Monday, May 12, 2008

Countdown to Syttende Mai--Henrik Ibsen

If you haven't figured out what in the world my blogging address alludes to then tonight (or today, depending upon when you read blogs) it shall be revealed. Henrik Ibsen is my all-time favorite playwright. He is known as the father of modern drama and outside of Shakespeare is probably one of the most recognized playwrights the world over. My favorite plays by ibsen include: An Enemy of the People, Ghosts, A Doll's House, The Wild Duck, Rosmersholm, Pillars of Society, The Master Builder, and When We Dead Awaken. Admittedly, his plays are a bit heavy and dark, but there is always thought-provoking material that is presented in such a way as not to preach a moral, yet to allow oneself to teach oneself a moral based upon the observation of the play.
I also appreciate Ibsen's candidness. He was once invited to speak at an awards ceremony for a woman's group who was honoring Ibsen for his views advancing women's rights. During his speech he said something to the effect: I could care less about women's rights. What I am for is human rights and if it happens to be a woman whose rights are being violated, then I am for her cause (of course, I am paraphrasing--these are not his exact words, but essentially the same message was given).
The following are some quotes that either Ibsen made directly or that are presented through the voice of one of his characters (most of these quotes come directly from one of his plays):

“A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as one deed.”

“Do not use that foreign word ‘ideals.’ We have that excellent native word ‘lies.’”

“It is inexcusable for scientists to torture animals; let them make their experiments on journalists and politicians.”

“Look into any man’s heart you please, and you will always find, in every one, at least one black spot which he has to keep concealed.”

“Marriage! Nothing else demands so much of a man.”

“One of the qualities of liberty is that, as long as it is being striven after, it goes on expanding. Therefore, the man who stands in the midst of the struggle and says, ‘I have it,’ merely shows by doing so that he has just lost it.”

“People who don’t know how to keep themselves healthy ought to have the decency to get themselves buried, and not waste time about it.”

“The devil is compromise.”

“The spectacles of experience; through them you will see clearly a second time.”

“The worst enemy of truth and freedom in our society is the compact majority.”

"Life is a battle with the trolls!"

"Victory is impossible for any cause that's rooted in guilt."

"Any cause that aims to win a lasting victory--needs a leader who's free of guilt and full of joy."

"No, it is the small losses in life that cut one to the heart--the loss of all that other people look upon as almost nothing."

". . . All the sources of our moral life are poisoned and that the whole fabric of our civic community is founded on the pestiferous soil of falsehood. . . And so, with my eyes blinded to the real facts, I reveled in happiness. But yesterday afternoon--the eyes of my mind were opened wide, and the first thing I realized was the colossal stupidity of the authorities. . . I can't stand leading men at any price!--I have had enough of such people in my time. They are like billy-goats in a young plantation; they do mischief everywhere. They stand in a free man's way, whichever way he turns, and what I should like best would be to see them exterminated like any other vermin-- . . . Nor is it folk of that kind who constitute the most pressing danger to the community. It is not they who are most instrumental in poisoning the sources of our moral life and infecting the ground on which we stand. It is not they who are the most dangerous enemies of truth and freedom amongst us. . . the most dangerous enemy of truth and freedom amongst us is the compact liberal majority. . . The majority never has right on its side. Never I say! That is one of these social lies against which an independent, intelligent man must wage war. Who is it that constitute the majority of the population in a country? Is it the clever folk or the stupid? I don't imagine you will dispute the fact that at present the stupid people are in an absolutely overwhelming majority all the world over. But, good lord!-- You can never pretend that it is right that the stupid folk should govern the clever ones! . . . The minority is always in the right. . . I propose to raise a revolution against the lie that the majority has the monopoly of the truth. . . these 'majority truths' are like last year's cured meat--like rancid, tainted ham; and they are the origin of the moral scurvy that is rampant in our communities. . . It is the masses, the majority--this infernal compact majority--that poisons the sources of our moral life and infects the ground we stand on. . . That the common people, the crowd, the masses are the real essence of the people. That is only a newspaper lie, I tell you! The common people are nothing more than the raw material of which a people is made. . . The kind of common people I mean are not only to be found low down in the social scale; they crawl and swarm all around us--even in the highest social positions. . . It is ignorance, poverty, ugly conditions of life that do the devil's work! In a house that does not get aired and swept every day--my wife Katherine maintains that the floor ought to be scrubbed as well, but that is a debatable question--in such a house, let me tell you, people will lose within two or three years the power of thinking or acting in a moral manner. Lack of oxygen weakens the conscience. And there must be a plentiful lack of oxygen in very many houses in this town, I should think, judging from the fact that the whole compact majority can be unconscientious enough to wish to build the town's prosperity on a quagmire of falsehood and deceit. . . What does the destruction of a community matter, if it lives on lies! It ought to be razed to the ground, I tell you! All who live by lies ought to be exterminated like vermin! You will end by infecting the whole country; you will bring about such a state of things that the whole country will deserve to be ruined. And if things come to that pass, I shall say from the bottom of my heart: let the whole country parish, let all these people be exterminated!"

And on that happy note, pick up a copy of one or more of Ibsen's plays or find one that is being performed and attend it. You will not regret it! As a matter of fact, any performance of Ibsen that I learn of (within driving distance) I purchase tickets to. . . and never once have I been disappointed!

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