Monday, July 27, 2015

The Red Wheelbarrow

There are men who struggle for a day and they are good.
There are men who struggle for a year and they are better.
There are men who struggle many years, and they are better still.
But there are those who struggle all their lives:
These are the indispensable ones.

I took this from Thought Criminal, who says it comes from Bertolt Brecht (I'm neither arguing nor denying it; just saying I haven't verified that myself, and I try to be careful about these things).  It put me in mind of my trip through the East Texas countryside this weekend.

The Lovely Wife and I saw two Confederate battle flags flying brazenly in very rural settings (contrary to popular opinion there are still some rural parts of Texas.  After all, we have more major metropolitan areas than any state outside of California.  You could look it up).  They weren't flying because the owners wanted to recover the losses of the Lost Cause, or even declare their independence from Washington, D.C.  They were simply being flown in defiance, in proof that "You can't make me NOT do it!"

A childish and petulant gesture, in other words.

How do I know?  I've lived among these people for 60 years.  I know them.  To some degree, I admire them.  They are "good people," because I've learned that when you get to know people, most of them are good.  Not perfect, not ideal, not in complete conformity with your most cherished beliefs; but good.

May the same be said of you, and may you have the wisdom to be content with it.

Back to Brecht, then.  The sentiment sounds good:  ennobling, inspiring, uplifting.

But it all depends on what you struggle for, doesn't it?  Part of the defiance I saw this weekend, pitiful as it was, is because those people don't want to be thought of as the "dispensable ones."  It's not so simple as either/or, as dispensable or indispensable.

So much depends, indeed.....

1 comment:

  1. I've read that the quote was from his 1930 Cantata-play, The Mother, which is a pretty dreadful piece of agit-prop dreck. I read through some of the pieces at IMSLP and listened to some really bad Youtube performances of it. I was, though, unable to find exactly that quote in the original. I have to say, Brecht at his anti-metaphysical, materialist worst is pretty bad. Considering his play was in praise of the Soviet Union. written at the height of Stalinism, it seems a bit like Springtime for Hitler, these days. It did nothing to prevent the Nazis from taking power, it is so grim and awful that it was probably counter productive. I wonder if they ever produce him in the former GDR, these days. It must seem awfully dated and insane. I liked his Happy End, Three Penny stuff better. Even with its ridiculous lumpen proletariat romanticization of gangsters.