Re: Machiavelli vs Sun Tzu
In my opinion this article is very well written but contains the classic mistake in interpreting Machiavelli. I not sure if he was physically tortured, as it states in the article, (that has never been mentioned in any of the political theory courses I have taken but nonethless) his main torture as he suggests is his inability to partake in political life. Since he was barred from political life he felt as though he should appeal to his friends/colleagues to take up his quest to reunite Italy. This was what he believed most strongly in.
Machiavelli does not need the median of an ideal world, he deals with his world. He can be seen as very original and honest. In his opinion Italy should have been united, and if war was necessary then so be it. This idea stems from the mass corruption that he witnessed throughout his life. He say that holding any virtue to strongly is the largest flaw of a ruler. He says that any leader must be willing to be any emotion at any given time. You must be giving but also tight fisted, honest but lie, kind but mean. This is where his originality is really visible. The Greek philosophers for instance all suggest that a leader must be noble at all times, where Machiavelli says that if you are noble or honest (or whatever noble is) all the time then you limit your ability to react in a given way. For example; if you are always generous then people will take advantage of you, but also if you are always tight-fisted then people will think your greedy and will in turn not trust you.
He also says that you shouldn’t tell someone that you will use their sword to kill them then ask for their sword, but rather just ask to see it out of interest and then use it as you wish. This is basic common sense, a modern example would be showing your cards off the turn in poker. He again says that if you gain power through legitimate ways then you must remain legit, however if you murdered and cheated to get power then you could do whatever once there. An example of this would be if a trusted person like a priest got caught stealing money then people would want him to be punished very sternly, however if a drug dealer finds a purse on the street and returns it with nothing missing then people would think higher of him. As for the claim of the article that Machiavelli has contempt for the masses, is untrue. In either the Prince or the Discourses he outlines that in a given situation someone who seizes power should flip the social pyramid and give the masses the luxuries that the elites had before while stripping the elites of everything.
In conclusion it is very easy to see the negative side of Machiavelli if you read it word for word and not look at the intent behind it.
You are correct when you say that "The Prince" could be read as a series of letters. Many scholars believe that Machiavelli wrote about his experiences while journeying across Europe, documenting what he saw at the time. Some look at his work as a series of "journal entries" which were later on published. In any case, these are the recording interpretations of his perceptions of the methods of success for monarchs as he saw them at the time. (It should be noted that the "letters" of many great authors and playwrights have been compiled into text form and are viewed today as books on various subjects). Nevertheless, publishing and copyrighting were certainly not the industry they are today and the information was produced by reproducing Machiavelli's documentation, whether journal entries, letters home, or what have you.
In terms of your claim that Machiavelli never endured physical torture: According to most historians and Machiavellian scholars, Machiavelli was briefly imprisoned at Bargello in France after he was accused of conspiring against the Medici in 1512. During that time, his captors tortured him in order to force a confession, but Machiavelli maintained his innocense throughout the whole ordeal. The torture was not long or life-threatening, but most scholars do agree that it took place.
Your analysis of Machiavelli's philosophies is certainly not inaccurate; Machiavelli did believe in a balance, but always with the intention of manipulation, even if that manipulation was intended for the greater good. Of course, he believed that the ends always justified the means, and that philosophy, in my opinion, can never constitute justice on every end of the spectrum. I do agree that it is easy to see the "negative" side of Machiavelli, which is why, in this article, I attempted to examine the underlying causes which may have influenced the views he expresses in "The Prince." As I stated in the article, many scholars believe that Machiavelli did not actually endorse the techniques he wrote about in "The Prince," but rather, documented "successful" techniques of monarchs as he saw them at the time.
As I stated in the article, many believe that Machiavelli did not personally endorse these techniques because the views expressed therein are not in sync with the attitudes expressed in his other works, particularly his plays and poetry. The article was never written with the intention of demonizing Machiavelli, but rather, of expressing a widely-held interpretation of his works as well as examining the historial context in which the work was written.
Re: Child Brides
Neither you nor I will never be able to understand what it is to be a child bride, what it is to have sex with a complete stranger without even been given a choice, What would have happened if your grandmother had not fallen in love with your grandfather as would have been the norm? She would have been raped with the complicity of her mother. By promoting child brides would you seriously have liked that on your conscience?
You give the examples of successful females in your family. That was in the United States. How many equal success stories can you quote from Afghanistan? It is all very well to criticise the West, but there are few societies in the world where women have more freedom. You praise early child bearing to be natural whilst condemning late child bearing. That is the same in the animal kingdom, where the survival of the species comes higher than the survival of the individual sentient being. The societies you make apologies for, where young girls are married off without even bothering to ask for their opinion. Those societies see a female's worth only in her ability to produce boys. They are nothing but chattels and pregnant vessels expendable and replaceable when no longer capable of fulfilling the functions imposed on them by male-dominated society. On a totally overpopulated world to produce ever more children has a rather questionable value as it perpetuates the misery of billions destined to be the slaves of the privileged few like you and me. The women who you so condemn in the West for leaving child-bearing so late in life do not contribute to overpopulation. Just think for a moment. If at the age of 13 every female in this country would start giving birth combined with the advances of modern medicine, the world would be even more over-populated, resources scarcer and solutions more ancient, ie more murders, more wars, more misery. That is how previous civilisations got rid of excess populations. Thank God for a an almost complete end to child brides in this country.
I believe you may have misread parts of the article. The premise of the article is not to forgive or condone child brides, but rather to insert some perspective into the constant disapproval and condescension with which these practices are viewed in the West. Certainly, in an ideal world, all women would be free and would have a plethora of opportunities surrounding them in every society. But, as we know, such is not the case in many countries in this world. The majority of parents in Middle Eastern countries are looking out for the best interests of the child based upon their given circumstances at the time. Imagine a family in such a country who did not "marry off" a daughter; imagine the fate of that daughter when she has past typical marrying age in her society and her parents are dead. Where would that leave her? With no education, no job opportunities, etc. Parents in countries where women are oppressed know that finding their daughters a suitable husband is the only protection there is. That does not make it "okay." But to constantly frown upon these practices without examining the underlying causes of them is both arrogant and presumptuous. Don't you think that the women of Afghanistan would make the change if they could? These things do not develop overnight. Look how long it took for women in the US and the UK to achieve women's suffrage. Certainly, the world needs to step up to the plate and advocate for women's rights all over the world; but until equality is achieved in this world, disapproving and condemning a culture's practices without a full understanding of the
complete context in which these decisions are made just further illustrates the disastrous ignorance with which the West so quickly judges other societies.
The discussion on women having children after 35 is not to say that all girls should be giving birth at 13; I am surprised you read it that way. The Mayo Foundation (and most other health organizations) state that the healthiest time for a woman to birth a child is generally between the ages of 21 and 24, give or take a few years from study to study. Neither Western nor so-called Third World countries are following this professional medical advice.