Fear > love > hate: dude, you were doing it wrong

>> Saturday, February 07, 2009

This was a part of the previous post(s), "Suspect terrors" parts one and two, but it frankly didn't seem to fit. But I still wanted to write it, because it was interesting and funny in its way. If you're sick of Mr. Cheney's foolishness, come back tomorrow (when it will be somebody else's foolishness), unless you're sick of politics and ignoramuses in public (hint, tomorrow's post concerns somebody whose name rhymes with "snow's a bummer"), in which case come back Monday. (Only I don't have something set up for Monday, so I'm not making any promises.)

I find myself at the tail-end of a discussion of "terrorists' rights" wondering how seriously I should take a disgraced former Vice-President who unconsciously echoes Machiavelli. Cheney told Politico:

"The United States needs to be not so much loved as it needs to be respected. Sometimes, that requires us to take actions that generate controversy. I’m not at all sure that that’s what the Obama administration believes."


Uncannily familiar? Of course it is:

Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with. Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life and children, as is said above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you. And that prince who, relying entirely on their promises, has neglected other precautions, is ruined; because friendships that are obtained by payments, and not by greatness or nobility of mind, may indeed be earned, but they are not secured, and in time of need cannot be relied upon; and men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.



Now, the funniest thing about this isn't really the irony that Machiavelli--an ardent supporter of republicanism--was being a mite bit ironic (if not forthrightly satirical, as some have said), but that even if you take your Prince at face value, Machiavelli's very next words are:

Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred; because he can endure very well being feared whilst he is not hated....

Machiavelli goes on to observe that a Prince is more likely to be not-hated if he keeps his hands off his peasants' property and women, something Mr. Cheney might have taken into account if he really was interested in Iraqi oil as has sometimes been alleged. And Machiavelli also, I'll concede, notes that somebody with a big army ought to sustain a reputation for cruelty since it helps maintain a certain esprit de corps (my words, not his) among the men. And then he makes favorable comments about Hannibal (the one with the alpine elephants, not the fellow what fed that man's brain to hisself; Cheney's an idiot but he's not stupid, I expect he'd know which Hannibal I meant).

Now, as mentioned, there are some good reasons for thinking Machiavelli was being ironic or even satirical in The Prince: The Prince was published after his death and the works Machiavelli published during his lifetime show a much more liberal (in the classical sense) bent. But let's take ol' N.M. at face-value: was the Bush administration successful in balancing the love-fear-hate equation:


Loved.....No, but Machiavelli says that doesn't matter if we're...
Feared.....Score! But what about...
Hated.....D'oh!


See, Cheney, if you're following the Machiavelli playbook, it's okay if people are skeert of you, just don't piss 'em off. And you, my fr--er, my, uh, former, uh, Veep, you crossed the line. The only people who don't hate you are such hardcore ideologues that if you've long felt an urge to paint yourself safety orange head-to-toe and then film yourself sodomizing farm animals while screaming lines from Mao's Little Red Book and you've only been putting it off because you have your reputation... well, go ahead. I'm pretty sure your remaining supporters really won't mind all that much. ("I can't see why we're talking about Dick Cheney showing an interest in the labor of hard-working, heartland American farmers when Barrack Obama has appointed Fidel Castro to the Department Of Health And Human Services," they'll angrily say on Sean Hannity's show. And then Hannity will ask Ann Coulter for her opinion, and Ms. Coulter's head will spin completely around and they'll have to cut to an ad before she starts doing that thing with the crucifix again.)

See, this was part of the problem. You were doing it wrong. If the point was that it was better to be feared "respected" than loved, you were supposed to pull out before you hit hated and despised by much of the world.

Just one more thing for the new guy to fix, I guess. It wasn't supposed to devalue that much when you drove it off the lot, Cheney; maybe you should have checked the oil more often.1

(And now, I promise: other subjects for a while. This one simply hung too low not to pick.)



1See what I did there in that last clause of that last sentence. Yeah. I didn't mean to. Seriously. I tried to think of another thing you could neglect in a car to screw it up, and it was kinda late and I needed dinner, and so I sort of had a FAIL and decided to go with "check the oil" and all it's unintended implications. So much for the Bush Administration: it was hard not to make fun of it, even by accident.

2 comments:

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