In Praise of Niccolo Machiavelli

August 2, 2018

I get the sense of permanent outrage and anger whenever I read a newspaper, watch the news or god forbid, make the mistake of reading the comments below an online article.

 

Outrage has become a strangely misunderstood emotion, it is one that should be relevant when something happens that is so surprising or so out of character by the event or protagonist that outrage is the appropriate emotional response. However, in contemporary life, it has become an emotion that has become commonplace; something of an oxymoron but an interesting reflection of the modern world.

 

We should not be outraged that someone holds a different view from ourselves nor should we be outraged that a politician has been incompetent, ambitious or duplicitous. However, open a newspaper or switch on the TV and there is no end to the faux outrage you will see from commentators and experts alike. An outrage that is also mirrored on peoples social media accounts. There can be no logical explanation for this faux outrage aside from a complete willful ignorance and naivety.

 

When faced with this universal sense of willful self-deception in the way of the world and to the character traits of mankind, I believe the perfect antidote should be a renewed appreciation of the works of Machiavelli. Niccolò Machiavelli was an Italian Diplomat who has become notorious for writing 'The Prince'. First published in 1532, Machiavelli used this novel to describe immoral behaviour, such as dishonesty and the killing of innocents, as being normal and effective in politics. He even seemed to encourage it in some situations.

 

Unsurprisingly these ideas were met with horror by the establishment of the time, most likely for the accuracy of his musings, but at the time the outrage was hidden under the pretext of moral outrage. A 16th Century example of virtue signalling from the less than virtuous.

 

So notorious has this novel and the ideas from it become that it spawned a new word, named after the author, 'Machiavellian'. A word that refers to the employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct.

 

While undoubtedly uncomfortable reading, much of what Machiavelli describes in this novel rings true and accepting the effectiveness of these strategies and the reality of peoples true motivations should be wildly encouraged.

 

In particular when it comes to politicians if we were to assume they are ambitious people and likely to follow the ideas lauded by Machiavelli we should no longer be surprised by their actions.

 

The truth will always set you free and so to understand that Machiavelli spoke truthfully about the characteristics often present in successful leaders of industry and politics can be very enlightening. An enlightenment that can stop you being outraged by the predictability of people and lead you to have a far greater understanding of the people and society that we live in collectively today.

 

There is clearly nothing wrong with striving for Utopia, but it is also important to recognise and teach those we love that we live in a world as described by Machiavelli. And therefore to not be surprised by the behaviour of those that reach the top of politics or hierachies. 

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