November 7, 2006 3:58 PM
I remember reading Machiavelli’s "The Prince" in college and being appalled by the cynical premise (and conclusion) of the book. I’m sure the years have blurred the message in my mind, but, if memory serves, the basic message to the young prince about leading his country was that it is better to rule by fear than by love—because love can change on a given day—fear will not. We have been living in a world of fear for quite a while in this country—some justified, some not. Today, many people will vote Democratic because of the war. But, I can’t help wondering if we are just tired of being told to be afraid. It is very hard to live that way.
People in war-torn countries often find a way to feel normalcy in their lives (even if that seems crazy from the outside). I suppose Machiavelli understood this issue as he included admonitions to be a just leader (and particularly not to mess with a citizen’s home or mate—because those are the kinds of things that make people rise up and overthrow governments with reckless abandon).
On the love vs. fear equation, I wonder how much we could have gotten done with the three hundred eighty billion dollars (and counting) we have spent on the Iraq war. How far could we have gotten in the quest to gain energy independence in forms cleaner than the fossil fuels that the scientific community tells us are dangerously altering our climate? Or, how much could we have helped countries and people who need our help?
Instead, we have chosen to be afraid—and to use force. And, in doing so, whether you believe in the cause or not, you have to be aware that we have destroyed an awful lot of homes, mates and loved ones. The impact of those actions will be felt for generations.
The optimist in me continues to hold out hope that Machiavelli, the fatalist, will be proven wrong by someone (perhaps a woman?) who dares to rule with compassion in today’s complicated world.