Machiavelli from the bargain bin

The Power of Positive Seeming
by Niccolo Dudd
University of Bulimia Press, 2013,139 pages.

Rarely does a reviewer hold in his hands a volume so clearly destined to become a best-seller; one that captures the Zeitgeist with such clarity and conviction that it is bound to propel its bashful author into the self-help pantheon before one can say: “I’ve got to zip, folks!”

While his first work, The Pineapple Prince (2007), crashed and burned without a trace, Niccolo Dudd could be rubbing shoulders soon with luminaries such as that crafty Italian chap (whose name I seem to have forgotten); Dale Carnegie – How to Win Friends and Influence People (1937); Norman Vincent Peale – The Power of Positive Thinking (1952), The Power of Positive Living (1990); and Basil Fawlty – The Power of Not Owning Up to Anything (Silly), even if You Did It (1985) and its popular sequel, The Parrot is Dead, Long Live the Parrot! (1995).

The Power of Positive Seeming is a masterpiece. In shrewd and unambiguous hyperbole, a stinker at the top of his game reveals the no-holds-barred strategies and sleight-of-tongue secrets needed to survive and thrive in our turbulent times.

Seeking a fair suck on life’s sauce-bottle? Dudd’s new book will be an oasis of inspiration, especially these chapters: “Things may look bad…But!”, “Positive thinking still works!”, “Your come-back power,” “Give a dog a good name” (anything but Carbon-Con), “If you want honey, don’t kick over the bee hive. (There may be union members inside who want their queen back.)”, “How to make people like you instantly”, “Turning your pain into power”, and “How to move forward, while going backward.”

Dudd urges us to come out of cryogenic storage, to throw off despair, to get with it – and get a makeover. What better way to bamboozle Mr (or Ms) Grumpy than to confront him with your new Mr (or Ms) Smiley, Happy or Tricky persona?

Many Godzilla-types, tub-thumpers, navel-gazers, special pleaders and naughty narcissists say The Power of Positive Seeming enabled them to bin their medication. Few have been able to imitate Captain Marvellous, but they still want to be in his twitterati elite.

Dudd’s book pushes all the right buttons. Who does not want to be a happy little Vegemite? Who does not want to perfect the art of how to seem to be doing a great deal – while not doing very much at all – and yet still be loved by many; including a few who once said they would rather have a poke in the eye with a burnt stick than shake one’s hand?

Or conversely, doing what Mr Tricky said he would never do until Hell freezes over – such as correcting a past error of judgement or dubious claim (of which he was the leading architect) without saying so – while cunningly creating an impression that he, now in the guise of crusader-in-chief for a New Politics, is delivering a superior brand-new policywhen he is merely recycling damaged goods way past their use-by dates.

Pioneer procrastinator, salesman extraordinaire, serial exaggerator, founder of the Smiley School of Sustainable Sunshine, disciple of Harry Houdini, prisoner of fanatic carbon-cargo-cultists, celebrated escapee, Kokoda Track survivor, Dudd deserves every honour a gutted Principality can bestow on such a high-achiever and born-again environmental evangelist.

As for the “greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time”, for him it is actually to create a feel-good climate. It is not, as widely misunderstood, to continue the absurd Sisyphean task of trying to remove an allegedly apocalyptic noose of (dangerous anthropogenic) climate change from around the Principality’s collective neck.

There is, it must be said, logic in Dudd-002’s strategy. For creating a feel-good climate will ensure the Principality continues to be a first-choice destination, a fun what-the-bloody-hell-is-going-on place, an international magnet for every displaced-person, non-working family, salvation seeker, itinerant preacher, foreign cricketer, back-packer, carbon cowboy, etc; and a compassionate country that willingly continues to pay all the (escalating) costs.

Little wonder he has been voted the “best-loved man of his generation” by his many fans for promising not only free beer for life, but also for “easing cost-of-living pressures.”

Recent polls confirm folk are warming to the Dudd 002 vision. His retreat from the Old Politics of his doppelganger, Dudd 001, has been music to many ears. The discourse is now all about New Politics: about unzipping all the toxic stuff Dudd 001 – and Lady Stayin-Put – messed up without waking up voters, or throwing them out with the bathwater (again).

“People cannot live on straw – or carbon credits – alone. And a one-hundred percent diet of negative Old Politics is bad for nutrition, bad for the body-politic.”

“That said, any Prince worth his salt has to be prepared to ditch everything –including the kitchen sink and the New Politics – for some more votes.”

New Politics also oozes promises of new policies. “Power can never again be allowed to rest in the hands – or daggers – of a faceless factional few,” said Dudd 002 last week. “For each faction will consult only its own interests, and not give a damn about mine. So here is my infallible rule: factions will always do badly by you unless they are forced to be virtuous.”

Yet, paradoxically, a Prince “who is not himself wise cannot be well advised; for it would be unwise to put himself in the hands of an extremely shrewd individual or faction that alone can provide him with ‘proper advice’."

To understand the forces driving Dynamo Dudd, we must return to that confessional goldmine, The Pineapple Prince. Here he recounts just how much he was tormented at school about his family name; like so many others from John Cheese, Maxwell Smart (Agent 86), Lord Pharquwar and Piscine Patel (central character in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi) to Franz Kafka and a nice chap named Odd.

