15.1.11

History Lesson(s)





And yet, that's how everything was done. At the appropriate time, when investigations on account of embezzled money were threatening, one always repeated the threat of the foul air from below, mumbled something about revolution, made a vague gesture in the direction of the suburbs. The police understood then, and became more tactful. An incidental mention of the hungry masses (in terse military prose), and the Senate hailed again. One was naturally against this stinking tide oneself; one wiped off with disgust the dirt that had splashed on one's toga. One knew that they would use their 'liberation' to set their crippled bastards on the Vestal Virgins' laps, to grow radishes instead of chrysanthemums in the glasshouses, to seal the holes in their barracks with priceless Greek canvases, to shit on grammar — always excused by a couple of literati on account of their neglected education. One knew, all that; one had Greek culture. One knew, but one had to make politics. One made politics until in the end one had got the deluge into the curia, or at least its foam; by no means the hungry peasants, only their tormentors, the usurers. By no means the bankrupt artisans, only the mortgage-holders. No, the gentleman didn't forget 'misery', the great Democrat remembered the 'despair of the pauperised'. What else could he have blackmailed the pauperisers with? The Senate was too small. It had to be enlarged. The privileged robbers were too few; they had to be supplemented by unprivileged robbers. Under the threatening eye of the dictator, those to whom their police had brought the stolen goods shook hands with those who had fetched them for themselves. What of the leprosy one had promised to keep down, to exclude, to decimate, for so many sealed envelopes? Now was it not somewhat decimated when it streamed into the curia? Was it not only a small part of all the leprosy? It was surely only that part of the leprosy that could jingle with money. A very small part. But strong. And loud. One must shout if one wants to bargain. Look at his Senate: a market hall.

--The writer Vastius Alder speaks in The Business Affairs of Mr. Julius Caesar, a novel fragment by Bertolt Brecht, written between 1937-39. Translated in the scenario for Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet's History Lessons (1972) published in Screen 17.1, 1976, p.70-71. Intended as an addendum to my brief contribution to this, while it's on my mind...