Bertolt Brecht: To hear the big fellows talk, they wage war from fear of God and for all things bright and beautiful

 Richard Rozoff

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Bertolt Brecht: German Miserere

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Bertolt Brecht
From Mother Courage and Her Children (1939)
Translated by Eric Bentley

Brecht1946

SERGEANT: What they could use around here is a good war. What else can you expect with peace running wild all over the place? You know what the trouble with peace is? No organization. And when do you get organization? In a war. Peace is one big waste of equipment. Anything goes, no one gives a damn. See the way they eat? Cheese on pumpernickel, bacon on the cheese? Disgusting! How many horses have they got in this town? How many young men? Nobody knows! They haven’t bothered to count ‘em. That’s peace for you! I’ve been in places where they haven’t had a war for seventy years and you know what? The people haven’t even been given names! They don’t know who they are! It takes a war to fix that. In a war, everyone registers, everyone’s name’s on a list. Their shoes are stacked, their corn’s in the bag, you count it all up – cattle, men, et cetera – and you take it away! That’s the story: no organization, no war!

RECRUITING OFFICER: It’s the God’s truth.

SERGEANT: Of course, a war’s like any good deal: hard to get going. But once it does get moving, it’s a pisser, and they’re all scared of peace, like a dice player who can’t stop – ’cause when peace comes they have to pay up. Of course, until it gets going, they’re just as scared of war, it’s such a novelty!

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MOTHER COURAGE: To hear the big fellows talk, they wage war from fear of God and for all things bright and beautiful, but just look into it, and you’ll see they’re not so silly: they want a good profit out of it, or else the little fellows like you and me wouldn’t back ‘em up.

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