Friday, December 4, 2015

Mother Courage and The Islamic State

stamp based on Berliner Ensemble production of Mother Courage
Richard N. Haass, the President of the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations makes the following statement in a truly “global” essay, "The Unraveling: How to Respond to a Disordered World” (Foreign Affairs, November/December 2014): “The chief cauldron of contemporary disorder is the Middle East. For all the comparisons that have been made to World War I or the Cold War, what is taking place in the region today most resembles the Thirty Years’ War, three decades of conflict that ravaged much of Europe in the first half of the seventeenth century.” You may recall that Brecht’s great masterpiece Mother Courage and Her Children was situated during that conflict. Originally Brecht had written it as a thinly veiled allegory about the totalitarianism sweeping Europe, but one wonders if using Haass’s analogy it might not tell us something about the economics of terror. Yes economics. Maladaptability in the guise of adaptability may be said to be one of the most outstanding characteristics of the human race. Humans seem to have the ability to convince themselves that they can make do under even the most harrowing conditions, which they begin to accept as the way things are meant to be. So you become a Sonderkommando in the camps in order to survive. Brecht’s character decides that she will profit from adversity and in the course of the play loses all three of her children, Swiss Cheese, Eilif and Kattrin. With the prospect of mass devastation on the horizon, who is going to capitalize on the misfortunes of others? Who is going to deceive themselves into believing they're the fittest who has survived through cunning, as they proceed to lose everything?

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