Machiavellian politics

Amal Chatterjee
10 min readMay 20, 2019

Source : Google photo of Machiavelli

Synopsis : We now see so much acrimony in politics that holds no bar in defaming the opposition in crude and unsubstantiated allegations that makes me think of Machiavelli. The fight for power has always been like war where no rules apply so the politicians throw away all that is decent and resort to dirty politics. I would like to think that Machiavellian politics should be condemned and relegated to the dustbin of history so that people can fight for election within rules and decency.

Niccolò Machiavelli, (born May 3, 1469, Florence, Italy — died June 21, 1527, Florence), Italian Renaissance political philosopher and statesman, secretary of the Florentine republic, whose most famous work, The Prince (Il Principe), brought him a reputation as an atheist and an immoral person.

Machiavelli wrote a long time ago what it took to win in politics that today many politicians have taken to heart and take his advice as the road map to success. What the common people ignore is the fact that the politics of winning has no moral base or guidelines so yesterday’s opponent becomes an ally and today’s ally may become tomorrow’s nemesis.

We hear of the great Indian election underway now that will decide who will be the leader to lead a nation of over 1.3 billion souls and whether or not he or she will become a great leader to make the development a priority or a bad leader who will fill his pockets to get very rich quickly and let the country down.

We see again and again how the bad people get to the top by making fake promises they have no intention to keep just to get the votes and then becoming extremely arrogant once they are elected. Then they are surrounded by security goons with dark glasses and automatic weapons who keep people away as far as possible.

So the people who voted the politician into power feel let down because now the same politician makes threats and intimidates the people who have not voted for him and insults them with deprecating words just because they voted of their own free will.

I always see the baby kissing politicians with fake smile shaking hands with the would be voters to impress them but in reality the same person hides his dark secrets from them to project only the fake side of him to win their votes and support. It reminds me of the woman who married Duvalier in Haiti and was a person of low moral character but said that she will get even with her detractors after her marriage which she did by ruining them when she got married to an equally bad person. Many politicians do the same and become vengeful once they get elected toward those who did not support them.

Machiavelli said that in politics people make strange bed fellows to serve their interest and will go to any length to gain power and stay there because power is very addictive and gives such a person the opportunity to abuse it with impunity. No one can bring a dictator to the International court of Justice for killing thousands of innocent people who never meant any harm to anyone because he is not answerable to anyone for what he does. Idi Amin, Mobutu and Mugabe are some names that come to my mind.

In the days of kings and queens, it was routine to see the bloody struggle to gain or retain power. Aurangjeb killed his half-brothers and jailed his father Shah Jehan, the emperor so that he could ascend the throne but such tactics were common since the ancient times.Genghis Khan killed his fierce opponent to become the sole ruler and Cleopatra had her half-brother killed to gain power and favor in the eyes of Julius Caesar. Shaka Zulu had all his opponents executed so that he could become the most powerful of Zulu rulers but in the end he too was killed by his own trusted generals who disagreed with him. Jalal Uddin Mohamed aka Akber challenged his fierce opponent to a one to one duel with the winner take all deal to avoid mass killings by two armies. His opponent was defeated and sent to exile showing magnanimity in Akber. But he was also known for his cruelty toward his opponents.

So the power game has always been brutal where the most cunning and ruthless person prevailed by eliminating all opposition one way or the other. Machiavelli simply put into words and action on how the modern struggle for power can be played through cunning, careful planning and often outright deceit because he said that there is no morality in the game of power struggle so the means should justify the end result.

We are now in the age of democracy where the common people are empowered to vote and elect the government they want through their voting rights. It is fair to say that the voting rights were hard earned through bloodshed and revolutions in many countries while in others they are still fighting for such rights.

In some countries, people demonstrated in the streets in very large numbers to chase out the dictators like in Iran and Tunisia only to find the next government just as corrupt and brutal as the ones they chased out so a revolution fatigue sets in that encourages the bad people to rule once again.

So the people powered revolutions need a charismatic leader who has the power to move the masses against the status quo so such leaders emerge during a period of crisis in a country like what has just happened in Sudan where women took the lead to force out a longtime dictator. But it takes great courage to stand up against a ruthless dictator because such courageous people end up beaten or dead. In other countries the power vacuum is quickly filled by the hard core fundamentalists who then become the dictators.

There is a basic premise that all people no matter where they live want freedom from oppression and fear, freedom to choose the government they want, freedom of expression and an independent judiciary that becomes an institution and pillar of democracy. They want an army and police force that is apolitical and serves under the democratically elected civilian government but these are high goals to achieve even in a modern democratic country like India although it must be said the Indians do enjoy their right to vote and choose their government, a free press, an independent judiciary and the armed forces that are subservient to the civilian elected government.

