May 3: Living in the future

I have to go to a wedding today -- in fact I'm there right now, high atop the Oviatt Building in downtown LA. Here's my view:

Ha! You people all look like ants to me! While, thanks to Blogger's future-posting gizmo, I'm able to do two things at once -- as if I were a single mom!

Unless I screw it up, that is. In which case you guys didn't look like ants at all. I was just playing a character.

Today (or is it...tomorrow?) we have the first four chapters of Machiavelli's Prince, which I know I read in college, because this is the volume of the Harvard Classics I took down to college and lost, requiring me, when I took over this set, to get a slightly different-looking Volume 36 from Alibris. Good times.

Having had to read this book back in the day (for two different courses!) I am surprised by how differently it struck me. Mostly because now I've been in plenty of pitches and meetings and stuff and I appreciate how wicked organized Machiavelli ("Don't call me Nick") is. It becomes clearer when you strip out the examples and re-format (and learning to skim is something else that has only happened to me since college). Here's Chapter I:

Princedoms are either hereditary...or they are new.
New Princedoms are either wholly new...or they are like limbs joined on to the hereditary possessions of the Prince who acquires them....
The States thus acquired have either been used to live under a Prince or have been free;
and he who acquires them does so either by his own arms or by the arms of others, and either by good fortune or by merit.
Can't you just see the Powerpoint? I'd do it myself but I don't know how. (Here, however, and I highly recommend it, is the Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation>.)

I do remember being taught that Machiavelli is not to be trusted -- but not because he's being deliberately obscure, but because he's trying too hard to prove whatever case he's arguing at the moment. He appears to be a serial believer. On the one hand:
The Romans, therefore, foreseeing evils while they were yet far off, always provided against them, and never suffered them to take their course for the sake of avoiding war; since they knew that war is not so to be avoided, but is only postponed to the advantage of the other side. They chose, therefore, to make war with Philip and Antiochus in Greece, that they might not have to make it with them in Italy, although for a while they might have escaped both.
Invading Greece is a great idea! And then a chapter later:
Hence the repeated risings of Spain, Gaul, and Greece against the Romans, resulting from the number of small Princedoms of which these Provinces were made up. For while the memory of these lasted, the Romans could never think their tenure safe.
The invasion of Greece is a bad idea! There is no question that Machiavelli would fit right in on Meet The Press; he may, in some ways, have been the first pundit. Speaking of that, Nick, how do you like the Iraq War? I mean, you were for pre-emptive war just a few paragraphs ago, I'm sure you're not going to change your tune now, right?
But if instead of colonies you send troops, the cost is vastly greater, and the whole revenues of the country are spent in guarding it; so that the gain becomes a loss, and much deeper offence is given; since in shifting the quarters of your soldiers from place to place the whole country suffers hardship, which as all feel, all are made enemies; and enemies who remaining, although vanquished, in their own homes, have power to hurt. In every way, therefore, this mode of defence is as disadvantageous as that by colonizing is useful.
See what I mean? He's so smooth! Machiavellian, even. But can he post from the future?

0 comments: