Monday, January 14, 2013

Pygmalion - a story of people laundering

Bernard Shaw specifically points to Pygmalion as didactic.(In the preface) Which means instructive or teaching. The question is, what is he teaching, and to whom? On the one hand, there's the obvious answer that he is teaching "the masses" about how selfish and superficial that the upper classes are.(which isn't always true) But on the other hand, Bernard Shaw is very popular amongst today's elites. What did he teach them with this?

Here are some highlights. From act 1:

THE NOTE TAKER. You see this creature with her kerbstone English: the English that will keep her in the gutter to the end of her days. Well, sir, in three months I could pass that girl off as a duchess at an ambassador's garden party. I could even get her a place as lady's maid or shop assistant, which requires better English. That's the sort of thing I do for commercial millionaires. And on the profits of it I do genuine scientific work in phonetics, and a little as a poet on Miltonic lines.

Where he says "I could pass that girl off" is what got my attention. This concept of passing her off is used repeatedly in the book. From act 2:

HIGGINS [carried away] Yes: in six months--in three if she has a good ear and a quick tongue--I'll take her anywhere and pass her off as anything. We'll start today: now! this moment! Take her away and clean her, Mrs. Pearce. Monkey Brand, if it won't come off any other way. Is there a good fire in the kitchen?

MRS. PEARCE [protesting]. Yes; but--

HIGGINS [storming on] Take all her clothes off and burn them. Ring up Whiteley or somebody for new ones. Wrap her up in brown paper till they come.

LIZA. You're no gentleman, you're not, to talk of such things. I'm a good girl, I am; and I know what the like of you are, I do.

HIGGINS. We want none of your Lisson Grove prudery here, young woman. You've got to learn to behave like a duchess. Take her away, Mrs. Pearce. If she gives you any trouble wallop her.

Act 3:

MRS. HIGGINS. You certainly are a pretty pair of babies, playing with your live doll.

HIGGINS. Playing! The hardest job I ever tackled: make no mistake about that, mother. But you have no idea how frightfully interesting it is to take a human being and change her into a quite different human being by creating a new speech for her. It's filling up the deepest gulf that separates class from class and soul from soul.

PICKERING [drawing his chair closer to Mrs. Higgins and bending over to her eagerly] Yes: it's enormously interesting. I assure you, Mrs. Higgins, we take Eliza very seriously. Every week-- every day almost--there is some new change. [Closer again] We keep records of every stage--dozens of gramophone disks and photographs--

HIGGINS [assailing her at the other ear] Yes, by George: it's the most absorbing experiment I ever tackled. She regularly fills our lives up; doesn't she, Pick?

PICKERING. We're always talking Eliza.

HIGGINS. Teaching Eliza.

PICKERING. Dressing Eliza.


HIGGINS. Inventing new Elizas.

There certainly is plenty of truth in the writing, to be sure. Different groups of people do speak differently, especially the uneducated. But this concept of taking a person and re-making them and of laundering them, is something we know that the progressives do. They did it with Bill Ayers, who once was a terrorist bomber, and is now a respectable college professor. I wrote some things about about Van Jones being laundered.

The only portion that's conjecture is the question "did they get it from Bernard Shaw?" or "Did they get it from Pygmalion"?

They could've gotten it from some place else. But we know that progressives launder people, they have a whole sector of non-profits(and even some for profit corporations) which make the system work. By conferring awards, putting certain people on tv or in magazines and conducting straight forward interviews as if the interviewee had some legitimate claim to authority.

If you prefer an audiobook format, Librivox has Pygmalion, here.

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