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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why advisers don't have to give advice

I'm finally beginning to see, 300+ pages into "Wolf Hall," that Cromwell, the main character, adviser first to Cardinal Wolsey and then to Henry VIII, never really does offer any great advice, that's not why they keep him around (although he's good with "accounts" and can evidently help people manage their money). He's got the even more important quality for an adviser: he's discrete, and he can deal with the vagaries of extremely temperamental and spoiled people. Cardinal Wolsey's OK, more like a mentor to Cromwell, and Cromwell serves him well as Wolsey ever-so-tentatively tries to negotiate with the Pope and other European power acceptance of an annulment for Henry. When Wolsey dies, Cromwell spends a lot of time counseling Anne Boleyn, later to become Henry's 2nd wife, and later Henry himself. What we mainly see is how selfish, self-centered, egotistical (do these words all mean the same thing?), narrow-minded these rulers of England are. Years and years of effort devoted to negotiating the divorce/annulment of Henry's first marriage. And all for what? To gratify his lust, and more important his yearning for more wealth and power - not for the betterment of England but for his own luxury. As noted in earlier post, there is not a word about serving the English people, about making anyone's life better in any way. In fact we do see a great deal of poverty - Cromwell himself was the son of an abusive father, a blacksmith, and this is a mark against him for his whole life - but nobody cares about making anyone's life better. Cromwell's rise is an example that anyone can do it (ha!), and his individual acts of charity - he takes a lot of waifs into his vast household - are the closest approach to any kind of social-welfare policy. A Republican paradise! The King doesn't really want or need advice from his advisers. An adviser in this world serves mainly to accommodate the delusions of others.

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