Jul 24, 2006

Bring back Shaw

Michael Holroyd would bring back George Bernard Shaw because we need to hear the playwright's message that in was "A victory for anybody is a victory for war.
What would Shaw be telling us today? Would he, for example, have supported suicide bombing? I hear him answer this with a resounding No! But then he would never have been so stupid, so uncomprehending, as to label suicide bombers “cowardly” – that really is the voice of terror. Early in the twentieth century, Shaw proposed giving all Irishmen guns so that they could enjoy the privilege of a civil war without the intervention of the English. Such a man would not have hesitated to advocate the elimination of suicide bombing by giving Palestine an army equal in strength to that of Israel. He would, however, have castigated a Palestinian culture that encouraged young people to throw away their lives and be applauded for doing so by their parents and grandparents. It would have been far more honourable, I hear him saying, for old people to volunteer – indeed he had recommended calling up seventy- and eighty-year-olds for military service before turning to the young in time of war. In short: send Shaw out to the Middle East and he would unite all enemies in opposition to himself. Send Shaw today round the world and he would be called mad for recommending publishers in every country to put all sacred texts, from the Bible to the Koran, on their backlists and find new sacred works from contemporary writing.
I don't know why Holroyd thinks we're suffering from a lack of pacifists in the theatrical community--or vegetarians for that matter. And while few in the arts world today practice celibacy and most have--with regret--acknowledged that the USSR wasn't quite the paradise that Shaw believed it to be, they've managed, with Castro, to come up with a passable substitute for Shaw's hero Stalin.

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