Progressives channel Pygmalion

Around 20 A.D., the Roman poet Ovid wrote the first version of what became the Pygmalion myth in Greek literature.  In the story, a sculptor falls in love with one of his own creations.  When he kisses the statue’s lips, it comes to life, and he eventually marries the now animated marble form, who later bears them a child.

Fast-forward to 1913, a milestone year for Progressives.  Fabian Socialist George Bernard Shaw writes Pygmalion as a stage play débuting in London.  Then, in 1964, another banner year for Socialists, the Lerner and Loewe movie My Fair Lady is released based on the same plot.  Most readers will remember this production, in which Rex Harrison brings Audrey Hepburn “to life” as it were, transforming her from a match-selling cockney waif into a princess.  This parable has staying power.

There seems to be a 2,000-year-old impulse or perhaps a gene that causes some people, aka Progressives, to be driven to play God.  From Ovid to Shaw to Lerner to Wilson to LBJ to Obama, these individuals share common traits.  They have supernatural powers.  They see the future.  They are anointed beings who see things more clearly than the rest of us mere mortals.  They know how and when to step in to achieve breathtaking transformations in all sectors.  They get to select who gets transformed, thus solidifying who gets worshiped as the transformer.  German leaders seek to turn Syrian rapists into misunderstood humble migrants.  Turning wolves into sheep might even prove harder than making a statue come to life.

But there’s just one problem.  It never works.  It’s a childish dream.  Yet that doesn’t seem to matter much to these earnestly striving Svengalis.  Their own imagined magnificence and beneficence cause their pores to ooze a Teflon patina that shields them from any fear of sticky reality.  Arrogant, undeserved confidence somehow always mesmerizes the rubes.  From LBJ’s Great Society speech to “we are the change we have been waiting for,” the words themselves are ample honors for the fantasy fabricators as cheers of adoring crowds provide the sugar high they need for energy to stay the course toward ever grander hallucinations camouflaging ever worse programs, laws, and executive actions.

The problem is that those of us who are not delusional end up paying the price.  Through taxation and through the fallout from a declining culture, we wait for dreams of egotistical psychotics to either succeed (which never happens) or fail, so we can finally set a sensible course toward freedom.  With fingers crossed, each cycle of folly produces more danger for all and more frustration for those actually thinking.

And if things go bad, well, then, Teflon proves more useful than just for skillets.  You don’t have to watch the heat so carefully, because no matter how crusty and inedible the meal is, cleanup is a snap.  Just rinse and start over with a clean pan and fresh ingredients: other people’s money, their freedoms, a pinch of envy to satisfy the low-born, weasel words and a pint of PC to confuse.  Now turn up the heat, reset the timer, and stand by for another meltdown.  Maybe this time the meal will be a masterpiece of perfectly sautéed guns and butter with no bitter aftertaste.  Maybe Ovid’s statue will truly come to life this time, because the dreams of the next wizard will be so sincere and so well presented.

Loren Smith, freedom-loving historian and father.