A French Face of True Heroism
1 hour ago
Machiavelli is a multi-faceted man, and I cannot say that I have studied him with the attention he deserves. I can offer a few conclusions I have formed. First, he is the first philosopher/thinker to have studied power as an essential aspect of what he called the state. In my view, this was not attempted in the classical and Medieval world, because the state in our sense of the word did not really exist except in embryo. Thucydides and Tacitus were as cynical as M in their evaluation of political conduct and motivation, but the apparatus of the state did not exist. M did not invent the state but he is the first to have seriously studied it. His disciples--Pareto, Mosca, Sorel, Burnham, Francis--have provided invaluable analysis.
Second, he was a Florentine patriot and an Italian, who wanted to restore the Florentine Republic or at least preserve Florentine independence and to keep the filthy barbarians--Germans and French--out of Italy. If this had to be done through the agency of a Borgia Pope and his "nephew," so be it, but his preference was always for a free republican government. He was no mere theorist. When The Florentines made their final great effort to restore the republic, with the guidance of Piero Soderini, Machiavelli was responsible for the militia--he alone, it seems, understood how dangerous mercenaries had become.
Third, he is one of the great masters of the Italian language, and his commentaries on Livy constitute the deepest reflections on the nature of liberty.
It is in this context that one has to read his extremely melancholy masterpiece, The Prince. I have a wonderful copy, by the way, published in the early 1990's. It is contains Napoleon's notes--he left his copy behind in his carriage at Jena, with an introduction by a neophyte politico named Silvio Berlusconi.
As I progressed in my research, I realized just how visionary Pope John Paul II had been. He wasn’t offering a Catholic version of a fascist salute to motherhood. He was taking the concept of motherhood in a wholly different direction. After all, by the time he was writing, the developed world knew that women could match, and even surpass, men in most things. Instead of answering a question that had long sought an answer by defining women in terms of what men do, he focused on who a woman is, a much more elusive topic.
The shift to Mary emphasizes the change in emphasis from doing to being. We actually know very little about what Mary did. But we know who she is: the Mother of God. Her ability to become a mother fundamentally enabled her to be open to God in a relationship that only a woman could have. Her response, uniquely feminine, paradoxically, became the model for all humanity.Both men and women are "receptive" in relation to God, but women are "receptive" also in relation to men, because of the "complementary" roles. Claims about "being" as characteristic of women while "acting" is characteristic of men, again, need to be understood with respect to how men and women relate to one another, and how they develop and mature, psychologically.
If we follow the example of Mary, that means working from within, wherever we happen to be, whether as chancellor of a major archdiocese, a mother home with small children, in business, politics or countless other places. It means recognizing that women bring something to the table by virtue of who they are rather than simply by what they do.