After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers’ Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
Perhaps because the realities surrounding two world wars have made us realise to what depths our magnificent, rational, enlightened, empirical, techno-civilisation is also capable of descending, the 20th century also become a century of Doubt and Challenge, in which the arch-agnostics and nihilists reigned supreme. "Everything is permitted", exclaimed Ivan Karamazov in the wake of Nietzsche's "God is dead"; but he would better have exclaimed: "Nothing is sacred". All may be challenged, confronted, denied – all values, all culture, all tradition, all explanation, every institution from marriage to the monarchy.
There is no generic or collective name for these ideologues of altercation, but ideologues they undoubtedly are. Thank God – if one may still say that! – for those like Brecht who can plant their tongues firmly in their cheeks and laugh, at themselves too, but chiefly at all the intellectual fascists, whether of the left or right.
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