I write about India because they are in the process of electing their new government through massive voting, the results of which will be announced shortly. The election process although largely fair and peaceful has seen some poll related violence where people have been killed or injured due to political differences between parties that are fighting for their share of electoral votes and will stop at nothing to get them.

Source : Google photo of Josef Goebbels , the Nazi propaganda minister

One method used by the Nazis was to appoint a propaganda minister called Josef Goebbels whose sole job was to create propaganda films, publish articles in the media to favor their party and through mass meetings where only the Nazi party was allowed to sing their own praise. Today many politicians do the same by making fake promises to gain voters, publish news articles in the media to show them in a good light and by paying corrupt newspaper editors and TV journalists to sing their praise.

We are now in the era of smart phone technology in the hands of common people so spreading fake news and misleading information is easier than one can imagine. Gullible people who are predisposed to believe fake news especially if they favor one candidate over others then help spread the fake news by using the share button creating a tsunami of fake news that stars to exert its influence in the minds of people. Imagine what Goebbels could do if he had such technology in 1933?

What is interesting is the fact that the politics in any country attracts those people who are morally, psychologically ,intellectually and in many other ways unfit to run for higher office. Some are outright felons with many cases pending against them for bribery, dishonesty, criminal activities and such but they promote themselves as the most viable candidates giving credence to the notion that in any society the scum always floats to the top.

It is more so in the politics where the voice of honest people who may become the leaders if the voting is fair and impartial is drowned out in the fierce debates where the corrupt and incompetent people shout most insults at their opponents and encourage their supporters at their political rallies to beat or harass people who do not support them. We see this sort of behavior in many countries now.

The Nazis did the same but the ascent of Nazis to power was due to the vacuum created after the First World War and the unjust Versailles treaty that imposed heavy penalty on the German people thus creating great resentment and a desire in them to change their government so they opted for a strong leader like Hitler. Hitler explained it in his book Mein Kampf quite well.

This is no longer the case now. The politicians are now fighting with each other to win the election by any means even if the incumbent government is doing an excellent job of governing the country.

The analogy with a tradesman is quite apt here. If you call a carpenter or a mason or plumber or just about anyone to repair something in your house, he will always find something to criticize the previous tradesman. It is the same in the realm of politics where an aspiring candidate will always find something to criticize an elected official even if he is doing a great job.

One reason why some people feel jealousy is because they think that they are better than others and can do a better job. Students get jealous of their smart classmates, women get jealous of someone who is selected as the beauty queen, people get jealous of their office mates who are promoted ahead of them and the politicians get jealous of others who are doing a good job as the leaders of their nations.

Machiavelli used this dark nature in people to get to where he wanted to be and succeeded because he was totally amoral, an atheist and without any scruples so his writings still inspire immoral and dishonest people who say that any means to justify the end is fair because fighting for power is like a war where all is fair and permissible.

But in a true democracy, people are expected to adhere to the rule of law and practice what is fair and legal but how many do? You have heard of the Watergate scandal but in many so called democracies there are the “gates” that one side or the other has used to discredit their opponents. A good propagandist says that if a candidate is clean and honest, invent some dirt on him and repeat the lies until some people start to believe in them. This is very Machiavellian in concept.

I believe that the good and honest people must come forward in a democracy where they can be recognized on their own merit and not through propaganda. They must be supported to win their fight to be elected so that they can govern their country in a just and equitable way where all people irrespective of their caste, color, race, religion and ethnicity are treated equally, where the development is for everybody and where no one is discriminated using any parameter.

There should be no tolerance for corrupt, incompetent , dishonest , immoral people without conscience in the politics anywhere no matter what Machiavelli said because it is only when the good people take charge of their country, they can move forward and make development for all a priority. But this can only happen when the voters are educated and wise in choosing their leaders.

This can happen in many ways. One is not to support fake news and delete them from all social media and newspapers or TV channels. Support your candidate based on merit and not anything else. Judge him by what he has accomplished and not by his fake promises that he has never fulfilled. Expose corrupt people and do not vote for them. Remember that bad people thrive in politics because they get some support in terms of votes so do not give them the chance to win so that they won’t steal your money and enrich themselves.

There is some truth in saying that you get the government you deserve but no one deserves a bad government. It happens because the good people are defeated by the bad people through propaganda and Machiavellian tactics so wake up and elect people based on honesty and their merit.

If a country wants to make progress, it has to start at the ballot. A wrong choice can set you back by decades. The power struggle does not have to be Machiavellian to succeed. It needs to be fair, balanced and honest so that people can choose the right person to lead them.

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