Want to read a politician like a book?
Reviewed by Abhishek Joshi
Machiavelli for Moral People.
By Pavan Choudary. 
Wisdom Village Publications.
Pages 145. Rs 125

WHEN Jesus warns his followers in the Bible that they should go into the world like doves but should beware of the serpent, He means that the clear-spirit of the dove cannot succeed till it understands the serpent's evil mind and evil designs.

Thus goes the rationale behind Machiavelli for Moral People by Pavan Choudary. Machiavelli, whose name has become a global byword for political cunning and pragmatism, said, “Often, religion has glorified more humble and contemplative men rather than men of action.” Pavan says that according to Machiavelli, religion makes too much of humility, lowliness, and promotes contempt of human failings. This kind of religion renders one weak and a prey to wicked men. A number of people, in hope of heaven in after-life, endure wrongs inflicted by wicked men. They consciously opt not to fight the oppressor. Machiavelli berates such religious dictums as they make his society weak.

Nonetheless, because Machiavelli belongs to the notorious school of thought that preached “ends justify means”, he finds massive strength in religion too and strength in its traditions and customs, especially in things like taking a vow in the name of religion. In a religious society, it has been maintained, people are much more reluctant breaking a vow than breaking a law.

Machiavelli also pointed out how religion played a role in commanding armies, in reuniting people, in keeping men righteous, and in heaping humiliation and repentance upon the wicked. In the context of slavery and freedom, Machiavelli says a corrupt country, even after being liberated, barely manages to sustain its freedom. Which throws at us the question: If a corrupt society attains freedom, how does it sustain it?

Faults of the fickle public that either serves humbly or turns monstrous are pointed

He says changing the law is not enough. One should have new laws backed by new, sturdy institutions: new institutions to enforce new, reformed laws.

As for fighting wars, he says, “If you don’t fight the wars which you must, you will have to fight them tomorrow at a greater disadvantage.”

He emphasised that freedom is the first requisite for any positive growth of a country as even a benevolent ruler exploits a slave. He even tries to make the slave believe he is ruled for his own good. On being asked how the meek public would take action against the powerful, Machiavelli said men do not lack strength and courage, but the princes (leaders) have failed in making soldiers out of men.

Machiavelli points out faults of the fickle public that either serves humbly or turns monstrous. For feudalism, he blames not just the lords but also the serfs. The Father of Realpolitik’s ideas explained in the book are arguably a window into the minds of many a politician: A look at ‘political’ morality.