A Worker’s Speech to a Doctor

[Excerpt] by Bertholt Brecht


We know what makes us ill.

When we’re ill word says

You’re the one to make us well


For ten years, so we hear

You learned how to heal in elegant schools

Built at the people’s expense

And to get your knowledge

Dispensed a fortune

That means you can make us well.


Can you make us well?


When we visit you

Our clothes are ripped and torn

And you listen all over our naked body.


As to the cause of our illness

A glance at our rags would be more

Revealing. One and the same cause wears out

Our bodies and our clothes.


The pain in our shoulder comes

You say, from the damp; and this is also the cause

Of the patch on the apartment wall.


So tell us then:

Where does the damp come from?


Too much work and too little food

Make us weak and scrawny.

Your prescription says:

Put on more weight.


You might as well tell a fish

Go climb a tree


One of the most provocative playwrights of the 20th Century, Bertholt Brecht, wrote popular plays like “Mother Courage and Her Children,” an anti-war classic, and “Three Penny Opera,” in collaboration with Kurt Weill. Brecht has been a great influence on modern theater and his plays continue to address societal concerns. Brecht poetry reflected the same social concerns. Brecht was deeply influenced by Charlie Chaplin and Karl Marx. This combination of inspiration produced Brecht’s twisted sense of humor as well as the political beliefs within his plays. Brecht was born on February 10th, 1898 and died in then-Communist East Germany on August 14th, 1956. He fled Nazi Germany after the Reichstag Fire along with many political refugees. He lived briefly in the US, specifically So Cal from 1941-47. but was a target of McCarthyite anti-communism and red-baiting during the post-war era.

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