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?
I think a lot of what he said is the reality of today, including the concept of the difference of morality between public and private purposes. The US has a history of using excessive means to destabilize international political figures who do not match the US interests, or possibly even choose a new leader of a nation by supporting an opposing figure through financial or military assistance. Whether or not modern political actions are being implemented with Machiavelli, it is doubtful, I would guess that many of his ideas were already common practice and he only outlined it. This sort of obviousness makes me wonder if there was an ironic tone in his writing, maybe he was merely stating how it could be with no absolute intention for it becoming that way. The Prince was even banned by the Catholic church, which asserted it was going against god, which is funny because the book outlined the Catholic church’s personality pretty well. In today’s world, the powers of a nation are often spread over many individuals, which the people trust will make the right decisions for the good of the nation. Not being in politics myself, I wonder what it is actually like for politicians, how they decide what is right and what is wrong for society, and how would they determine what wrong can justify a right. Machiavelli was a advocate for putting the people first even if that meant acting in a corrupt manner and making decisions which would not have the popular support of the people, not thinking about morality, but how it would improve the nation. I don’t think his work necessarily applies today, but I do believe some of the attributes he described a Prince would need can be found in modern and ancient contexts.
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 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?
Hair represents many thing in cultures around the world, in Sister Juana de la Cruz case, she felt she would only deserve to keep her hair if she had the knowledge to deserve it. Therefore, she only got to keep it as long as she learned, and cut it off if she failed to learn. She believed, hair represented beauty, but beauty is less important than the beauty of knowledge. An example of other cultures would be the mythological story of Medusa, who had a head of snakes instead of hair, representing wickedness instead of beauty. The bible invokes the power of hair through the character Samson, who loses his power when it is cut off. In modern society, the female hair is thought of as a beauty characteristic, but what is interesting, is with current battles against breast cancer, females will cut their own hair in support and respect for those who lost their hair during cancer treatment. Hair symbolizes beauty, but when it’s removed it can symbolize strength and the idea that beauty is not superficial.
3. 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.’
Well, the line “Sacred flowers of the dawn are blooming in the rainy place of flowers,’ makes me think the flowers are those who are about to be sacrificed, and the rainy place could represent the place were blood flows and the flowers bloom in the eyes of the gods. Furthermore, the line “giving a gift of flower brilliance to the eagle-jaguar princes,’ represents to me that the flowers are representing life and a gift through sacrifice to the god princes. The term song, seems to represent the screams of those sacrificed flowers, and the chanting of war cries of those who captured the flowers. I think this song could be viewed in a number of ways, but being that war was the main focus of the culture, I would assume war is what they saw as beautiful, thus describe it in a beautifully poetic way.
Wow, your medusa example is awesome… I was having a difficult time trying to think of more examples. This really brings about a whole other aspect.