Saturday, February 9, 2008

Don't stare so romantically!

In one of his first plays, Brecht famously put up signs that said "Glotzt nicht so romantisch!" ("Don't stare so romantically!") He always wanted to get the audience to look at theater more critically, rather than gaze upon it as an illusion.

Interestingly enough, I saw the following quote by him in an article about political theology that I was reading yesterday.

We who wished to prepare the soil for kindness
could not be kind ourselves.
But you, when at last it will come to pass that man
is a helper to man,
remember us with forbearance.


And so, as I watch the political machinations that go on this week, I'm reminded of the importance not only of the virtue of kindness, but Brecht's admonition to gaze without illusion upon the proceedings. We need to learn to do both.

Much of what goes on in the political forum makes great theater, I suppose, if you can set aside your concern for the country. I have trouble doing that, because we face so many issues right now. I don't think we're in a position where we as citizens can act like casual theater-goers, blinded by the illusions of a play on a stage - or interested in its entertainment value. It's time to look at things more critically, to seek out what a candidates' bottom line policies will be as much as we can ferret out in the system we have, one that seems to lend itself better at times to theatrics and histrionics than solving problems.

One only has to watch Congress for a few hours to learn this. Any school child will tell you so, if you don't want to admit it yourself.

"What are you watching?" my nephew asked one day when I had the Senate on.

"Congress," I replied. "They're discussing laws."

"Oh," he said, ruffling around his math homework. "I thought it was a play."

From the mouths of babes. Babes who aren't staring romantically.

Brecht was right. It's time for more audience involvement. We need to interact with the players in our government more, despite the appearance that 'they have the stage'. It's illusory. They are our mouthpieces, if we let them know what we think.

And, at the same time, we all need to shoulder more of a responsibility to be kinder when we can to each other.

Aren't we responsible to prepare the soil of kindness for our children? If not us, then who?