Ubuesk!!! According to the dictionary, as reported in an earlier editorial, this means “cowardly and cruel”. The expression comes from an early play, “Ubu Roi”, by the Frenchman Alfred Jarry (1873-1907). It was the beginning of the theatre of the absurd. It is also a play for our own absurd time of cowardice and cruelty.
The cowardice today refers to the unwillingness to recognise the spiritual dimension of our age; the cruelty is its consequence: not wanting to recognise it makes one cruel.
The following are some episodes experienced recently that show this basic character of our times in miniature.
In Dresden, there was a sign next to the table in the breakfast room: “Please
wear a mask outside the table area.” Below it was the picture of one and: “Thank you for your cooperation”. I had to resist the urge to change the second ‘m’ for an ‘l’ to make it read “Thank you for laughing at this sign”; however, the masked guests didn’t look like they would appreciate humour. Humourlessness – another consequence of ignorance and cruelty.
On the ICE express train, acceptance of mask exemptions was officially guar- anteed. All the conductors respected this. But the female head of the dining car staff refused to serve one unmasked person. In front of an Alnatura [organic food] shop was the inscription: “Distance: the new closeness”. Can anyone still capable of thinking make anything of this expression? Stupidity – another companion of cowardice, ignorance and cruelty.
Back in my own city, I was refused a snack on the terrace of a park restaurant. At first, I had a tough conversation with the cashier, but then he revealed himself to be a doubter about the sense of the government’s measures. Finally, to my amazement, he quoted Confucius, who said that a glass should always be half full and leave room for something new. Otherwise, you would no longer be able to learn anything! I reciprocated by referring to Sucharit Bhakdi and the website Uncutnews. The cashier noted both down and offered his hand in farewell.
The descending hierarchy of mental and spiritual vices sketched above could, of course, be extended and modified ad infinitum. At any rate, at the top comes cowardice in knowledge and narrow-minded ignorance, then social cruelty, stupidity and humourlessness. Nevertheless, in between, there are oases of intelligence and friendliness. In Dresden, for example, at the site of the magnificent Sistine Madonna. A guard asked this unmasked man quite unexpectedly, “Do you have a mask exemption?” I kindly answered in the affirmative, whereupon he let me through and wished me a good day.
Wonderful, and yet: would that there was more than just liberation from masks. The great, very important and therefore, as usual, almost unknown poet Fercher von Steinwand (1828-1902) wrote the poem “In the Wilderness”, and it sounds very contemporary today:
Transplanted by a most bitter fate
Into a time so impoverished in heart,
Your life seems destined for affliction
And your spirit to be torn apart
By no means! – In this wilderness of woe
Lift up your walking stick
And strike the rocky breasts.
Many a spring will gush forth quick!
You can think of brave perseverance,
So long as within you there glow
The purest and highest feelings
From the struggles waged by your soul.
Alfred Jarry was a great diagnostician of our distressed modern age, Fercher von Steinwand one of its great therapists.