Pavlov & Broadway


Broadway is no longer a medium for the people, a free people, but merely for a Pavlovian salivating public.  Yes, hyperbole herein is litote. The number of times educated colleagues of mine will roll their eyes reading this suffices for me; I am justified, I am vindicated.  

I remember a performance of Brecht’s Three Penny Opera, once, I forget how many years ago, perhaps already twenty five or perhaps just twenty.  I don’t imagine things have gotten better, not for theater anyway, but maybe that’s an assumption I have no business making.  However, Brecht in the late eighties with Sting as MacHeath was performed minus the three most savagely satirical songs. They were cut out.   

The producers did not want to offend; Brecht became pop-drama; it was all pop-music tailored for pop-artist, Sting; only I object to the use of ‘pop”as in popular, as in populus, as in the people; a mass media audience is a public, espcially in how we have been enculturated in America.  The supposed intimacy of live theater notwithstanding, Weil and Brecht became a German version of Rogers and Hammerstein. I should not have expected otherwise. But I did, I still do. We need to if social reform toward democracy will arise–we are no longer a democracy the way we were once, the way we had the potential to manifest. Our elections no more an indication of the enactment of freedom than were elections in the Soviet Union.

Now anything good in literature rises in spite of a society, we may still believe, try to say with seriousness; in spite of any society’s government, in direct contrast with its politics.  And I don’t mean what gets applauded or becomes popular, not that either of these in themselves for any writing is proof of the inference. Inferences are inferences and remain valid as inferences; exceptions are exceptions and remain valid as exceptions. A rule is a rule insofar as it remains a rule.

No status quo as contemporaneously manifest can ever respect literature enough, certainly never love it enough because it is incapable of love at all, let alone loving anything too much.  All the Isms and Ists that have grown in the soil of our anti-humanist traditon, and it is old enough to have begun its own traditionalism . . .

A good government, we could say, is in fact the government that manages not to be an enemy of its people, at least too often, the particular genius of American politics, for I am under no illusion that the government here is the freind of the people, or that any of its agents of the state is our friend; Obama included, of course.  No one should suffer the delusion that the United States is the friend of its people. However when compared with many countries of the third world, or Muslim fundamentalist theocracies, Nazis Germany, the Soviet Union or China–America seems a paradise.  This though has been a problem–we are always comparing ourselves against some social extreme no sane person would want to live under. 

Yet as I have said before, and will likely echo again, with the general and pervasive bad taste of one public after another, States everywhere are assured of sold out performances on this international stage of the mundane, and the most inane politics that any reasonable half-intelligence could support–all the world is a stage. 

I mean, theatrical states and staged politics to the contrary of all good and organic theatre is thus withstanding.  There is no irony in the politicians we get, the governments we get, the politics we have; there is only logic in this.  Liberal American as well as our conservative ones must hold the mirror up.

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