The Prince

Niccolo Machiavelli’s “The Prince” was written almost 500 years ago and it remains potent and somewhat offensive, even in the modern age. In his book, Machiavelli’s describes the traits and behaviors that successful princes must have in order to rule their principalities. He makes note of both successful and failed rulers from among his contemporaries as well as from antiquity such as the Cesar Borgia, Marcus Aurelius, and Hannibal. The thesis I took away from the book was that a prince must be fair and just most of the time but must also be willing to commit acts of severe cruelty and violence when necessary to keep his holdings.

Whether or not we agree with his sentiment, I found many ideas from his book could be applied to modern living. Cruelty, for example, need not be violence or murder in our daily lives. My tenants detour a bit from my Catholic upbringing in that I believe anger and wrath are necessary for some situations in which one needs to defend herself or her kin from other people. In “The Prince”, Machiavelli states that if one needs to commit acts of cruelty, they should be done early and with finality so that the opposition is left both unwilling and unable to seek revenge. I agree that when facing adversaries in our lives, we need to act quickly to demonstrate that we aren’t going to put up with their nonsense. As I said at the beginning of this paragraph, I don’t believe this needs to be violence. One may verbally crush their opponents as well.

Machiavelli also writes at length about treating supporters with care and generosity. One could apply this to life by treating their friends, family, and (non-toxic) coworkers with respect and empathy. Give gifts freely, season them with compliments, and always be willing to go the extra mile when they need assistance. Now, I realize that “Machiavellianism” is a real psychological term and some of what Niccolo Machiavelli was offering borders on manipulation; a person doesn’t need to take it to that degree. Men and women should always be genuine when giving gifts and compliments. While I’m sure we can acknowledge that, to some degree, everything we do is for personal gain, people can behave in a way such that both participants win.

I should say that I fervently believe there are very few reasons a person should resort to violence; physical conflict should be reserved for the defense of oneself and others. However, in rhetoric, arguments must sometimes be destroyed with such decisiveness that the provocateur is unable to retaliate. For example: what favors do we do for humanity when we treat proponents of anti-vax and climate change deniers with respect? If anything, it hurts us. If more experts were willing to destroy these people’s egos with a level of certitude that left them emotionally incapable of bringing up their point again, we may be better off.

But I can’t say. This is just one man’s opinion of a book.