A comedy of leftisms – guest post by @henrymcg
George Bernard Shaw didn’t think much of the plays of William Shakespeare, and wrote reams of nonsense, I seem to recall, explaining why he himself was the greater playwright. His plays had some merit. He is still remembered, though the Bard looks like outlasting him.
A writer I’d never heard of before – damn my ignorance – named Emer O’Toole (which looks like an anagram of EE, MORE LOOT, or possibly MOLE OOT ‘ERE) has now given us her own criticism of Shakespeare, and it’s classic Guardian fare. Here is one insightful sentence.
“Shakespeare is full of classism, sexism, racism and defunct social mores”
Now the implication here seems to be that for a play (even one written in 1597 for goodness sake?) to be worth watching, it should conform to the current, 2012 leftist/progressive mindset. Sound like a good evening at the theatre?
In fact how many classic works of fiction would be allowed if we so harshly judged them? I believe there are quite a few ‘defunct social mores’ lurking about in the works of Jane Austen, so she’ll probably have to go as well. A gentleman being “in search of a wife” sounds dangerously as though it might hinder somebody’s understanding of their own sexuality by imposing outdated heteronormative etc etc…you get the idea.
Emer O’Toole may not have heard the old truism: the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there. She seems unaware that popular moralistic viewpoints can be rather ephemeral. In fact it shows ridiculous hubris to look back through time and condescendingly criticise people for not having 21st century Guardian-reader attitudes. It is quite possible that if her piece on Shakespeare is remembered at all, it will inadvertently cause a good deal of laughter 50 years from now.
Can you imagine Benjamin Franklin turning to Thomas Jefferson and saying “Nice Declaration of Independence, dude. But I’m not sure you show enough awareness of your privilege as a member of the patriarchy”? And do we think any the less of him because he did not say that?
But I fear Ms O’Toole is only getting started.
“So where has this idea that Shakespeare is ‘universal’ come from? Why do people the world over study and perform Shakespeare? Colonialism. That’s where, and that’s why. Shakespeare was a powerful tool of empire, transported to foreign climes along with the doctrine of European cultural supremacy”
Yep. That’s it! People round the world have been told by a non-Guardian-reader what they should value, and the idiots fell for it! They didn’t enjoy Shakespeare’s extraordinary use of language, nor the stories of love, betrayal, and power. Not a bit of it! We’ve all been brainwashed, hoodwinked by those pesky imperialists.
For O’Toole has revealed that, once again ‘imperialism’ is the evil spirit behind Shakespeare’s success. This is a Guardian leitmotif. Once you’ve linked a person or idea with imperialism, the stink will never truly rub off. ‘Imperialism’ is the word our friends at that newspaper toss in when they want us to be absolutely clear that someone is nasty, evil, and bad.
Along with the talk of imperialism, there’s a whiff of leftist anti-patriotism, another theme that we see repeatedly in the Guardian. The message is repeated over and over: patriotism means imperialism. We are told that it is never distinguishable from the xenophobia of the BNP, even nazi-ism. And far from being only the ravings of a bunch of sillies in the Graun, this attitude has in fact had a large influence, especially in education.
There are some excellent comments to this effect under a post in David Thompson’s blog about this piece (http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2012/05/elsewhere-63.html). As the blog-owner says:
“Fostering disaffection with – and alienation from – British history (warts and all) doesn’t seem likely to make anyone feel a sense of citizenship, or shared values, or even welcome.”
The Guardian continues to do its best to stimulate the crippling self-doubt that pervades the British identity – all in the name of combatting a kind of colonialist superiority that in reality died many decades ago.