THE LAUGHING SEAGULL

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You could have gone out and breathed pure(r) air for the first (and probably last) time in your life, yet they told you that the air was contaminated by the virus and locked you up inside your house. You let them. You could have looked at the numbers and think using your own brain, yet they bombarded you with lists and percentages on TV and the internet to blow it all out of proportion. You let them. Once by the sea, I saw a gull flying over the whole stretch of beach available while I had to pay if I wanted to go to certain areas. Free beach, paying beach. The gull wasn’t surveying the land for food – he was laughing at us.

EVROS, GREECE, 26TH MARCH 2020

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At the border of the world. A river; barbed wire; trees and birds that look identical but carry different names. A boy – he would be in elementary school somewhere else – looks out onto the other side. He doesn’t know what he’s left was war, they called it that, they said it was that, and one day he’ll feel he actually felt it. He doesn’t know, either, that the world he’s looking out onto feels at war, too. He doesn’t know about this other invisible war now, but one day he’ll feel that those on the other side didn’t live through a war, or his kind of war – it will feel different, and the names won’t feel appropriate. He’ll develop a magic fascination for the names of things. Now he sees a soldier approaching from afar with a smile and a machine gun, which one shines more is hard to tell, it’s that sunny of a winter day in a month that felt like spring but it’s now back to cold. If they have to wade the river, he’ll get for sure icy water up to his waist.

BRECHT, TOKYO AND MT. VESUVIUS

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In 1956 Bertolt Brecht sent his written contribution to a debate about the theatre taking place in the city of Darmstadt, Germany. In his clear-cut style and well-defined images, he warned the listening congregation (we are assuming somebody else read his words) that if they wanted to talk to today’s people they needed to present today’s problems in relation to their solutions, the world as a world that can be changed. “Years ago,” the voice (not his) continued, “in a newspaper I saw a photograph of the city of Tokyo destroyed by an earthquake. Most of the houses had collapsed, but a few modern buildings were standing, unscathed. ‘Steel stood’ was written over the image.” The voice then invited them to compare this description with Pliny’s description of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, concluding that it seemed obvious which one “our modern playwrights should avoid.” (Alas, we can only imagine the reaction of the passionately debating congregation. In 1956.) “We can no longer present man to man as a victim, as the passive object of an unknown and immutable environment.” The voice finally spoke in stone, “If we put ourselves in the position of the ball, the laws of motion become inconceivable.” (In 1956, of course.)