Machiavelli, Hair, and the Aztecs

1. Granted that Machiavelli’s own historical context is remote, how far does his pattern of political ideals and concrete realities apply today?

When Machiavelli wrote of how princes could keep their power, he may as well been writing about the politicians of today! In one certain passage, he mentions “that a deceitful man will always find plenty who are ready to be deceived”. Very often, a politician’s political promises are broken, then explained away, or their opponent is magically transformed into the worst person in the world and unworthy of a single vote (whereas, of course, the campaigner is made to look like they’re saving the world). While Machiavelli’s political views weren’t exactly what everyone wanted to hear, they also seem to be extremely realistic. After all, no one is perfect, therefore no one can have and act on all the good qualities people want to see in a leader!

2. Sister Juana de la Cruz cuts off her hair to force herself to learn more quickly, although she knows that among young women, “the natural adornment of one’s hair is held in such high esteem”. Finally, she enters the convent (where women had their heads shorn). What other works have you read that emphasize the importance of a woman’s hair? Why does it seem to have so much symbolic value in such a range of cultures and times?

Throughout history, women’s hair has been seen as symbolic to either how womanly and desirable they are, or how much freedom they have. For example, in 1920s America, women not only were granted the right to vote, but also began cutting their hair very short (the bob). In the ’60s and ’70s – the hippie generation – hair was long and loose, much like the attitude of the times was extremely laid back. In the Iliad, the goddesses are described a lot by their hair – Thetis’ was “bright” (maybe very blond or red), and Athena is described as “golden”.

3. Bear in mind that the Aztec warrior’s highest duty was to bring home live captives for sacrifice. Give the Song for Admonishing a careful reading and decide – without researching the entire Cantares Mexicanos – what possible meaning might be assigned to the figurative terms “flower” and “song”.
It seems that the “flower’ in this context is really a badge of honor to be worn by the brave and honorable out on the battlefield. The Song for Admonishing speaks of princes that crave the dawn flowers, and these seem to be either the strongest warriors or the honors that the princes themselves want from the battlefield. The songs seem to be the call of war and the honor that goes along with following that call willingly.

One thought on “Machiavelli, Hair, and the Aztecs

  1. hkreutter

    I really like the quote that you used when describing Machiavelli’s story and about the politicians. I agree that a lot of the things that were mentioned in The Prince are really similar to the way that our politicians are today. I think that many of the people running for office will and do always find someone that is easily fooled and will vote for them on a false pretense. It would be a better world, I think, if people who are honest about things could actually win elections.

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