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We’re all mad here

October 9, 2013

A recent comment on my post about The Madwoman of Chaillot made me look up a speech from the play, and I find the way it comments on current events a little scary, considering that the play was published in 1947:

President: …Baron, the first thing we have to do is get rid of these people! Good heavens, look at them! Every size, shape, color and period of history imaginable. It’s utter anarchy! I tell you, sir, the only safeguard of order and discipline in the modern world is a standardized worker with interchangeable parts. (Sits.) Here, the manager–And there—one composite drudge grunting and sweating all over the world. Just we two. –Ah, how beautiful! How easy on the eyes! How restful for the conscience!
Baron: Yes, yes, of course—(Enter Flower Girl, Waiter from café. Sergeant from l. to Madwoman.)
President: Order. Symmetry. Balance. But instead of that, what? Here in Chaillot, the very citadel of management, these insolent phantoms of the past come to beard us with their raffish individualism—with the right of the voiceless to sing, of the dumb to make speeches, of trousers to have no seats and bosoms to have dinner bells!
Baron: But, after all, do these people matter?
President: My dear sir, wherever the poor are happy, and the servants proud, and the mad are respected, our power is at an end. Look at that! That waiter! That madwoman! That flower girl! Do I get that sort of service? And suppose that I—president of twelve corporations and ten times a millionaire—were to stick a gladiolus in my buttonhole and start yelling (He rises and yells.) Are my bones ready, Irma?

Head Start and WIC (food program for Women, Infants, Children) are “entitlements”?

Oh yeah, this is a post about a satiric play in which the situations are exaggerated to make a point.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 9, 2013 12:09 pm

    That does hit a little close to home, doesn’t it? So sad that we are still arguing over the same things as we did in 1947.

    • October 10, 2013 10:22 am

      The question “Do I get that sort of service?” seems to me a sort of turning point since 1947. Now, if you can be treated like a human being if you pay for it (airports come to mind), you will put up with all sorts of indignities, because there’s a “choice.”

  2. October 9, 2013 12:15 pm

    I remember the first time I read “Waiting for Godot,” my introduction to theatre of the absurd. My gut reaction was that the play was amazing, and that the lives we actually live are the real absurdities.

    • October 10, 2013 10:23 am

      Certainly the yelling at the end is designed to invite that kind of thinking.

  3. October 10, 2013 9:12 pm

    Wow, that’s so close to what’s going on! This whole government shutdown consistently seems too absurd for words.

    • October 10, 2013 9:19 pm

      I think that absurd is the word we use when we want to be able to laugh instead of cry.

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