George Bernard Shaw uses his radio broadcast to tackle the theme of freedom without theconfines of theoretical jargons. A believer and proponent of democratic socialism, Shawcondemns the devices of the elites and the rich who foster an environment of false freedom andenslavement of the poor and underprivileged.
However, behind his humor lies the satiricalchastisement of the existent social condition and scheme of power. The text of the talk was laterproduced as an essay.TextFreedomShaw says that a person who can do what he likes, when he likes and where he likes, or donothing at all if he prefers it is truly free. But there is no such person; and it is not possible to belike that because we have to do what is necessary like sleep, travel etc. whether we are monarchsor humble laborers.We have to do our natural jobs plus other jobs for provision, food, shelter, clothes etcAll these material necessities can be stolen.
So, in effect, if we can steal honey form bees orenslave a horse for transportation then we can also make other men, women and children to doour work by force or fraud or trickery of any sort, and religion.He debunks the conventional wisdom about ‘freedom’ held by those who think that such a socialorder in which slavery is a necessary component.Enforcement of slaverySo one must be cautious of becoming slaves to other people’s whims and it is the Governmentsthat should be to prevent such imposition. But, the real objective of most Governments is toenforce such slavery in the name of freedom. Not just that, they regulate your slavery, feedingthe greed of your masters within limitations.
Therefore, chattel slavery of is replaced by wage slavery, the choice between one employment islike choosing one master over other, even if it is called as glorious triumph for freedom,If you have grievances then you can redeem the promised benefits through a vote, every fiveyears or so. At the election, there is a choice of one rich among the various competing rich,which leaves you no freer than you were before,Then there are the newspapers assuring you that your vote makes you a free citizen in ademocratic country. And one is fool enough to believe them. It is nothing but perpetual cycle ofslavery but with legal and constitutional sanction.Kinds of SlaveryThe difference between the natural slavery to Nature and the unnatural slavery to man is thatNature is kind.
It makes slavery pleasant like eating, sleeping etc Family and marriage help usrealize our dreams. Thus, we relish our natural wants even if we are slaves to them; we eulogizethem in songs and celebrate themThe slavery of man to man is hateful. No man can be good enough to be another man’s master.Providing Marxist argument Shaw adds that there is no limit of human selfishness and cruelty.
The lust for power over others leads to a perpetual civil war i.e. the class war—between theslaves and their masters,We can never establish a peaceful and stable society until this struggle is resolved. It can onlyhappen through eradication of slavery altogether.Slavery under humans is oppressive, exploitative and demeaning.
the gulf between the ‘haves’and ‘have-nots’ can be bridged only when every man does what he needs to by his own hands i.e.manual labor is the only solution for social friction.Submission of the slavesThe people who have the power, ‘the master classes do their best to create a sense of falsecomfort in the minds of those without power.
The institutions like the Parliament, schools andthe newspaper are leveraged for the purpose.School children are taught about the England as the land the free and the chain of historicalaccomplishments. The freedom that was earned by the ancestors by forcing King John to signMagna Charta after defeating the Spanish Armada and when King William had to give assent tothe Bill of Rights or the American Declaration of Independence was made or when the battles ofWaterloo and Trafalgar were won. How the German, Austrian, Russian and Ottoman empireswere changed into republics.
On the contrary when the ordinary people remonstrate they are held responsible because of thevote they gave. The dissenter to the established truths are told that the doles like the FactoryActs, and the Wages Board, free education, and the New Deal, are more than the people deserve.The justification is made by telling the poor that the rich are taxed almost half of their incomeseven though it is the poor pay as much their wages for rent. Plus, they have to work double theamount every day.Whenever renowned writers like Voltaire and Rousseau, Shelley or Karl Marx write on suchimpositions, their works are made inaccessible. If people seek a revolution, the country declaresa war on them and recruits the other Powers to hands in the exercise of enslavement.
It sides withthe tyrannical empires and fight against the revolutionariesThey (Britain) joined hands with such a sate at the war of Waterloo and the victory was declareda win triumph for British freedom and the British wage slaves. The propaganda swayedintellectuals like Lord Byron too. At first, the revolution in Russia (1922) was criticized andridiculed but as the revolution gave shape to a powerful military Power our terms of engagementchanged. When the equations changed, rather than denouncing the tyrants we (British crown)invited them to state dinners.
Fallacy of fair societyHowever, a fair and equitable society is just a farce and a lie. The elected government, the courtsand a robust executive apparatus only enable an unjust, inequitable and subjugating social orderstratified in differential privilege. A thorough process of brain-washing makes the poorunwittingly submit to their masters.However, even the master class is caught up in such delusion.
When the children of privilegedfamilies go to the elite schools, colleges and universities, they too get conditioned into believingtheir superiority. They become oblivious and insensitive to the plight of the under-privilegedwho never got the same access to a good life. The educated elite is considered superior to thecommon worker whose duty is to do his errands, earn his livelihood for him and even shouldshed his blood if a need arises.Thus, the past injustice is repeated and becomes inherently accepted in the system.The disprivileged can’t accept the discriminatory treatment quietly.
