Category Archives: Machiavellians

Machiavelli for modern mediocrities

Heep

How to get on in the West

From the outset, you must compromise your probity and demonstrate your willingness to play the game, at the cost of your integrity.

In the early stages, writes Dalrymple, you will need a ‘personal statement’ in your application for a job or university place. The tone must be one of

unctuous self-advertisement,

and you must put in much about your

passion for social justice and equality, and deep sense of social responsibility, which you will bring to whatever task you are told to perform.

Pecksniff

Tips and hints for today’s Pecksniffs and Uriah Heeps

You must assert that you have dreamt all your life of this post in, say,

the marketing department (selling the unnecessary to the insolvent) and why you, of all the 7bn people in the world, are the most suited to it.

Bear in mind that the purpose of ‘personal statements’ or ‘mission statements’ and their cognates, such as annual declarations of probity, is, says Dalrymple,

to make the world safe for overeducated mediocrities.

Learn the subtle black art

It does not matter if you tell lies in the ‘personal statement’, because nothing you say will be verified or refuted. It is, Dalrymple points out,

the physical utterance of correct sentiments that counts, not whether they correspond to any truth, inner or outer. They are a sign of willingness to conform, more or less to anything that may be required, and conformity is the highest value of mediocrities; it makes them feel comfortable and, more important, safe.

You must show

determination to climb some bureaucratic career ladder detached from any purpose except survival and, if possible, self-aggrandisement.

Ally your mediocrity to your overweening ambition

To climb such a ladder,

you have to be ruthless and submissive at the same time. You have to be prepared to stab people in the back in the scramble for advancement, while being prepared to suppress your personality by uttering other people’s clichés at the expense of your own thoughts. Unpreparedness to do this, either through lack of training or moral scruple, unfits you for a career in the organisation, any organisation. You have to learn to lie with clichés, and do so with a straight face.

Above all, recognise that

adherence to truth is of no importance.

For you and the other

ambitious mediocrities produced in ever-greater numbers by our educational system,

words must be

but levers to personal advancement and power.

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The nature of politicians

The doctor-writer picks up a copy of S.L. Sutton’s 1972 volume in the series ‘Invertebrate Types‘, which Dalrymple says does not in point of fact refer to current British politicians such as David Cameron (‘morals of a jackal and backbone of a mollusc’) or Theresa May (‘Machiavelli minus the cunning’).

Dear little chap

Finding himself in Madrid, Dalrymple ambles into the Prado, which is for him the most beautiful of the great art galleries. He comes across a painting by Bronzino, and observes that the productions of this portraitist of the Florentine élite are marked by

clear-sighted ruthlessness. They are slightly chilling.

Don Garzia de’ Medici, son of Cosimo I de’ Medici, is represented as holding in his right hand an orange flower, symbol of innocence. But no one would take him for an innocent.

Quite the contrary, one would take him for an incipient psychopath, the kind of person who later in his career would gladly have had those around him poisoned in order to secure his power, he being only the third son of his father. The infant, chubby from rich food, is dressed in a red silk tunic laced liberally with gold, of an adult style different only in size from an adult’s, and stares out defiantly, unblinkingly and already with no illusions about the world, upon the onlooker. His expression is nasty; it is that of an infant both petulant and calculating.

The picture

lacks tenderness of any kind. It is a portrait of a young Machiavellian who expects as his due, but also has to scheme, to get his way.

Dalrymple has seen many children aged three with the malign and calculating expression of Don Garzia de’ Medici.

I worked for years in a prison and used to see the prisoners’ infants coming to visit their father in the company of their mothers, and I saw on their faces the already-hardened look of Don Garzia. I have little doubt that a psychopathic environment brings forth psychopaths.

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