Machiavelli, de la Cruz, and Cantaras

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

Machiavelli created a cynically pragmatic view of men and the qualities of an ideal leader. I feel that the contrast of qualities Machiavelli describes is, for the most part, consistent with what we expect in our leaders and representatives today. We shun government spending that we qualify as extraneous, we don’t like increased taxes, and there is more than a small share of criticism for the national debt. At the same time, we benefit from public servants and welfare, we think teachers should be paid more, and economic slumps are usually aided by government spending. We are fickle citizens and opinions vary widely, however, we are more likely to respect the leaders that can be frugal.

When it comes to love or fear, we want leaders to make decisions that will lead to greater national security, which will invariably lead to some form of cruelty, both internationally and domestically. Everything from the war on terror to death penalties tests our morals and convictions, but we would prefer knowing our families are safe. We can look back more objectively now on the events leading up to the atomic bombs the U.S. dropped in Japan. We know the lasting repercussions of the bombing now, in addition to the immediate death toll. Nearly 60 years ago, our leaders made a decision to end a conflict that would supposedly save more lives than an ongoing conflict would, especially with no diplomatic end in sight. This would also assert our national power at the very beginnings of the Cold War. Would we rather them having been merciful or cruel?

As far as keeping their word, I think everyone today is just as cynical in thinking that there would be no great surprised if a portion of successful leaders do not keep their word. Although, in a majority of campaign ads I have listened to, I hear very little of any type of agenda. Most are smear ads that hold little relevance to the person’s political character. When I do hear a politician speaking for themselves, their plans are very ambiguous. Perhaps this is an attempt to make general promises that cannot be directly broken.

  1. 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 woman 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?

I think that long hair, particularly healthy and well cared for, is associated with feminine beauty and youth. Generally, long hair appears to soften sharper aspects of the face, such as strong jaw lines or cheek bones, giving women a more youthful and friendly appearance. Today, girls who have short hair are perceived as very confident, pixie-like, or boyish. One work in which hair is emphasized is Little Women. Jo sells her hair and is told she has lost her one beauty. She cries about it later.

  1. Bear in mind that the Aztec warrior’s highest duty is 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.’

I had a difficult time reading this poem. I think song represent war. The author beats his drum, which often if used to instill fear in the enemy. Songs are also used to immortalize great warriors. I think flowers represent these warriors. The author says, “let [the enemy] come and hear the flower dawn songs drizzling down incessantly beside the drum.’ I think this means that the dead warriors, celebrated in song, are in a way revived and with the living warriors in spirit.

One thought on “Machiavelli, de la Cruz, and Cantaras

  1. Cas

    You nailed the cynical yet intelligent views of Machiavelli, and your comparison of him to modern politicians was harsh but it made sense. Especially with the current political issues going on in the united States right now, you explore it thoroughly. I also had a hard time analyzing the poem in the 3rd questions, I couldn’t decide if the flowers were a metaphor for God or simply for fighting. Now I am leaning towards fighting, since the tone of the poem was pretty gung ho.

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