Hello Kind Patrons and Esteemed Visitors.
If you follow me on other social media you might have seen that May was a bit of a month. In a whirlwind series of decisions my wife and I finally got off our butts and made a move we’d been talking about making for years.
For a bit now neither of us had been happy with Pohang. We both felt we’d seen all it had to offer and it wasn’t ever going to change and be more than what it was. We’d occasionally talked about moving, but our work schedules never matched up where we could put the time and effort into moving. But that changed this past April, so we made a few trips to Busan, found a place, signed the lease, hired movers, threw out a bunch of stuff, packed up the rest, and made the move all in a span of three weeks. It was an ordeal, especially for our cats, but it’s all over now. Mostly.
Busan’s been great so far (since Saturday). We’re having fun wandering a whole new city of 3.3 million people. And yes, I already heard your joke a thousand times about being careful when taking the trains. Please imagine the slow blink of my non-amusement. None of which is very yesterweird, but that’s the life update to explain why I haven’t dug deep into Project Gutenberg. Which isn’t to say I haven’t been reading. One book I enjoyed immensely this past month is Erica Benner’s Be Like the Fox: Machiavelli In His World.
Benner takes the position that we largely misunderstand Machiavelli and his work. I found the argument compelling, but even more so I found the book oddly comforting. Make no mistake Renaissance Italy sounds like an awful place. Where you could both have a shitty office job and see your predecessor in that job’s corpse hanging in the town square for treason. Then there were the ravaging mercenary armies, yearly plagues, and popes so corrupt you too would want to nail up your complaints against them to the nearest church door.
Throughout all this Machiavelli clings to the ideal of keeping Florence a Free Republic ruled by the people and not Princes. He sought to change people even though he believed it was a losing battle, he wrote plays, and made jokes and read books through an era that could only be viewed as tumultuous, all while meeting adversity full on and serving a cause he believed in. At least up until the Medici returned to power and half his friends were sent into exile and the other half killed for their roles in keeping the Medici out. And Machiavelli himself got tortured for six days. It was while recovering and in an exile of his own that Machiavelli wrote The Prince as both a deadpan satire and a guide to statecraft for despots committed to path that in his opinion could only lead to self-destruction.
Overall, Benner gave me several moments where fragmented bits of European History suddenly fell into place to reveal a wider, more elaborate picture than I had at first realized. If any of that sounds like something you'd be interested in, check it out!