Shaw’s Views On Freedom. Re-introduced by P S Remesh Chandran.
Editor, Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum.
Bernard Shaw set human minds on fire everywhere. We would be thrilled to even think about the judges, parliament members, writers, academicians and newspaper editors in England, India, America, France, South Africa, New Zealand, Switzerland, China and Russia who very much wished for the head and blood of this acerbic philosopher of wit and wisdom. Shaw’s thoughts on Ultimate Freedom Of Man that infuriated these so called intelligentsia but pleased common people everywhere are reintroduced here.
The fearless intellectual who attacked the Victorian vanity and ostentation.
George Bernard Shaw was a British dramatist, critic and philosopher. He was a Fabian Socialist who led British socialism away from Marx. This fearless intellectual of Irish origin attacked the vanity and ostentation of the English society. Like Gandhi and Leo Tolstoy, he was a staunch vegetarian, bold in his opinions. Arms And The Man, Man And Superman and The Apple Cart are three of his major plays. This article is based on one of his B.B.C. Radio Broadcasts in which he is defining the characteristics of freedom. He is of the opinion that ruling classes talk of freedom for the people but they reserve it only for themselves.
There can never be a perfectly free person theoretically.
Half the day we are slaves to necessities such as eating, drinking, washing, dressing and undressing. For another one-third of our life time we are slaves to sleep too. So theoretically there can never be a perfectly free person. Chattel slavery is said to have been abolished legally but it continues to be in other forms. Even voting in elections does not liberate a person. Two rich friends ask us for our vote and we have to choose one of the two, which is not real freedom.
Slavery of man to nature is natural but slavery of man to man is unnatural.
Slavery of man to nature is natural whereas slavery of man to man is unnatural. Both are different. Natural wants are slavery indeed but nature is kind to her slaves. Eating, drinking and sleeping are made pleasant experiences. Building families and societies also is made pleasant. ‘We write sentimental songs in praise of them and in England a tramp can earn his supper by singing Home Sweet Home.’ But slavery of man to man is hateful to body and to spirit. In course of time slaves and their masters form their own organizations and enter a civil war known as class war. Karl Marx spent his life proving that slavery of man to man will never stop by itself unless stopped by law. Speaking and oration will not do but everyone has to do his share of the world’s work by his own hands and brain.
That notorious phrase of Shaw, ‘this prodigious mass of humbug.’
The combined body of parliaments, legislation, judiciary, literature, education and journalism look to Bernard Shaw as a prodigious mass if humbug which in layman’s terms means Victorian vanity and ostentation. These great institutions of society just promote and help slavery exist and reign in its all forms. They always and everywhere in this world wish to establish and make people think that they are superior to everything and unquestionable. The foolery that is concealed in them is that everywhere in this world people hate these institutions to the depths of their chore. Only the parasites who live by these things would love them. We would be thrilled to even think about the judges, parliament members, writers, academicians and newspaper editors in England, India, America, France, South Africa, New Zealand, Switzerland, China and Russia who very much wished for the head and blood of this philosopher and playwright. But he pleased people everywhere and reflected well their inner feelings. So long as these vain institutions exist in society no absolute and unconditional freedom is possible. These institutions, with the help of a falsified history, snobbery and dishonest politics, through preparatory schools, public schools and universities make citizens think that they are supreme inevitable and of paramount importance. When we read about these lines of Shaw that set human minds on fire everywhere, we should also note that individual freedom of opinion in England at that time was such acute sharp and great that he was not touched. The only other magnificent individual experience of such liberty of not only opinion but action also comes from post- Second World War France of De Gaul where the traffic rules-disobeying Sartre was ordered not to be touched by Surete. When viewed from a distance, those vain institutions Bernard Shaw mention here look really like epithelial corpuscles shed from our body when compared with the ultimate human freedom they imprison and impersonate.
Intellectual slaves of the modern day wish to have an owner and be possessed.
Because these great social institutions do not respect real individual freedom and behave always superior to all common citizens at the cost of their internal fury, the inferiors sometimes become bold enough to rise in revolts and upset everything. Some courageous leader who has brain and energy like Napoleon will jump at the chance and become an emperor utilizing the heat of the situation. It has happened inFranceand will happen everywhere else at one time or another. It happened in France not because the people there were autocrat-minded; it was their only way out of intellectual slavery. People everywhere are basically liberty-lovers but the brainwashing by modern social institutions has been such strong and continuous that they have nowadays forgot to revolt. Intellectual slaves in America and Britain will also be willing to vote on ballot papers showing that they are not only revolutionaries but liberty-lovers and democrats also. Occasionally voting becomes a short respite in the long reign of intellectual dependence and submission. Ancient teachers since the time of Aristotle have taught rulers to behave proudly and impress people. In the history of physical comfort we see that people in power won’t sleep in the presence of the public lest their real nature of bestial helplessness and vulnerability would be revealed to the people and all their pride lost. The effect of impressive pride is such strong that modern day slaves find masters indispensable. They wish to have an owner for them. Slaves will not vote for women and women will not vote for women. When voting for women was first introduced in England they utilized it for defeating all women candidates including many who were dedicated to the problems of women. They elected only one woman, no doubt a titled lady of wealth, authority and personality. The slaves have practically no escape from slavishness.
Where there is poverty, we shall not sing about patriotism.
Human nature is the easiest thing that can be changed. People of England should change their politics through propaganda and education before they get real freedom. Those already schooled in slavery should be de-schooled. Large scale scientific farming and industry will increase national wealth which can also be distributed equally, but too much exploitation of nature through science will backfire. Nature will take her own counter measures in the form of anything, including reverting people’s minds to laziness. Though we can cultivate sky and earth by drawing nitrogen from it to improve the quality of our cattle, grass, milk and eggs, nature may have many tricks up her sleeve to check when we are exploiting her too greedily. This anti-scientific thinker’s comments in this regard are justified. Too much exploitation of nature means too much exploitation of workers which when reach a climax will cause general strikes, thereby dwindling production in their turn. According to Shaw, general strikes are trade unionism gone mad for they halt all production activities. Extravaganza in spending is what deprives production of its usefulness. Shakespeare’s character Eago asked people to put money in their purses and not to take out of it. But people earn the least and spend the most which habit causes poverty. Until poverty is wiped out clean, we shall cease to sing about patriotism because where poverty exists we are not patriots but drones.
What to do with this leisure and riches generated through real freedom?
By changing the head and tail of British politics and by freeing it from aristocracy slavery and exploitation, people will begin to get more of leisure and riches. There is a general belief that freedom means more of leisure and more of money to enjoy that leisure which is not true. We have seen the rich and leisurely lose their health and happiness and die gradually. Riches and leisure became poison to them. An idle man’s brain is the Devil’s workshop and Satan will still find mischief for idle hands to do. Thus what to do with the leisure and riches generated through real freedom becomes a riddle which still remains unanswered. Even Bernard Shaw does not dare answer it directly.
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Translations of this article in French, German, Spanish and Italian published in Knol.com can be read by clicking here.
Appreciations, British Essayists And Journalists, British Literature, British Writers, English Essays, English Literature, Essays, Freedom, Freedom Of Opinion, Freedom Of Speech, George Bernard Shaw, Liberty Of Speech, P S Remesh Chandran, Political Philosophy, Politics, Re Introductions, Reviews, Sahyadri Books And Bloom Books Trivandrum, Studies
Meet the author
Editor of Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum. Author of several books in English and in Malayalam. And also author of Swan : The Intelligent Picture Book.
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