Machiavelli is the Devil

 

 

I was in Columbia the other day and I bought a book called 10 Books That Screwed Up The World: And 5 Others That Didn’t Help. Benjamin Wiker, the author, examines 15 foundational books that persuasively justify bad ideas.  Mr. Wiker suggests that the best way to inoculate one’s self from these ideologically diseased works is to read them.  In case you’re unpersuaded that this is necessary, Wiker explores  the arguments of each of the books and alerts the reader to their trendy current mutation.  The chapters are long enough to give you serious food for thought, but short enough to reach a wide audience. Mr. Wiker is a good stylist and he deftly distills abstract thoughts into concrete sentences.  His first chapter is a punchy take on Niccolo Machiavelli’s infamous book The Prince.  I liked what he said so much that I did this painting.

The Prince is both controversial and strangely popular.  It is controversial because it rationalizes the separation of power from ethics and popular because many folks want this rationalization.  Wiker writes, “Machiavelli knew evil.  But then, so did many others, in many other times and places … What makes Machiavelli different is that he looked evil in the face and smiled.  That friendly smile and a wink is The Prince.”

Here’s how the worship of power seems to unfold.  Power seduces because we prefer “what is mine” to “what is right.”  The more personalized our moral code, the harder it is to do wrong.  Since we think highly of our personal virtue, we give our desires little scrutiny.  Soon, we focus our energies to acquire power so we can do what we want i.e. “good.”  In the end, our attempts at Utopia kill 6 million Jews, or 100 million dissenters, or we fly a plane full of innocents into a building full of innocents.  Such actions get the thumbs up from Machiavelli.  Wiker says, “Machiavelli convinces the reader that great evils, unspeakable crimes, foul deeds are not only excusable but praiseworthy if they are done in the service of some good.  Since this advice occurs in the context of atheism, then there are no limits on the kind of evil one can do if he thinks he is somehow benefitting humanity.”‘

Machiavelli is a devil because he repeats the old lie that the ends justify the means.  It’s not new.

Matt 4:8-9

“Again, the devil took him [Jesus] to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’”

Here is Wiker’s succinct take on Machiavelli:

“His great classic The Prince is a monument of wicked counsel, meant for rulers who had shed all moral and religious scruples and were therefore daring enough to believe that evil–deep, dark, and almost unthinkable evil–is often more effective than good.”

In conclusion Mr. Wiker contends that Machiavelli lit the fuse that runs through Rousseau, and Marx, and Nietzsche, and that ultimately set off the powder keg of the 20th century.  He fathered the lie in political science that was first told by the father of lies: “It is best to exchange personal goodness for personal power.”  Thumbs down for Machiavelli.

Work in Progress shot:

EDIT: A Machiavellian word from Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals

“It is a world not of angels but of angles, where men speak of moral principles but act on power principles; a world where we are always moral and our enemies always immoral; a world where ‘reconciliation’ means that when one side gets the power and the other side gets reconciled to it, then we have reconciliation.”

SAM FORCE 2

More than one writer has compared Mustache Jones to Slappy Malloy.  In his 1998 book, Sam Force to GIJOE: Television in the Age of Reagan, Henry Sallow remarks, “For those aware of the players, the similarities between Stewart Malloy and Mustache Jones are manifold.”  Sallow goes on to suggest that the polemical argumentative nature of the show mirrors the interaction between Slappy and his Marxist roommate, Shelby Rodenburg.

Though initially quite good friends, the political divide became personal, and they pursued projects aimed at the other’s displeasure.  Sam Force promoted a Pro-Nuclear, “Peace through Strength” agenda with such ferocity that many networks feared a political backlash.  Had Malloy been less strident, Sam Force might have pre-empted the success of GIJOE.  Still without the training ground of Sam Force, GIJOE would have never found its voice.

While Slappy worked on his Sam Force proposal, Shelby Rodenburg found the perfect vehicle for his Marxist leanings in a Belgian comic called The Smurfs.  Released in 1981, The Smurf television show demonstrated a communal, currency-free society ruled by a benign, red-clad, Marx-bearded, Papa Smurf.  If that weren’t enough to annoy Slappy Malloy, Rodenburg emphasized Gargamel, a greedy capitalist villain who desperately wanted to commodify the Smurfs and turn them into gold.  It is possible that the audience for such a heavily Marxist allegory was not principally America’s children.  Rather, it is entirely feasible that Smurf preachiness was intended to provoke the free-market-loving, Milton-Friedman-worshipping, Slappy Malloy.

Not surprisingly the tension between the two roommates found its way into Slappy Malloy’s script.  Below is a page from the SamForce pilot where Mustache Jones (Malloy’s counterpart) dukes it out with Comrade Crimson (Rodenburg’s counterpart?).

One can only wonder what the show might have gone on to reveal had it been allowed to continue.  I think I can say without fear of contradiction that the show behind the show is far more interesting and had it been more widely known Sam Force might still be running today.

SAM FORCE

In 1978 during the height of the Cold War, Stewart (Slappy) Malloy devised a television series for kids that dramatized the fighting forces of the United States against those of the Soviet Union.  Motivated by a frustration toward the Carter administration’s apologetic posture and what he deemed a weak foreign policy, Slappy Malloy proposed a television show called “Sam Force” that would promote patriotism and restore pride in the armed forces.  Every week “Sam Force” was to fight “The Red Thumb” a proxy Soviet empire.  The show never made it beyond its pilot episode, and in 1979 Slappy Malloy was recruited by Hasbro to revitalize the wilting GIJOE franchise.

 

Above is the front of a proposed trading card.  It features Natasha Plotnikova, a Red Thumb villainess.  She is an agent skilled in the passive aggressive arts.  The back of the card lists her weapons as pouty lips and a sullen expression.  Furthermore, she makes her enemies feel guilty almost at will.  Plotnikova appeared briefly in an interrogation scene during the pilot episode.

Ah, what might have been.

In the words of the Sam Force Theme Song:

The Sam Force forever, hurrah, boys, hurrah!

Down with the traitor, and crush the red star.

Title of my Blog Post

Here’s something I started a while ago and just revisited.

I had a busy weekend and I uploaded some cover revisions and storyboards this morning.  So for the rest of the day I’m just doing some blog stuff and kicking back before I start on the underpainting for a cover tomorrow.

I get really frustrated with storyboards sometimes because I want to impress the client with a great vision of the script and really top notch drawings, but the working time always gets a little cramped, and panels that I want to render like this:

end up like this:

or this:

I’m actually pleased with some of the work, but I can’t put it on my blog because it’s for a video game that comes out in a billion years.  If I put up any of the work, the Play Station folks will actually get in a time machine, kill my parents, and I’ll never get born.  Seriously, they’re the mafia, but with time machines and lots of first person shooter experience.