Viewing posts tagged machiavelli

Sarcasm and Chips

Every time I read The Prince I become more convinced that it is a work of sarcasm.  Not conscious sarcasm perhaps, but sarcasm nonetheless. 

It is the product of bitter disappointment and disillusion.  This man, Machiavelli, had been a fierce Florentine patriot, a republican, a defender of the revolutionary city after the popular ousting of the plutocratic Medici psuedo-kings.  He lost the game and, having been tortured and exiled, he sat and wrote what is supposed to be a job application to the triumphant Medici... and it turns into the first open admission (in modern European letters) that ethics and politics are separate and often irreconcilable. 

It is coded, deliberately or not, to imply that the failure of Republican hopes in the face of the Medici stemmed from a failure to be sufficiently ruthless against them, to be as utterly cynical as the Medici themselves.  In the process, Machiavelli praises Cesare Borgia as the perfect Prince.  The Medici had regained their status in Florence partly owing to an alliance with the bellicose Pope Julius II, who had been one of the Borgia's most implacable enemies. 

Gramsci famously argued that the book ...

We are the Borgias. You will be Excommunicated. Renaissance is Futile.

It's good that TV dramas have become more complex and ambiguous, particularly with regards to morality.  But there is a tendency for them to lose any moral compass in their eagerness to show us the dark sides of the characters with whom they want us to empathize and to care about.

The Borgias wants us to follow Cesare's career with sympathy, but also shows him having people tortured into madness.  What is the show's position on this?  Oddly, it tries to whitewash him even as it revels in his dark side.  It makes his victims into rapists and murderers.  It depicts him as personally involved in tormenting Savonarola, but makes Savonarola a fanatic (of course) and a vicious homophobe.  Now, it's true that Savonarola instituted strictly puritanical laws in Florence, including against sodomy... but that was applicable to hetero sex as well as homo.  Of course, I wouldn't want to defend Savonarola's views in their entirety.  He was not a modern democrat.  But he and people akin to him - Munzer, Cromwell, the Levellers, the Diggers... the p/Protestant revolutionaries of the era of transition from ...

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