As is well-known, such experiences can produce complex psychological trauma and lead to unresolved adult-life psycho-social issues, including Small Man Syndrome, grandiosity, superficial charm, pathological niceness and sometimes psychosomatic allergies to brie, cheddar, swimming pools and public urinals. But scholars still debate whether it did so in his case.

Be that as it may, what is undeniable is that Dudd’s epic journey from hero to zero – and back again – illustrates how self-interest (and revenge) can co-exist with more noble motives (especially on prime-time MSM).

For some readers, however, it will still come as a shock to learn that for him politics is “a cesspool of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. It is the conduct of public affairs for private advantage.”

As for revenge, the Prince has promised: "no retributions, no paybacks, none of that stuff. It’s pointless, it’s Old Politics: whereby we scream at each other, we do not work with each other, we try and scare people rather than make them think [about climate change, etc], and then on top of that we engage in politics which divides citizens rather than unites them. It’s time for the Old Politics of negativity to be dead and buried. Let’s all have a cold shower, settle down and be kinder and gentler to each other.”

 “Yet should a good Principality lose its way (again), the Prince must step in and do everything within his power to increase uncertainty, while seeming to do otherwise: thereby wrong-footing enemies, flatterers, hangers-on, ratings agencies, corporations, capitalist-stooges, fund managers and investors; while resisting the temptation to become bogged down with procedural trifles, such as wasting time cleaning blood off the carpet while there are still scores to settle.”

Furthermore, “the Prince must adjust the Principality’s policy settings constantly, and with his superior intuition, anticipate – and where necessary suppress – the cabals of his enemies, while rewarding his friends. For at the end of the day: È la mia strada o l’autostrada!”

“Yet the Prince should earn a reputation for generosity too, at least until there is not a ducat left in the treasury and he has exhausted the patience of all the Principality’s creditors. At this stage of the game, he should lay excessive burdens on the people, impose extortionate taxes on the air they breathe, and do anything he can to raise money even if it means tossing yet another “climate change” furphy into the mix, and all the while seeming to be parsimonious and positive. He also must suppress rumours claiming that great things are accomplished only by those who are miserly, while all the others have met disaster.”

Furthermore, “the Prince should seem to have a reputation for either compassion or cruelty, depending on which way the wind blows – and how many boats it brings to the Principality’s shores. He should not worry if he incurs reproach for either, so long as he keeps his subjects agitated and longing for more free beer and football passes – while making an example of one or two of any rabble in the public square; for being too compassionate invites disorder, and with it murder, rapine and a blow-out in Centrelink benefits.

In this way, according to Dudd, the Prince can seem to be all things to all persons. If Fortune conspires against him, he should make it up as he goes along, yet always cutting the (rapidly shrinking) cake to his advantage and not becoming afraid of his own shadow.

The Prince, for example, should seem to be implementing a floating (carbon dioxide) price earlier because it will fool gullible citizens into believing this action alone will reduce cost-of-living pressures on their families,” – and by some unexplained magical power – “protect the environment and act on climate change” (whatever that means), thereby delaying the day of reckoning.

If the MSM begins to give the Prince a hard time about such breathtaking deceits, he should repeat to them ad nauseum what Dido said in Virgil’s Aeneid (i, 563): “Res dura, et regni novitas me talia cogunt/Moliri, et late fines custode tueri.” (Harsh necessity and the newness of my kingdom forced me to do such things, so as to guard my frontiers everywhere.)

As for honouring one’s word, Dudd spells out his position in chapter 18: “A Prince should be crafty in his dealings, for those who know how to trick us with their cunning can overcome others abiding by honest principles. Experience shows, too, that some princes – and at least one princess – who gave their word lightly passed a hell of a lot of legislation, even if one of them came to a bad end.”

“So the Prince must learn from both the fox and the lion – as well as from the countless plots of ‘faceless’ conspirators who once hounded me from court – because the lion is defenceless against traps and a fox is defenceless against wolves. One therefore must be a fox to recognise traps, a lion to frighten off wolves – and Mr Tricky to deal with any mad monk who wants an ecclesiastical Principality.”

Finally, in chapter 25 Dodd stresses that a Prince’s fate depends ultimately on whether he is successful in adopting “methods that are suited to the nature of the times.”

“For those princes (or princesses) who are utterly dependent on fortune come to grief when their fortunes change, but the one who adopts his policy to the times prospers. Thus it happens that two men working in the same way, one gets what he wants, but the other does not.”

“I conclude, therefore, that as fortune is changeable, whereas princes are obstinate in their ways, they prosper so long as fortune and policy are in accord; but when there is a clash victory shall go to him who promises to deliver the cleanest, greenest and fairest planet to future generations – [despite only God having the power to work such miracles] – together with free rivers of golden lager, carbon credits and sacks of fairy dust.”

Barking lap-dog, cuddly koala, crying wolf, cunning fox, silly skunk, slippery eel, pompous panda, wily weasel, Pineapple Prince or recrudescent messiah, Dudd has lived an extraordinary life. But as Mr Tricky would say, smiling: “It’s not over yet, Sunshine. I’ve a lot more seeming — and zipping and unzipping — to do!”

Michael Kile, July 2013

Disclosure Statement: Michael Kile does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any person, company or organisation that would benefit from this article, including Niccolo Dudd and the University of Bulimia Press. He has no relevant affiliations, except as author of The Devil’s Dictionary of Climate Change.

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