With deference and apologies to Bertolt Brecht. A paraphrasing of Brecht's Deutschland, Bleiche Mutter poem, in view of the elections in England on 22nd May 2014. Brecht composed the poem when the Nazis came into the ascendancy in Germany in the 1930s.
May others speak of her shame;
I speak of mine.
O England, pale mother!
How you sit now, abused
Amongst all other peoples.
Even amongst the aberrant,
You attract attention.
The poorest of your sons
Lies dead, beaten.
When his need was greatest
Your other sons raised their fists against him.
This is now infamy.
With their fists thus raised,
Raised against their brother,
They walk around you with arrogance
And laugh in your face.
Everyone knows it.
In your house,
Everyone yells lies,
But the truth
Must not be spoken.
Is it thus?
Why do all oppressors praise you,
But the oppressed accuse you?
Point at you, but
The exploiters praise the system
That was invented in your house!
And everyone, everyone sees you
Hide the hem of your coat, bloody
From the blood
Of your best son.
When they hear the speeches coming from your house, everyone laughs.
But those who meet you reach for their knives
As if confronted by a robber.
O England, pale mother!
What a state your sons have left you in,
That you sit amongst the peoples,
Scorned or feared.
And here is Brecht's original and brilliant German poem.
Mögen andere von ihrer Schande sprechen,
ich spreche von der meinen.
O Deutschland, bleiche Mutter!
Wie sitzest du besudelt
Unter den Völkern.
Unter den Befleckten
Fällst du auf.
Von deinen Söhnen der ärmste
Als sein Hunger groß war
Haben deine anderen Söhne
Die Hand gegen ihn erhoben.
Das ist ruchbar geworden.
Mit ihren so erhobenen Händen
Erhoben gegen ihren Bruder
Gehen sie jetzt frech vor dir herum
Und lachen in dein Gesicht.
Das weiß man.
In deinem Hause
Wird laut gebrüllt, was Lüge ist
Aber die Wahrheit
Ist es so?
Warum preisen dich ringsum die Unterdrücker, aber
Die Unterdrückten beschuldigen dich?
Zeigen mit Fingern auf dich, aber
Die Ausbeuter loben das System
Das in deinem Hause ersonnen wurde!
Und dabei sehen dich alle
Den Zipfel deines Rockes verbergen, der blutig ist.
Vom Blut deines
Hörend die Reden, die aus deinem Hause dringen, lacht man.
Aber wer dich sieht, der greift nach dem Messer
Wie beim Anblick einer Räuberin.
O Deutschland, bleiche Mutter!
Wie haben deine Söhne dich zugerichtet
Daß du unter den Völkern sitzest
Ein Gespött oder eine Furcht!
Bertolt Brecht (1898 - 1956)
1 May 2014
“Parish council – The administrative body in a civil parish.” Oxford English Dictionary
“Parochial – relating to a Church parish; OR having a limited or narrow outlook or scope. Derived from the Old French paroche – parish.” Oxford English Dictionary
I usually go ballroom dancing on a Monday. This being the Easter holidays, I had to look elsewhere for entertainment on the 14th of April, so I went to the Stradbroke Parish Council meeting. I was not disappointed. In fact, it’s true to say that if I had not been laughing so hard (inwardly, of course), I would have been carried out of the meeting crying.
Here were all the stereotypes and clichés normally associated with bad novels or with romans à clef from the France of the seventeenth century. Power brokers; hysteria; apologies; low-key manipulators; truth brokers; defeatists; a public gallery split by sentiment and politics and family affiliations; innocents brought to the slaughter; slanderers, libellers and story-tellers. The only thing missing was a love interest, but I’m sure that could soon be invented or arranged.
I don’t intend to dwell on people specifics here; that’s not my style nor my role.
We hold these truths to be self-evident:
· That all men (human beings) are created equal;
· That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights;
· That the opening of the Post Office has been delayed, outcome unknown;
· That some parish councillors do not get on with each other;
· That some members of the public do not like some parish councillors;
· That some parish councillors do not like some of the members of the public;
· That the Parish Council needs a stop watch with a buzzer to keep the time for which members of the public can speak to the 2 minutes as defined by standing orders;
· That it will soon be legal to record by audio and video parish council meetings and indeed to broadcast them live;
· That Laxfield Road is becoming a death trap because of speeding lorries and cars;
· That the Parish Council meeting agendas are very long;
· That the use of web sites is governed by the free market not by individuals;
· That the Parish Council should really have its own web site;
· That all the parish councillors are human beings;
· That all the members of the public are human beings.
Meanwhile, in the real world, MH-370 is still missing; tension is rising over Ukraine; the families of the Hillsborough 96 are still seeking justice; hospices are underfunded; the NHS is underfunded; London house prices are rising to stupid levels; cancer is killing someone every minute, as is poverty; and the few are still profiting from the miseries of the many.
And this is the crux. Local government needs to be forward-looking and strategic; it should be about the few volunteers looking after the needs and interests of the many, and not just within the narrow boundaries of the parish, not just within the narrow boundaries of parochialism. It should not be about building individual empires, nor about appearing to be the most powerful human being in the parish. It should be about making the world a better place. All I can say is that the meeting might have made my world a better place for ninety minutes on a Monday evening because of its entertainment value, but it certainly didn’t make the world a better place because of the flaws of human nature it revealed nor because of the decisions that were made.