George Bernard Shaw (on circumstances & blame)

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) in Mrs. Warren’s Profession. (Mrs. Warren’s was the “oldest” of them.) Her daughter Vivie, previously unaware of her mother’s business, well-educated and (for that time) wildly privileged in her relative independence, is initially shocked by her mother’s management of brothels.

I’ve loved this quote for a long time, but didn’t know where in Shaw’s canon it occurred. My goodness, what a writer and thinker he was! (His Wikiquote page is ridiculous.) Writing this play in 1893 was a remarkable thing, as was his stated motivation: “to draw attention to the truth that prostitution is caused, not by female depravity and male licentiousness, but simply by underpaying, undervaluing, and overworking women so shamefully that the poorest of them are forced to resort to prostitution to keep body and soul together.” I don’t think male licentiousness can be entirely exonerated, but still.