Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Mother Courage in Israel, Gaza, Iraq, Syria and the Ukraine
German Democratic Re;public Stamp of Berliner Ensemble Production of Mother Courage
There's a disconnect between armies and ideologies and
those who bear the burden of conflicts like those raging in Israel, Gaza, Iraq,
Syria and the Ukraine. This has always been true and it’s true now. The German
writer W.G. Sebald wrote of the massive
trauma the vanquished German population suffered in the wake of World War II, a
subject that may have been passed over due to the lack of sympathy for a
population that was deemed to have colluded with the Nazis. Daniel Goldhagen wrote a book entitled Hitler’s Willing Executioners. But there are always people living
their lives and then politicians and agitators with agendas to be accomplished,
often with little regard for the individual suffering that might be incurred by
ordinary people. The Times ran a
story about a Gaza psychologist with a history of treating trauma victims who
himself became one (“In Fatal Flash, Gaza Psychologist Switches Roles, Turning Into a Trauma Victim," NYT, 8/4/14). “You try to help the people with their
suffering,” the Times quotes the
psychologist, Dr. Hassan al-Zeyada, as saying. “It’s totally different when you
have the same experience. You lose six from your family—three brothers, your
mom, one of your nephews, your sister-in-law. It’s really…unexpected.” “He
paused, red-eyed,” is how the Times piece described the ellipsis at the end of
the quote. Victims like Dr. Hassan, on both sides of the battles, constitute
the real front lines of any armed struggle. Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children took place during the Thirty Years
War, yet it tells the same story. War functions as the macrocosm. “War is
merely the continuation of policy by other means,” said the Prussian general
Carl von Clausewitz. You have the queen bees and then the rest of the hive, the
microcosm. The hive are those who suffer during wars, who lose their homes,
whose children are killed in battle, whose way of life is destroyed. Wars are
usually fought over land and resources, but there are also millenarian
objectives. Intellectuals are often pictured as doves, but they also often provide
the ideological justifications which stoke the fires of military machines.
An intellectual may achieve a
promotion, as a result of war. And suddenly find himself a statesman!
Meanwhile, MacArthur plan or not, the common man is left to clean up the mess.
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.