On Hair, Politics and War: Week 10

  1. His perspective is a perplexing one. Machiavelli argues throughout The Prince that princes cannot be expected to be perfect. It seems that those of his time who were critiquing princes believed that all such authority figures must attain to a number of specific qualities. Several such admired attributes included generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, and straightforwardness. In Machiavelli’s opinion, because no man is without fault, no prince can meet the standards which they are held to by society.

I agree that political figures and those in authorities cannot meet the expectations which they are often held to. There is not a person who is able, truthfully, to claim to have every kind and self-denying attribute. I believe in this sense Machiavelli’s perspective, on political ideals which do not match reality, still applies today.

Although Machiavelli argues that a perfect ruler cannot be attained, he simultaneously describes his version of what an ideal prince would look like. He describes a ruler who would be able to discern in such a way as to make the ideal judgments for each situation. This man would be respected and feared, but would at the same time be thought of as kind, loving, and religious. He would know when to keep promises and when to break them; he would understand when to be gentle and when to be cruel. Although these expectations are not consistent with what were commonly thought of as ideals at this time, they are still expectations which no man could meet. I believe this way of thinking is far more prevalent today. People do not expect political figures to be honest or caring, but they expect them to have social savvy and make the best possible judgments. Even though the expectations have changed since earlier times, they are just as impossible to meet.

 

  1. In Muslim cultures, the covering of the hair is highly important. I believe it is because hair is synonymous with their beauty, and their beauty is traditionally meant only for their husbands. I understand that women’s hair is often a highly sexual symbol, although I do not entirely understand why.

This theme can be seen even in fairy tales such as Rapunzel. The act of letting down her hair has a much more symbolic meaning of vulnerability and sexuality than is often emphasized.

In the bible there is a story in which Mary, the sister of Lazarus, pours perfume on the feet of Jesus and cleans his feet with her hair. As shocking as this would be in our culture, it would be far more so in a culture where hair is covered and highly honored. Mary was symbolically saying that compared to the honor Jesus deserved, the sum of her glory was nothing more than a foot towel.

I see how greatly women’s hair has been esteemed throughout history, but I do not know where this honor came from. It is possible that it is simply a result of the traditional roles of men and women. Men are typically thought of as the ones who are hardworking, and who get dirty and grimy. Because of this long hair on men would perhaps be an inconvenience and even a health hazard. Because women have traditionally stayed at home they would, perhaps, have an easier time staying clean.

 

  1. I think that the flowers are related to the honor of bringing captives from war. It is hard to discern whether the flowers represent the physical bodies of the captives, or the spiritual blessings and societal honors which such captives bring upon the triumphant warriors.

The “song’ is even more difficult to decipher. In the first sentence the speaker says he is “cleaver with a song’ which makes me think that a song represents skill in war. As I read on however, the description of the song in not consistent with skill in war. It could perhaps represent the spirit within individuals which drives them to war, or the pride which motivates warriors to fight for their families.

2 thoughts on “On Hair, Politics and War: Week 10

  1. swhoke

    I agree that political figures are held to standard that few could achieve both in Machiavelli’s time as well as our own, but I also believe that a grade or comparison is always made to the form of which perfection is obtained for anything being rated or judged. I enjoyed your post thank you.

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  2. Caitlin

    I thought the same thing for question three, that it had to do with war, or being a warrior and being motivated.

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