But if they give voice to theresentment they get the long arm of the law-enforcement. Additionally, there are always a fewbrownnose and corrupt officials who are experts in quelling dissent. If they harbor dream ofbeing rescued by some Napoleonic genius then they might as well say goodbye to their freedomas empires do not bend to popular will.So, the enslaved reluctantly plead their allegiance to the master even though, given a fair chance,they would vote emphatically against the unjust system.A plea to common intelligenceShaw reflects on his own text and decides to dilute in preaching what he believes. He reiteratedthat he does not court controversies advises the listeners to exercise intelligence with his textotherwise there may be unintended and undesirable conclusions drawn.
He asserts that slaves are indispensible when it comes to running a society and uses the exampleof Greek philosopher Aristotle and use of slaves for governance. In a government set-up, thereexist a few privileged persons must exude a sense of superiority or an aura around them. This’aura’ is consciously constructed by making them look smarter, stronger, special and in control.
From their attire to their lifestyle, they have numerous slaves at their beck and call to do errands.Such splendor and grandeur makes them worthy of obeisance and even worship. So, this specialclass of people requires the creation of a nation of slaves.People accept subservience to when they accept the seemingly superiors as their lords. Thislegitimizes enslavement and perpetuates privilege of the rich and handsome.No time to enjoy freedomShaw sums his arguments one can never be truly free as Nature demands half of one’s day forgood health, sound mind and recovered body.
For the next half you have to work for yourself orsomebody else to earn your livelihood.During this time you have to follow the rules and laws of the civilized society you live in. If youdefy these rules you invite wrath of the penal law and the police that enforce it. However, lawsare necessary if they are impartial and reasonable; they increase freedom by safeguarding peopleagainst violence, abuse and atrocity.
This keeps us sane and society in order.At a more intimate level there is the landlord and the employer. Both of them dictate yourchoices from what clothing you wear pr what political party you support. They can evict ordismiss you at their fancy.Hence, they have more control and authority over you than any political dictatorAccording to Shaw the only solution currently available is a strong trade union which can go onhunger strike and threaten to starve on the employer’s doorsteps if justice is not done. However,the police will not allow you to die on your employer’s doorstep so you can only starve to deathin your own house, if you are lucky to have one by then.
He regards the more extreme form of the strike, the general strike of all workers as human folly.If it worked then it will lead to complete extinction of the human race in mere days with thecomplainants the first to taste death.He goes on to do some mathematics of work. He says the one works for twelve hours a daycannot ever have freedom. One who works eight hours a day gets four hours of freedom but withthe limits of the laws, money and health.
Even then there are natural limitations of body andneeds rest so you hardly get any free time to entertain your sense or enlighten your mind.Leisure is true freedomShaw condemns people who desire more freedom, but are satisfied with a vote and a freebie.He quotes Shakespearean character Iago’s who advices his friends to earn more money and notspend it to enrich oneself.
However, that is not practical with meager wages and burgeoningHe says people in England (and the World) clamor for freedom even without knowing what itmeans to be free or never having experienced it. Instead they only understand leisure which ismeasured in terms of wages Therefore instead of chanting ‘Rule Britannia’ Britain peopleshould ask for more money in return for their labor and earn more leisure with that moneyHe condemns the existing system of elections and calls politicians as anarchists who preserve asystem of oppression and exploitation. The empty rhetoric of freedom and liberty under thebanner of justice and equality only hides the gluttonous political class enslaving the governed.The choice of freedomNow he re-examine the dichotomy between money and happiness He says that Satan will stillmake mischief with people who sit idle. Man is but a collection of desires, emotions andmistakes.There are so many people who lose their happiness and health, even after amassing wealth andmoney.
He says that most people struggle to make judicious use of extra wealth and leisure timeand often indulge in sinful activities. The excesses of luxury and time can be a big burdenwithout proper education and grooming.Shaw ends the talk by posing a dilemma that If we had your choice, would we rather work eighthours a day and retire with a full pension at forty-five, or work four hours a day and keepworking till seventy In a characteristically humorous tone says that the listeners should discussthe answer with their wives regarding their preferred choice.
Key Thoughts:George Bernard Shaw, the Irish-born writer, gave this as a radio broadcast address on 17 June1935. The text of this broadcast challenged the old order, the current state, and the likely future.He explains the difference between two kinds of slavery, natural and unnatural or slavery byman. The natural slavery takes at least twelve hours a day, while the unnatural slavery isregulated by the educational, legal and administrative system of the country.
The audaciouscontent raised a lot of eyebrows and controversy at the time.Shaw say that the master class uses the ideological apparatuses like religious ideology, ethicalideology, legal ideology, political ideology to create a sense of Marxian ‘false consciousness’and a sense of freedom. However, he believes no man can ever be truly free, either from slaveryof nature of the slavery of man. True to his Marxist roots, Shaw delivers a scathing denunciationof the capitalist and formalistic view of freedom.