Poem Review

Keep the resistance force alive

Nasir Uz Zaman | Published: 00:00, Sep 09,2018 | Updated: 19:21, Sep 09,2018

 
 
Poem Review

Bertolt Brecht

Fatalistic ideas connote as something where all the injustices and oppression by the power class seem inevitable and something to be taken as natural. However, the way to protest at injustices is keep going, rather than expecting instant result. Nasir Uz Zaman takes a poem by Bretolt Brecht and dissects it to show keeping the resistance force alive is the only way to rise against oppression.   

Black, lesbian, feminist, poet, and activist Audre Lorde repeatedly points out, ‘A poet is by definition a teacher. Making a real poem is teaching’. Undoubtedly and rightly, it is truth for Marxist poet-playwright Bertolt Brecht and his poems. His poems teach us to recognise radical elements of struggle, to conquer and overcome the dynasty of fear, to have strong faith for revolutionary changes and not to become fatalistic.

Brecht’s poem, Everything Changes, translated by John Willett in English from German, represents his political ideology and the urge and necessity of fundamental and radical changes. Brecht points the way to freedom and its possibility by ensuring changes which requires political consciousness, hope and commitment. The belief that everything changes leads to the strong hope that I/we can change. In the same way, my/our changes can exist in something that has not come to exist yet, as the world is in the process of being. Oppression, repression and exploitation of mass, class struggle, social domination, unequal development and distribution of wealth do not just come down from heaven but are implicated and nurtured on this land. A fatalistic view, as Paulo Freire gives example in Pedagogy of the heart, ‘Things are the way they are because they cannot be different’. Criticising this fatalistic view, he continues, ‘They cannot be different because if they were, they would be in conflict with the interests of the ruling class’. One need not think such to fulfil the interests of the ruling class. Things can be different, possibilities are there for fundamental changes. Future is there and this future lies in the transformation of present political and economic system which will be for and by the mass people. In a way, the present system tries to make people ideologically fatalistic by raising fear to fulfil the ruling class’ greedy agendas. But what is there to be afraid of? What dose there still remain to lose for mass people? The exact answer has already been given by none other than Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in The Communist Manifesto, ‘The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win’.


Breaking the chains is a radical and revolutionary step towards freedom. In this capitalist society, only the power or money holders can enjoy freedom, depriving the masses. As Paulo Freire emphasised, having hope for freedom is a necessary portion for having freedom, in his Pedagogy of Commitment. He rightly points out that without the hope for arriving to freedom, it is not possible to move towards freedom which can lead one to the point of hopelessness where one may stop with ‘there is nothing to be done’, a fatalistic hopeless view. But the truth is, there are many things to be done. This fatalistic hopeless view dominates ideologically only when one stops searching the path, stops trying to do something and stops having hope. From the experiences gained from history, it will not a bit of lie if it is said that there was never fixity, there is no fixity and there will never be fixity in human history. History is the history of changes. Capitalism, as an example, from where it came? It came from ‘nothing’. In feudal time, it did not exist but historical changes gave birth of it. To add, the birth of capitalism or the existence of capitalism does not mean that it will exist forever. Some or many sealed the idea of communism with the tag of utopia but they forget, non-existence does not exist for ever and history has already demonstrated the possibilities of it where there is the possibility to enjoy freedom individually and collectively through and in community, not only individually. The masses may have freedom but all the opportunities are restricted by and for either individual or individuals or their freedom. Recognising and overcoming these restrictions become a foremost step as we know that life is not unchangeable. If a system fails to meet the people’s need, people always stand against the system and protest to change it.

The presence of Fulgencio Batista means the presence of Che Guevara and the presence of Fidel Castro to overthrow injustice for revolutionary change. Resistance becomes necessary and mandatory for human existence as history proves. Recent student movement for road safety is a current evidence of the significance of protest or resistance. There was a slogan in the movement, ‘You will perish, if you are afraid, if you resist then you are Bangladesh’. We have seen protesters being represented as a nation, may be first time we have observed. This slogan demonstrates the political consciousness of the school and college students. They had rightly recognised the enigmas and crises of the present political system with the knowledge that it is not easy to resist and protest but for survival there is no alternative. The present is not something that we have to or need to take for granted. What is needed is to have a better future which can only be ensured by changing the present situation. In a seminar in Argentina, Paulo Freire was asked to suggest the ways to organise the resistance. His answer was an example of what can be done. The gist of his example is that we need to value democracy and reinvent the forms of political action. Many people even forget who they have voted for and not only they need to recognise who they have voted for but also recognise what the elected one is doing or did. People need to recognise the statements and promises made by the candidates during political campaigning and denounce them in the following election if they did not work accordingly to their statements and promises. To add here relevantly, an image circulated in social media, where Anu Muhammad and Rahnuma Ahmed holding a placard with the words, ‘First, do justice of forced disappearances, murders and rapes, then ask for votes’, demonstrates the seriousness of Paulo Freire’s words. It is the duty and commitment of the government to provide protection to the people. But, people cannot but engage and protest critically and politically to change the gruesome system if the government or system fails to meet its duty and commitment.

Hoping and starting something for radical change does not mean that this change has come already. For radical change, it is necessary to fight for it. Indeed, if we have faith, hope, courage and commitment for it, there is possibility. But if we don’t have those, it is sure that nothing will change. The history of radical change shows that it requires ‘favorable conditions’ and this raises a question as obvious. Should we wait for those favorable conditions? The answer is NO, we have to start from this moment to create those favorable conditions. Last but not least thing to say, we cannot change our past, what has done is done, but can change our future. If we faced failure in past, that does not mean we will necessarily face failure in future. We have to change, we have to resist and this is the high time to start.

Nasir Uz Zaman is a former student of University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh.

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