A primer for politicians

Rasha al Raisi – Here I am again in Teatro Cervantes, this time attending a play: Machiavelli’s Prince. Surprisingly, the theatre is half full. Maybe because it’s Saturday and people would rather enjoy some good time than watch something heavy from the 16th century. The stage is setup as a classical office, with a desk, a bookshelf and a gramophone at one side, and a catering table filled with coffee making cutlery. At the back there are three windows with the blinds pulled down.
The scene starts with an elegant man in suit and a regal air, making coffee and dictating what seems like a political speech. He sits at his desk and keeps pausing and recording what he calls: the best way for a prince to behave. You could gather that he’s either writing a memoir or a guide book for a new prince to be.
From time to time his speech is interrupted by voices from outside (that he masks by playing loud music from his gramophone) or by the sound of thunder rumbling that intensifies the time he mentions God and religion (his roof leaks and he fills the place with buckets, while still dictating his advices).
The play goes on for almost an hour, with the elegant man debating politic philosophies: is it better to be feared or loved? The importance of having good ministers, the qualities of the prince and the art of war (with presentation slides displaying different historical tyrants of old and modern times).
While the prince is still dictating his book, you could hear a woman’s voice calling him from outside and asking him to come.
He pulls up one of the blinds and you see a metal door that he opens and answers her that he’s coming up in a second.
The prince then starts taking off his suit — while he’s still dictating — and fresh scars appears on his back. He then puts on some normal clothes and boots, while covering his desk and catering table with a mantel. He then explains that he’s a writer that had published a book, before moving to the countryside with his family.
Life passed by very slow, until he decided to clean up the basement and found the suit he was wearing. He’d put it on and imagined what would it be like to be a prince? The inspiration turned into the book that he was dictating.
By saying that, the audience realized that the narrator is Niccolo Machiavelli and what we’d just witnessed was the process that he’d went through to write his famous book: The Prince.
Except for the man sitting next to me — who started snoring from the first ten minutes of the play — the rest of the us got off their feet and applauded enthusiastically. The actor who played Machiavelli was Spain’s famous actor: Fernando Cayo, who dazzled us with his one man show that went for an hour and twenty minutes.
Although being published almost 500 years back, The Prince is still considered one of history’s most debatable books. Was it written for politicians to learn how to govern people or for people to learn how they’re governed by politicians? Was Machiavelli an evil man or a visionary?
Whatever the case is, Machiavelli would be surprised to know the following facts: 1) His name had turned into an adjective linked to cunning and scheming. 2) His book was published nine years after his death and is linked to tyrants such as Hitler and Stalin (and rappers such as Tupac) 3) And most importantly: People still read his book and are in two minds about it.
Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja. rashabooks@yahoo.com