(Let`s make lots of misery)
(Apologies to the Pet Shop Boys).
Power is often acquired through a combination of fortune and ability, but crucially opportunity plays a role. The most outrageous kind of opportunist acquires a position of influence with underhand methods. Opportunists learn to exploit the vulnerability of others and realise that they can maintain a position of influence through force and bribery. Corruption remains a powerful tool.
The political theorist and writer Niccolo Machiavelli documented the worst aspects to power in his polemic “The Prince”. As a former diplomat he learned all of the tricks that kept the powerful in charge and also the tactics that allowed them to continue to act with impunity and without reproach.
However “The Prince” was written after he was exiled from the Court. He was a Florentine diplomat but when the Medici superseded the Florentines he was banished, then taken into custody, imprisoned and tortured.
It appeared that the new rulers regarded him with suspicion, however he was eventually released and he then began to write about the devious characters he encountered and some of the reprehensible behaviour that he observed.
Those with high status will use any tactic to keep their power. The reward is so great that they are willing to sacrifice their honour or even their humanity to keep their standing in society. They are deceptive, amoral and merciless. They learn how to manipulate others for their own ends.
It is easy for them to deceive the gullible and trusting, but the most ingenious can charm the most cynical of people. Flattery and obsequiousness are utilised and they can seem incredibly persuasive.
Such underhand tactics were perhaps expedient in the sixteenth century but are now believed to be at the very least dubious in our more civilised times. However Boris Johnson has employed Dominic Cummings as his special advisor and his actions seem familiar. He shares many of the characteristics originally illuminated by Machiavelli.
The ease in which Cummings divests Government staff from their posts is eerily reminiscent of this. He also appears to have a monstrous ego and is impervious to any criticism. It is obvious why Boris has utilised Cummings as an advisor, as he is a boorish brute who seems the type to become enamoured by a bully and control freak.
Cummings alienates everyone around him except Boris and that is a recipe for misery. Machiavelli was an astute observer of humanity at its worst but he was also a great poet and playwright of the Renaissance era. His insightful polemic should serve as a warning to all of us to be wary of those we choose to trust.