker, which of course he was. They were saying the same thing: Complete disregard for justice and devotion to one’s self interest irrespective of lives sacrificed. Period.

BUT! Having said all that, it is always wise to study the motives of authors, if you know who they are. And we know who Machiavelli was, so if you study the man, then you MUST draw certain conclusions. My beef is with the politicians who claim to have read him. I have heard politicians say that he was a Great Statesman, a Minister of Foreign Affairs and such. All nonsense of course as he was never any of these.

So ends the lecture :-))))


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California

I guess I can't comment too much on war having never actually been in one. Anything I say can only be theoretical. I think I understand the, "if you're in it, win it," thing, but yeah, I think I'd rather stay theoretical. The stakes are too high to discover you're either A) too weak to win, or B) you actually did what you had to to win. I think you never recover from either one.

I do agree with you totally on the last part, the politicians citing him as a great statesman. If you haven't read something, don't pretend. THere's that old saying "you don't know what you don't know." The thing with opening your mouth trying to be a hotshot is that you, you also don't know what other people know. Easy to look like a dumbass. I suppose we all do it sometimes, but, best not to if we can help it, eh? Hard to read up on everyone though. History books are stacking pretty high.


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK Author

If what you know (or think you know) is also known (or thought to be known) by professors who teach the subject at universities and who write books about the subject, then you can have a measure of confidence in your knowledge (or belief) even though your thinking might be different from the majority's. Not all thoughts should necessarily always be in agreement with the majority :-)

And as to not commenting about war because one has not been in one: I never have been hanged, but I have read Pierrepoint's biography and understand a little the theory of hanging, as he has explained it in his book. If and when someone more qualified about hanging comes along and convinces me differently, I am fairly confident that Pierrepoint's thoughts on the subject might be relied upon and if my opinion is asked on how to hang someone I shall express it without prejudice :-)))


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK Author

QUOTE:

So, Your Magnificence, take this little gift in the spirit in which I send it; and if you read and consider it diligently, you will discover in it my urgent wish that you reach the eminence that fortune and your other qualities promise you. And if, from your lofty peak, Your Magnificence will sometimes glance down to these low-lying regions, you will realize the extent to which, undeservedly, I have to endure the great and unremitting malice of fortune.

UNQUOTE

Part of the letter accompanying the book when it was sent to Lorenzo de Medici


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

Machiavelli the low-paid civil servant considered a role model for politicians is *almost* as funny as American religious zealots hugging a copy of the King James version of the bible while ranting and raving against gays.

James, of course, was a flaming homosexual who after siring the requisite heir and spare (plus several more children) left his queen at home and instead took his current boy toy to social and court functions.

How dull the world would be if politicians and anti-gays paid attention in history class (if they attend at all). Their ignorance is an endless source of laughter for the rest of us, the "uneducated" masses. ;D


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK Author

Jama, trust you to make the point/comparisson so effectively. Thank You Fellow Machiavellian Heathen! :-)

Machiavelli did not "invent" what are now known as Machiavellian tactics. He simply put them down on paper as he very intelligently (perhaps even as a genius) observed them being carried out. He actually refers to this in his book and gives examples of the correct way of doing something (the Romans) or the wrong way (the French).

It might have taken genius to do taht so well, but his motives were simply self serving and servile.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Just came by to re-read this as I'm thinking about a Hub on Florence, inspired as I so often am by some vintage postcards! It's a really enjoyabloe Hub.

Love and peace

Tony


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK Author

Thanks Tony. Good to see you always :-)


hafeezrm profile image

hafeezrm 5 years ago from Pakistan

Our late army dictator, General Ziaul Haq, was influenced by Machiavelli and often quoted him.

Zia ruled Pakistan for 11 years and would have continued indefinitely if he was not blown in the mid-air. He believed in maintaining his powers, with hook or crook, and used Islam to strengthen his grip.

You have brought out the fact that his philosophy suited selfish and self-centered Politicians even dictator-turned-Politicians.


De Greek profile image

De Greek 5 years ago from UK Author

Friend hafeezrm, ruthlessness can often lead to great heights of political achievements. Sad, but true...

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working