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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Sometimes I amaze myself

Who among you can withstand a sonic assault of 80s hits, including various songs from the original Karate kid soundtrack, Madonna, Shakira, George Michael … Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler … (I am not kidding …this is not a joke … not even a slight embellishment … I think my coworkers are trying to drive me INSANE … or at least schizophrenic). Who among you can withstand such an inhumane sonic assault, make a Powerpoint presentation, and finish reading Machiavelli’s The Prince at the same time?

Not many, I know.

I have survived Machiavelli’s The Prince amidst unbelievable adversity. My concentration was crystal, my thought pure … all else became secondary, routine, perfunctory. All I needed was my machine-made coffee (at least 5 espressos per day).

Much to my surprise, I agree with almost everything Machiavelli said. He wasn’t writing from a moralist’s point of view, rather from a pragmatist’s point of view. He hedges on certain occasions so as not to offend the church, but he is surprisingly frank on what tactics a prince must use to gain and retain power. 300 years before Nietzsche he was Beyond Good and Evil.

Some of his shrewd advice could be used in everyday life. Even a plebeian like myself can make use of it:

… because there are three classes of intellects: one which comprehends by itself; another which appreciates what others comprehended; and a third which neither comprehends by itself nor by the showing of others; the first is the most excellent, the second is good, the third is useless …

Now, if you can read him with a twisted mix of euro pop and American 80s hits in the background – in short sporadic bursts, off of a computer screen - and understand him, I will shake your virtual hand. Few have traversed this path and have lived to tell about it.

Next up, Sun Tzu’s, The Art of War.

§

A post script - On a more serious note: Machiavelli makes it clear in the snippet I pasted above: know thyself, and appreciate what others have to say. The best moments are when someone with a completely different point of view can convince me. That’s what happened with Paul Johnson, one of my favorite authors. He was recommended to me by my liberal mom. Yes LIB-ER-AL, that dirty word (suck on it, hysterical "conservatives"). His book Intellectuals made me look at the world in a different light. In fact, all four of the books I’ve read by him have made me do this. He’s conservative, and states his opinions well - and I often find myself agreeing with him.

But too often conservatives, or those who call themselves conservatives, make blanket statements about people with vaguely "leftist" opinions. They should get off their high horses and point out the hypocrisy all around. They have it all wrong. There are bigots, there are totalitarian despots, there are intolerant populists. To me, revisionist Catalan nationalists and backwards looking Spanish nationalists are two sides of the same coin. When I read about what I am now calling The Hysteria of Spain, it’s hard to say who’s more at fault for the events of the past: lefties, righties, pinkos, fascists, republicans, monarchists, anarchists, falangists … or is just intolerant, impetuous politicians hiding behind a flag and a pithy slogans?

Is it that hard for people to think for themselves?

I really don’t think there are many people capable of doing this. That’s why I agree with Machiavelli, at least on a psychological level, even if he was a dick.