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To what end goodness
If the good are immediately struck down, or those
To whom they are good
Are struck down?
To what end freedom
If the free are forced to live among the unfree?
To what end reason
If only stupidity puts the bread on the table
That each of us needs?
Instead of just being good, make an effort
To create the conditions that make goodness possible,
And better still
That make it superfluous!
Instead of just being free, make an effort
To create the conditions that liberate us all,
And that make the love of freedom
Instead of just being sensible, make an effort
To create the conditions that make the stupidity
of the individual
Into a bad deal!
–Bertolt Brecht, Was nützt die Güte? (1935) in: Gesammelte Werke, vol. 4, p. 553 (Suhrkamp ed. 1967)(S.H. transl.)
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”