Machiavelli had a very dark ideal of politics and those who rule. It was better to be feared than loved, and you see this in the reality of politics today. Even though he was talking of princes, wars, and the common man the under lying thread of his ideals shines in the light of today’s political circus. How often have you heard someone say they fear what the government might do, or that they feel helpless when faced with authority? How often have you heard a kid say, ‘Act normal there’s a cop’? Why do so many honest people fear those in power? Why do they fear those people they elected to represent them? You see it in ads on the television for help if the IRS is harassing you, as if the government is the bad guy. Fear is a strong emotion and used in propaganda everyday to keep the masses in order and under control. The fear of aging, the fear of poverty, the fear of being different, and the list is endless. Like a surgeon, Machiavelli created his ideal ruler, cutting to the core of the vices and virtues and leaving only the ones which would serve for the betterment of the polis, not the betterment of the man. As he states “…masses are always impressed by the superficial appearance of things…’, and this rings true today. To me it seems his ideals and contrasting realities apply today as easily as they did in his own time.
Rapunzel comes to mind when thinking of long hair. It was her hair that saved her and gave her, her own happily ever after. In fact most folktales and fairy tales feature the girl with long locks. It is a sign of womanhood and beauty. The movie Yentl is similar to the Sister Juana and her passion for learning. It is story of a Jewish girl who cuts her hair, removes her womanhood, to enter religious training reserved for males in the disguise of a boy. Godiva clothed only in her long tresses astride a white horse also comes to mind. The image of a woman in all her glory with hair shining. It is power, it is a veil to hide behind, and it is magic to the poet and lover alike. Cultures around the world celebrate long hair and many to show respect or mourning shear the head or cut the long locks. In some cultures the women cover the hair or wear wigs to hide their hair so not to tempt men. Their hair is to be seen only by family or husbands as a treasured good. To shave your head can mean to remove what makes you a woman, to remove the temptation it causes to protect against the sin of vanity or protect others from sinning for want of you, or to show respect. But women are not alone in the symbolic value of hair, one just need to remember Samson and what pleasure and pain his great hair caused. Hair retains it great symbolic references because it is universal to all cultures and times. For as long as there are human’s heads will be covered in wondrous hair to fill the imagination with new symbols and meanings for the cultures to come.
It can be assigned in figurative terms that the ‘flower’ is the captives either brought back as a prize of great worth or left dead and of no use, and the ‘song’ as the dance of war the sacrifice of the prisoners to the Gods. The more flowers you have, the greater warrior you are and the bigger the sacrifice to the Gods.
I liked how your incorporated our fear of cops and the government! Fear is very much so used in propaganda to be in control. I found Machavellis ideas to relate very much to today’s politics and politicians as well. Great job!
You are describing political betterment and societal betterment separately. I think that Machiavelli argues that the betterment of politics is equivalent to the battement of man. In his mind you can’t have one without the other, I do not necessarily agree with him however.
Much of what you say about Machiavelli’s “fear” is true, however there is another way to look at it that I think illuminates his intent a little. “Fear” of a leader can be viewed as “respect”. In military and paramilitary environments, you have a choice as a leader, be the “friend” or be the “authority”. Most effective leaders are adept at being respected or “feared” while still being caring and tuned in to those they lead. Being respected or “feared” means being obeyed, with or without kindness. Many struggle with this and either give in to bullying to get the job done or cave to the pressure of the group and try to be everyone’s friend, which of course means they will be taken advantage of. Machiavelli is saying, “of the two, its better to be respected if not liked”.
You made some very fine correlations between Machiavelli’s principles and the society of today. I would say that I agree with you completely.
I was glad to see some references to the hair of women of various cultures. I could not remember any stories in particular, but now that I have read your depictions, I was reminded of Mulan and her ability to blend into the Chinese army and able to train among men, as a man. I thought about the hair as a symbol of beauty and femininity, but hadn’t given much thought about how removing the hair leaves a women to be identified as masculine.
Good points on the sacrifices as well. I had identified the flowers as honors or trophies, but sacrifices were ultimately the trophy. Isn’t it crazy to attempt to imagine a society such as this and being a member of it? Praying and singing for human sacrifices? It makes my stomach turn a little bit…