What Keeps Mankind Alive

What keeps mankind alive

you gentlemen who think you have a mission
to purge us of the seven deadly sins
should first sort out the basic food position
then start your preaching, that’s where it begins

you lot, who preach restraint and watch your waist as well
should learn for all time how the world is run
however much you twist, whatever lies you tell
food is the first thing, morals follow on

so first make sure that those, who now are starving
get proper helpings, when we all start carving

what keeps mankind alive, the fact that millions
are daily tortured, stifled, punished, silenced, oppressed
mankind can keep alive, thanks to its brilliance
at keeping its humanity repressed
for once, you must try not to shirk the facts:
mankind is kept alive by bestial acts.

you say the girls may strip with your permission (whoa!)
you draw the line dividing art from sin
so first sort out the basic food position
then start your preaching, that’s where it begins

you lot, who bank on your desires and our disgust
should learn for all time how the world is run
whatever lies you tell, however much you twist
food is the first thing, morals follow on

so first make sure that those, who now are starving
get proper helpings, when we all start carving

what keeps mankind alive, the fact that millions
are daily tortured, stifled, punished, silenced, oppressed
mankind can keep alive, thanks to its brilliance
at keeping its humanity repressed
for once, you must not try to shirk the facts
mankind is kept alive by bestial acts…

Well, nothing seems to have changed much,does it? Dating back to ’30s, this song still keeps its power in making us perceive the haunting and disastrous effects of global changes. Aren’t we in the same position  facing a global economic crisis and thinking about how our future will be as Brecht feared about the transforming world after the economic collapse of 1929?

When I saw the title of the 11th International İstanbul Biennial this year, I thought that it really is a good timing to remember Brecht. The Biennial takes its title from the song ‘Denn wovon lebt der Mensch?’, translated into English as ‘What Keeps Mankind Alive?’. The song closes the second act of the play The Threepenny Opera, written exactly 80 years ago by Bertolt Brecht in collaboration with Elisabeth Hauptmann and Kurt Weill. A phenomenal success at the time of its premiere in 1928, the play was written as an adaptation of John Gay’s 18th-century The Beggar’s Opera, and it set out to revolutionise theatre as both an artistic form and a tool for social and political change.

The song has been covered by various artists, from  Tom Waits to the Pet Shop Boys. I like Tom Waits version,

Lİsten to \’What Keeps Mankind Alive\’ from Tom Waits

Despite its assertive and promising title, I did not like the content of this year’s Biennial much. Well, this is a subject of  another entry, I will not talk much about my dissapointment in this welcome. However, by bringing back Brecht in my very first entry, I intent  to set up the grounds for my future entries, as IKSV did, to think about the role of artistic endeavour in the conditions of contemporary capitalism, to reevaluate our everyday practices, our value systems and modes of operation. Brecht invites us to rethink our position again and again, to see the world as amateur actors, without dulling our critical faculties or our potential for intervention and change by learning the rules all too well. I accept his invitation and start this blog as an amateur activist trying to intervene the ongoing era ‘where millions are STILL daily tortured, stifled, punished, silenced, oppressed‘. Who knows, may be the realization of my utopia is on its way; the food problem solved and now its time for the soul to survive where art is on the top of  list once and for all. Please do not attempt to laugh, it is my utopia…

Reference:

http://www.iksv.org

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