Machiavellianism: Don’t Dirty Your Hands

“Do everything pleasant yourself, everything unpleasant through third parties. By adopting the first course you win favor, by taking the second you deflect ill will. Important affairs often require rewards and punishments. Let only the good come from you and the evil from others.”

Baltasar Gracian

The powerful ensure a stainless reputation through getting others to do the work for them. After all, who wants to be seen with a bloody face in public after some necessary but nevertheless dangerous dirty work? The wise leader always has his reputation in mind, ensuring that it will not be afflicted by dangerous deeds which could have been averted through calculated and oblique means.

For that reason, a wise man always has a fall man [scapegoat] who takes the blame for his unethical yet inevitable deeds that are demanded of him. A fall man is not always within his inner circle, there are instances where a fall man is a naive outsider who is willing to do him favours and enslave himself to the superior’s benefit. Such a man is usually easy to persuade and control and thus convenient for the job.

The wise cover their tracks and make use of third parties to fulfil their demands while keeping their hands clean. In doing so, they achieve their ends while getting others to do it. Nonetheless, such concealed affairs come with a threatening uncertainty, for if a scapegoat is not treated appropriately and exterminated at the right time, you could be paying for the consequences yourself, not only dirtying your hands but potentially destroying your reputation. For that reason, there must be swift treatment imposed on the scapegoat. The treatment should be neither merciful nor too cruel, for both will rouse adverse setbacks.

There will be a junction where you must separate yourself from the scapegoat, whether through crushing your enemy totally [Law 15] or being the man who imposes justice. The latter will make you seem like the lawful and blameless person that you aren’t [in this situation], yet will convey the suitable semblance to keep your hands clean. Making an excuse or warranting an apology are not sufficient in such a state of affairs, as both will bring with them adverse aftermaths that will stain their reputation. In addition, when utilising a scapegoat, any prospective uncertainty related to your deeds must be wiped out immediately before the complication expands. Remember, it is wiser to eliminate a traitor than keep him around with the likelihood of betrayal and worse.

The powerful all know how to shift blame, not merely on anyone, but on a fitting scapegoat who will take blame for their cruelty. Is this moral conduct? clearly not, yet as you climb the ladder of power, there will be necessities which demand immorality that are both crucial and inevitable and the only way to fulfil them without dirtying yourself is to have the appropriate people around you for the job. With terrible immorality comes terrible punishment, which too will be deflected from the wise since the master can’t afford to undergo such penalties without suffering the horrifying outcomes.

“The courtier uses his gloved hand to soften any blows against him, disguise his scars, and make the act of rescue more elegant and clean. By helping others, the courtier eventually helps himself.”

Robert Greene

Folly is only confirmed when you are incompetent to conceal it, all men do foolish things to varying degrees, but while fools expose their errors, the wise keep them covered. In fact, it is more about what you don’t say than about what you say. If you consider the few steps that lie ahead, you will be better armed to organise the ideal next move with foreknowledge. Someone who is straightforward is an easy target, but someone who knows how to twist and turn is hard to lay hold of.

If you need a favour from someone, confer a favour yourself before asking for one, this puts them under an obligation. Nonetheless, directly demanding a favour is not preferred. If you could cleverly get a favour fulfilled through indirectly coercing them, they are more disposed to comply, through a lack of understanding. The same principle applies in dealing with enemies; if you’re not strong enough to crush them, subtly direct them to attack someone who is: you will have reached your end at someone else’s expense.

To sum up, learn to delegate authority when a task is not suited for you. Appearing intemperately diligent is not admirable, it projects weakness and deficiency. The wise man will not do more than is necessary, for he knows that any excess is a manifestation of disparity, which is inadequacy to fulfil your duty in a timely fashion. Delegation buys you time and opportunity while reducing the chance of making poor decisions and imprudent errors. Entrusting unfitting work to people who are fit for the job is not weakly, it is perceptive and full of common sense. With that said, you must know, through sensible reasoning, what is fitting for you to complete and what isn’t, only then will you be certain and assured of the decisions you make.

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