The Devil in Man

                                   Adapted from George Bernard Shaw

The Devil…. Is man any the less destroying himself for all these boasted brains of his!?? I have examined Man’s wonderful inventions. And I tell you that in the arts of life man invents nothing, but in the arts of death he outdoes nature herself and produces by chemistry and machinery all the slaughter of plague, pestilence, and famine. In the arts of peace, man is a bungler. I have seen his cotton factories in Nyeri and the likes, with machinery that a greedy dog could have invented if it had wanted money instead of food. I know his clumsy printers and bungling locomotives and tedious bicycles, they are toys compared to the Maxim gun, the submarine torpedo boat. There is nothing in man’s industrial machinery butches greed and sloth: his heart is in his weapons. This marvelous force of life of which you boast is a force of death! Man measures his strength by his destructiveness. What is his religion? An excuse for hating me. What is his law? An excuse for hanging you. What is his morality? Gentility! An excuse for gloating over pictures of slaughter. What are his politics?? Either the worship of a despot because a despot can kill, or more Kenyan like parliamentary cockfighting. I spent an evening lately in a celebrated legislature and heard the pot lecturing the kettle for its blackness and the County Executives answering questions. When I left I chalked up on the gate the old nursery saying “Ask no questions and no lies will be told “.
Their imagination glows, their energies rise up at the idea of death, these people: they love it, and the more horrible it is the more they enjoy it. Hell is a place far above their comprehension: they derive their notion of it from two of the greatest fools that vet lived, an Italian and an Englishman. The Italian described it as a place of mud, frost, filth, fire, venomous serpents: all torture.
This trend is the same in everything. The highest form of Literature is the tragedy, a play in which everybody is murdered at the end. In the old chronicles you read of earthquakes and pestilence, and are told that these shewed the power and majesty of God and the littleness of Man. Nowadays, the chronicles, including the Shannara, describe battles. In a battle two bodies of men shooting at one another with bullets and explosive shells until one body runs away, when the others chase the fugitives on horsebacks and cut them to pieces as the fly. And this, the chronicle concludes, shews the greatness and majesty of empires, and the littleness of the vanquished. Over such battles the people run about the streets yelling with delight and egg their governments on to spend hundreds of millions of money in the slaughter, whilst the strongest cabinet secretaries dare not to spend an extra shilling against poverty and pestilence through the which they themselves daily walk. I could give you a thousand instances: but they all come to the same thing: the power that governs the earth is not the power of life but of death: and the inner need that had nerved life to the effort of organising itself into the human being is not the need for higher life but for a more efficient engine of destruction. The plague, the famine, the earthquake, the tempest were too spasmodic in their action, the tiger and crocodile were too easily satiated and not cruel enough, something more constantly, more ruthlessly, more ingeniously destructive sad needed, and that something was man, the inventor of the rack, the stake, the gallows, the electric chair, of sword and gun and atomic bombs, but above all, of justice, duty, patriotism and all other isms by which even those who are clever enough to be humanely disposed are persuaded to become the most destructive of all destroyers!



One thought on “The Devil in Man

  1. Remember we read a play on this with you? If you’d love to revive the debate, come on… I am now more equipped! Bring it on, baby boy. Let’s face off on GBS… and his contorted views on life and mankind


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