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Machiavelli to 'To Kill A Mockingbird': Why are these literary greats trending?

By SAAB LARIOSA Published Mar 31, 2022 8:21 pm

Two classic books have caught the attention of netizens after being referenced by former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Vice President Leni Robredo.

The presidential aspirants made the Harper Lee read To Kill A Mockingbird and Niccolo Machiavelli’s political treatise The Prince rise on this week’s trending topics. Here’s why:

“Do you think you are Machiavellian?”

During the March 26 Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) presidential interviews, Marcos was asked by panelist and University of the Philippines professor Carlita Carlos if he sees himself as "Machiavellian".

The question was asked during the latter portion of the interview to get to know Marcos’ leadership style, as per Carlos.

Cambridge dictionary defines Machiavellian as "using smart but often dishonest methods that deceive people so that you can win power or control." Meanwhile, Merriam-Webster describes it as "marked by cunning, duplicity, or bad faith."

"Am I Machiavellian? Well, I’ve studied him quite thoroughly and I know very many Machiavellians in my life," the former senator began.

Carlos then clarified that she meant the term Machiavellian by “taking every means to produce an end."

"Not the other Machiavellian you know, the bad Machiavellian," Carlos added.

Marcos Jr. answered, “certainly, we have to be aware of everything that is going to help whatever it is that you are hoping to achieve. And on a national scale, that means you have to understand very well what the situation is on the ground."

"It’s a way of being careful, and being very, very knowledgeable about what are the things that have to come into play so that you will achieve success. Whatever that success, however you define that success."

"So in that sense, yes I am a Machiavellian."

The term comes from the Italian philosopher and author Niccolò Machiavelli and his political treatise, The Prince. The 15th-century novel served as a guide to leadership in the time of monarchy.

Per history.com, Machiavelli's ideal leader in The Prince is that of "an amoral, calculating tyrant for whom the end justifies the means," though his personal views were less extreme. It remains a staple read in the field of political science.

In a Facebook status after the interview, Carlos gave further context to her question.

"To me, being Machiavellian is characterized by astuteness, strategic thinking, the use of power judiciously and undertaking any and all means to achieve an end,” the professor wrote. "To be Machiavellian is not to be weak, submissive, incompetent and intellectually vacuous."

In a subsequent status, she proclaimed that she was Machiavellian herself. 

Robredo's To Kill A Mockingbird

Meanwhile, Harper Lee’s 1960 novel To Kill A Mockingbird caught the internet’s attention after Vice President Leni Robredo cited it as her favorite novel.

In a Facebook Live interview with an online news outlet, Robredo shared that after reading it in high school, the novel intensified her desire to become a public servant.

"After ko run mabasa, klaro sakin na pag naging abogado ako, magiging public service lawyer ako. Siya yung libro na nabasa ko dozens of times. Every time na nababasa ko siya, nasa ibang stage na ko ng buhay ko."

"Na-romanticize niya sakin yung pagiging public service lawyer," she added.

Robredo was met with criticism after some claimed that she had not answered the question. Journalist Mara Cepeda, who interviewed Robredo at the time, iterated that the VP mentioned the book.

To Kill A Mockingbird follows the story of lawyer Atticus Finch as he defends a black man named Tom Robinson in court. The novel deals with racism, justice, and the Alabama law system. 

The book won a Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and has been dubbed a modern classic. Its 1962 film adaptation also won three Academy Awards.