("Quid coniuratio est?")
DAVE EMORY -- JULY 5, 1992
Observations on America's 216th Birthday
GEORGE BERNARD SHAW [continues]:
Now what is a crammer? A crammer is a person whose business in life is to study all the old examination papers and find out what are the questions that are actually asked and what are the answers expected by the examiner. You must be very careful not to suppose that these answers are always the true ones. Your examiners will be elderly gentlemen, and their knowledge is sure to be more or less out-of-date. Therefore, begin by telling yourself this story:
Imagine yourself a young student, early in the 15th century, and being examined as to your knowledge of the movement of the sun and moon, planets and stars, and so on. Imagine also that your father happens to know Copernicus. And that you have learned from his conversation that the planets go round, not in circles, but in ellipses. Imagine too that you have met the painter, Leonardo DaVinci and been allowed to peep at his funny notebook. And by holding it up to a mirror, to read the words, "The earth is a moon of the sun." Imagine that, on being examined, you gave the answers of Copernicus and Leonardo, believing them to be the true answers.
Instead of passing, at the head of the "successful" list, you would have been burnt alive, for heresy. Therefore, you would have taken good care to say that the stars and the sun move in perfect circles, because the circle is a perfect figure and therefore answers to the perfection of the Creator. You would say that the motion of the sun round the earth is proved by the fact that Joshua saw it move in Gideon, and stopped it.
All your answers would be wrong! But you would pass, and be patted on the head as a young marvel of Aristotelian science.
Now passing examinations today is just what it was in the days of Copernicus. If you, at 20 years of age, go up to be examined by an elderly gentleman of 50, you must find out what people were taught 30 years ago. And stuff it with that, and not with what you are taught today.
"But," you will say, "how are you possibly to find out what questions are to be asked? And what answers are expected?" Well you can't. But a good crammer can. He can't get a peep at the papers beforehand, but he can study the old examination papers until he knows all the questions that the examiners have to keep asking over and over again. After all, their number is not infinite.
If only you will spot hard enough to learn them all, you'll pass with flying colors. Of course, you'll not be able to learn them all, but your chances will be good in proportion to the number you learn.
The danger of being flunked for giving up-to-date answers to elderly examiners is greatest in the technical profession. If you want to get into the Navy, or practice medicine, you must get specially trained for some months in practices that are now quite out-of-date. If you don't, you'll be turned down by admirals dreaming of the "Nelson touch," or by surgical barons brought up on the infallibility of Jedda(?) and Lister and Pasteur.
But this does not apply to all examinations. Take the classics, for instance. Homer's Greek and Virgil's Latin, being dead languages, they don't change in the way that naval and medical practice changes.
Suppose you want to be a clergyman. Well the Greek of the New Testament doesn't change. The creeds do not change. The 39 articles do not change -- though they ought to, for some of them are terribly out-of-date. You can cram yourself with these subjects for yourself, and save your money for lessons in elocution.
In any case, you may take it as a safe rule that if you happen to have any original ideas about examination subjects, you mustn't air them in your examination papers. You may very possibly know, better than your examiner. But do not let them find out that you think so.
Once you are safely through your examinations, you will begin life in earnest. You will then discover that your education has been very defective. You will find yourself uninstructed as to the best ways of eating and drinking and dressing and sleeping and breathing. Your notions of keeping yourself fit will consist mostly of physical exercises which will shorten your life by 20 years or so.
You may accept me as an educated man, because I have earned my living for 60 years by work which only an educated man, and even a highly-educated man, could do. Yet the subjects that educated me were never taught in my school. Consequently, school was to me a sentence of penal servitude. You see, I was born with what people call an "artistic temperament." I could read... well I could read all the masterpieces: the English poets, the playwrights, historians, and scientific pioneers. But I could not read schoolbooks!! Because they're written by people who don't know how to write.
To me, a person who knew nothing of all the great musicians, from Palestrina to Edward Elgar, nor of the great painters, from Giotto to Bern-Jones(?), was a savage and an ignoramus -- even if he were hung all over with gold medals for school classes. As to mathematics: to be imprisoned in an ugly room and set to do sums in algebra, without ever having had the meaning of mathematics explained to me, or its relation to science, was enough to make me hate mathematics all the rest of my life! As so many literary men do.
So don't expect too much from your school achievement. You may win the Ireland Scholarship, and then find that none of the great business houses will employ a university don on any terms.
As to your general conduct and prospects, all I have time to say is, that if you do as everyone does and think as everyone thinks, you will get on very well with your neighbor. But you will suffer from all their illnesses and stupidity. If you think and act differently, you must suffer their dislike and persecution.
I was taught when I was young that if people would only love one another, all would be well with the world. Now this seemed simple and very nice! But I found, when I tried to put it in practice, not only that other people were seldom loveable, but that I was not very loveable myself! I also found that to love anyone is to take a liberty with them which is quite unbearable, unless they happen to return your affection. Which you have no right to expect.
What you have to learn, if you are to be a good citizen of the world is, that though you certainly dislike many of your neighbors, and differ from some of them so strongly that you could not possibly live in the same house with them, that does not give you the smallest right to injure them or even to be personally uncivil to them. You must not attempt to do good to those who hate you, for they don't need your officious services and would refuse to be under any obligation to you. Your difficulty will be, how to behave to those whom you dislike, and cannot help disliking, for no reason whatever, simply because you were born with an antipathy to that sort of person. Well, you must just keep out of their way, as much as you can. And when you cannot, deal as honestly and civilly with them as with your best friend. Just think what the world would be like if everyone who disliked you were to punch your head!
The oddest thing about it is that you will find yourself making friends with people whose opinions are the very opposite to your own, whilst you cannot bear the sight of others who share all your beliefs! You may love your dog, and find your nearest relatives detestable.
So don't waste your time arguing whether you ought to love all your neighbors -- you can't help yourself! And neither can they. You may find yourself completely dissatisfied with all your fellow creatures, as they exist at present, and with all their laws and institutions. Then there's nothing to be done but set to work to find out exactly what is wrong with them, and how to set it right. That's perhaps the best fun of all. But perhaps I think so only because I'm a little in that line myself.
Well, that basically concludes the talk by George Bernard Shaw. And again, I think there is much to be evaluated and emulated in that particular talk. That's as close to Dave Emory's credo as you're ever gonna hear. I think that many of the things he said are absolutely essential for our understanding if we are going to extricate ourselves from the present situation.
[...to be continued...]
I encourage distribution of "Conspiracy Nation."
"Justice" = "Just us" = "History is written by the assassins."