WHILE THE LAW DEMANDS THAT WE ALL ARE EQUAL, LOVE INSISTS ON INEQUALITY !
For Anna Martha Sá
The last years I weave a “web” of performances-narrations under the general title “Confabulatores Nocturni” / “Nightly Narrators”.
My solo performance “Schrecklich ist die ferfürung zur Güte” / “Formidable is the temptation of the Benevolence” is one of them. It is based on a political philosopher Hannah Arendt’s essay on Bertolt Brecht and is consisted by narration, poems, songs, philosophical analysis, dramatis personae – a clear “epic theatre” performance.
In her essay, Hannah Arendt is reffering to the poems that Brecht wrote, when he was living in East Berlin, for the tyrant Stalin, but the editors of his opus e r a s e d them from “Brecht’s all” !
The follow fragment is reffering to this matter, it is the “epilogue” of the performance and is dedicated to the Brazilian actress Anna Martha Sà, whom I will direct (in the same performance) in Curitiba, Paranà, Brazil, the coming Autumn.
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“This is what the case of Bertolt Brecht is likely to teach us, and what we ought to take into consideration when we judge him today, as we must, and pay him our respect for all that we owe him. The poets’ relation to reality is indeed what Goethe said it was: They cannot bear the same burden of responsibility as ordinary mortals; they need a measure of remoteness, and yet would not be worth their salt if they were not forever tempted to exchange this remoteness for being just like everybody else. On this attempt Brecht staked his life and his art as few poets had ever done; it led him into triumph and disaster.
From the beginning of these reflections, I have proposed that we grant poets a certain latitude, such as we would hardly be willing to grant each other in the ordinary course of events. I do not deny that this may offend many people’s sense of justice; in fact, if Brecht were still among us he would certainly be the first to protest violently against any such exception. (…) However, the equality before the law, whose standard we commonly adopt for moral judgments as well, is no absolute. Every judgment is open to forgiveness, every act of judging can change into an act of forgiving; to judge and to forgive are but the two sides of the same coin. But the two sides follow different rules. The majesty of the law demands that we be equal – that only our acts count; and not the person who committed them. The act of forgiving, on the contrary, takes the person into account; no pardon pardons murder or theft but only the murderer or the thief. We always forgive somebody, never something, and this is the reason people think that only love can forgive. But, with or without love, we forgive for the sake of the person, and while justice demands that all be equal, mercy insists on inequality—an inequality implying that every man is, or should be, more than whatever he did or achieved. In his youth, before he adopted “usefulness” as the ultimate standard in judging people, Breoht knew this better than anybody else. There is a “Ballad About the Secrets of Each and Every Man” in the Manual of Piety, whose first stanza, in Bentley’s translation, reads as follows:
Everyone knows what a man is. He has a name.
He walks in the street. He sits in the bar.
You can all see his face. You can all hear his voice
And a woman washed his shirt and a woman combs his hair.
But strike him dead! Why not indeed
If he never amounted to anything more
Than the doer of his bad deed or
The doer of his good deed.
The standard that rules in this domain of inequality is still contained in the old Roman saying: “Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi” / “what is permitted to Jove, is not permitted to an ox”. But, for our consolation, this inequality works both ways. One of the signs that a poet is entitled to such privileges as I here claim for him is that there are certain things he cannot do and still remain who he was.
It is the poet’s task to coin the words we live by, and surely no one is going to live by the words that Brecht wrote in praise of Stalin. The simple fact that he was capable of writing such unspeakably bad verse, worse by far than any fifth-rate scribbling versifier who was guilty of the same sins, shows that “quod licet bovi, non licet Iovi” / “what is permitted to an ox, is not permitted to Jove”. For whether or not you can praise tyranny in “fine-sounding voices,” it is true that mere intellectuals or literati are not punished for their sins by loss of talent. No god leaned over their cradle; no god will take his revenge. There are a great many things that are permitted to an ox, but not to Jove; that is, not to those who are a bit like Jove- or, rather, are blessed by Apollo. Hence the bitterness of the old saying cuts both ways, and the example of “poor B.B.,” who never wasted a shred of pity on himself, may teach us how difficult it is to be a poet in this century or at any other time.”