Two Brechtian Commentaries on the Way of the World

Although they’ve been attributed to him, there is no evidence that the German playwright Bertolt Brecht wrote the following words (in German or English):

The worst illiterate is the political illiterate. He doesn’t hear, doesn’t speak, nor participates in the political events. He doesn’t know [that] the cost of life, the price of the bean, of the fish, of the flour, of the rent, of the shoes and of the medicine, all depends on political decisions. The political illiterate is so stupid that he is proud and swells his chest saying that he hates politics. The imbecile doesn’t know that, from his political ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child, and the worst thieves of all, the bad politician, corrupted and flunky of the national and multinational companies.

On the other hand, he did write the words below (in German). They’re from the Threepenny Opera‘s “Second Threepenny Finale”, also known as “Wovon lebt der Mensch” or “What Keeps Mankind Alive”:

You gentlemen who think you have a mission
to purge us of the seven deadly sins,
should first sort out the basic food position,
then start your preaching! That’s where it begins.
You lot who preach restraint and watch your waist as well,
should learn, for once, the way the world is run:

However much you twist, whatever lies you tell,
food is the first thing, morals follow on.
So first make sure that those who now are starving
get proper helpings when we all start carving.

What keeps mankind alive? The fact that millions
are daily tortured, stifled, punished, silenced, oppressed.
Mankind can keep alive thanks to its brilliance
in keeping its humanity repressed.

It’s not as catchy as “Mack the Knife” or “Alabama Song”, but it’s still pretty good.

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