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Man and Superman

Man and Superman

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Published by: Satyendra Nath Dwivedi on Feb 17, 2013
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12/20/2013

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Man and Superman
Book: George Bernard ShawReview: Satyendra Nath Dwivedi
The Author says:
“The lesson intended by an author is hardly the lesson theworld learns from his book.” 
 
[The reviewer has picked up the lessons that he could learn from this book and
can only hope that it may to some extent tally with author’s intended lesson.]
 
Philosophically,
Don Juan
is a man who, though gifted enough to be capable of distinguishing between good and evil, follows his own instincts without regard to thecommon statute, or common law; and therefore, whilst gaining the ardent sympathy of our rebellious instincts (which are flattered by the brilliancies with which Don Juanassociates them) finds himself in mortal conflict with existing institutions, and defendshimself by fraud and farce as unscrupulously as a farmer defends his crops by samemeans against vermin.Man is no longer, like Don Juan, victor in the duel of sex. Whether he has ever reallybeen may be doubted: at all events the enormous superiority
of Woman‟s natural
position in this matter is telling with greater and greater force.
In modern London life, the ordinary man’s business is to keep up his position and habitsof a gentleman, and the ordinary woman’s business is to get married.
 
On the whole this is a sensible and satisfactory position for society. Money meansnourishment and marriage means children; and that men should put nourishment firstand women children first is, broadly speaking, the law of Nature and not the dictate of personal ambition.
The secret of prosaic man’s success, such as it is, is the simplicity with which he pursues these ends: the secret of the artistic man’s failure, such as it is, is
the versatility with which he strays in all directions after secondary ideals.
 The vitality which places nourishment and children first, heaven and hellsomewhat remote second, and the health of society as an organic wholenowhere, may muddle successfully through the comparatively tribal stagesgregariousness; but in the nineteenth century nations and twentieth centuryempires the determination of every man to be rich at all costs, and of everywoman to be married at all costs, must, without a highly social organizationproduce a ridiculous development of poverty, celibacy, prostitution, infantmortality, adult degeneracy, and everything that wise men most dread.
 
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What we call education and culture is for the most part nothing but thesubstitution of reading for experience, of literature for life, of the obsoletefictitious for the contemporary real.
Fortunately for us, whose minds have not been so overwhelmingly sophisticated byliterature, what produces most of the treatises and poems and structures of one sort or another is the struggle of Life to become divinely conscious of itself of blindly stumblinghither and thither in the line of least resistance.
Any pamphleteer can show the way to better things; but when there is no willthere is no way.We must either breed political capacity or be ruined by Democracy, which wasforced on us by the failure of the older alternatives. Yet if despotism failed onlyfor want of a capable benevolent despot, what chance has Democracy, whichrequires a whole population of capable voters: that is, of political critics who, if they cannot govern in person for lack of spare energy or specific talent foradministration, can at least recognize and appreciate capacity and benevolencein others, and so govern through capably benevolent representatives? Where aresuch voters to be found today? Nowhere!
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself 
as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on thescrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to
making you happy.” 
 
It may seem a long step from Banyan to Nietzsche, but the difference between their 
conclusions is purely formal. Bunyan‟s perception that righteousness is filthy rags, his
 scorn for Mr. Legality in the village of Morality, his defiance of the Church as thesupplanter of religion, his insistence on courage as the virtue of virtues, his estimate of the career of the conventionally respectable and sensible Worldly Wiseman as no better at bottom than the life and death of Mr. Badman: all this, expressed by Bunyan in the
terms of a tinker‟s theology, is what Nietzsche has expressed in terms of post
-Darwinian, post-Schopenhauerian philosophy; Wagner in terms of polytheisticmythology, and Ibsen in terms of mid-nineteenth century Parisian dramaturgy.
Effectiveness of assertation is Alpha and Omega of style. Who has nothing to assert has no style and can have none: he who has something to assert will go as far in power of style as its momentousness and his conviction will carry him.
I never dream of reforming, knowing that I must take himself as I am and get whatwork I can out of himself.
To the artistic lover the beloved is an enchantingly beautiful woman, in whose presencethe world becomes transfigured, and the puny limits of individual consciousness are
 
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suddenly made infinite by a mystic memory of the whole life of the race to its beginningin the East, or even back to the paradise from which it fell. She is to him the reality of romance, the leaner good-sense of non-sense, the unveiling of his eyes, the freeing of his soul, the abolition of time, place and circumstances, the etherealization of his bloodinto rapturous rivers of the very water of life itself, the revelation of all the mysteries andthe sanctification of all the dogmas.
Vitality in a woman is a blind fury of creation.
The true artist will let his wife starve, his children go barefoot, his mother drudge for hisliving at seventy, sooner than work at anything but his art.
The artist‟s work is to show us ourselves as we really are
. Our minds are nothing butthis knowledge of ourselves; and he who adds a jot to such knowledge creates newmind as surely as any woman creates new men.
Construction cumbers the ground with institutions made by busybodies.Destruction clears it and gives us breathing space and liberty.
It is a woman‟s business to get married as soon as possible, and a man‟s to keep
unmarried as long as possible.
 There is nothing like Love: there is nothing else but Love: without it the worldwould be a dream of sordid horror.
Precisely the same qualities that made the educated gentleman an artist may make anuneducated manual laborer an able-bodied pauper.We mistreat our laborers horribly; and when a man refuses to be misused, we have noright to say that he is refusing honest work.
One or two of them, perhaps, it would be wiser to kill without malice in a friendly
and frank manner; for these are „bipeds‟, just as there are quadrupeds, who are
too dangerous to be left unchained and un-muzzled; and these cannot fairly
expect to have other men‟s lives wasted in the work of watching them. But as
society has not the courage to kill them, and, when it catches them, simplywreaks on them some superstitious expiatory rites of torture and degradation,and then lets them lose with heightened capacity for mischief.
“I am a brigand: I live by robbing the rich.” “I am a
gentleman: I live by robbing the poor.
Let’s shake hands.” 
 
A movement which is confined to philosophers and honest men can neverexercise any real political influence: there are too few of them. Until a movementshows itself capable of spreading among brigands, it can never hope for apolitical majority.

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