What is the undercurrent that informs our New Year's Resolutions?
Machiavelli famously said, "It is better to be feared than loved."
Look at your resolutions. We are all begging to be loved. Help me improve my likability, my affability, my demeanor, my skills so that I may gain notoriety or praise, and so on. Make me better.
No one forms a resolution, "I want to be so stern as to get what I want by striking fear into others." Well, someone somewhere may be making that resolution; unlikely.
This suggests that one popular reading of Machiavelli's The Prince could be quite strong. The argument is that The Prince is sarcastic, ironic, or misleading in nature -- that the spurned diplomat Niccolo Machiavelli, upset that he could not get a political job, wrote a tome on how not to govern.
If it truly is better to be feared than loved, then why do we venerate the popular? JFK, FDR, even Bill Clinton. We loathe Hitler, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Stalin (the "man of steel") -- the fear guys.
George W. Bush has certainly used a foreign policy with fear as one of its main policy strategies, with the warnings to Iran, the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, which were the necessary "show of force" to not only Al Qaida but also the "Muslim world," praised on high by Thomas "Suck. On. This." Friedman:
Yes, Bush is loathed far and wide.
And who doesn't like Jesus? Even violent people, who disregard his pacifist message, often espouse Him as Savior.
Jesus was one man that sought out love -- far and wide.
I just counted four "loves." That's a lot of love and the absence of fear, pace Machiavelli.
John 13:34-35 (King James Version)
34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
So, for this year, among others, I resolve to be loved instead of feared.