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On sharks and men

A fable that shows how social control works


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From Bertolt Brecht


Bertolt Friedrich Brecht was born on February 10, 1898 and died August 14, 1956.

He was a German poet, playwright, and a theatre director and wrote a series of what are called the’ Keuner-stories’ throughout his life, from the 1920s to the 1950s.

In this Keuner story, “If Sharks were men”, Brecht uses an allegory of sharks as rulers and little fish as the population to illustrate how the world works.

As this story shows, Brecht sees arts, religion and education as an opportunity for ruling elites to bring the masses or little fishes to their knees. Religion operates as way to make fish believe being eaten by a shark at the right time is a holy thing; and he believes education is distorted into a way to teach the masses to be obedient to their rulers.

An anti-capitalist, anti-Nazi and avid fighter for human rights, after the Second World War Brecht was forced to an­s­wer ques­ti­ons from Mem­bers of the House Com­mit­tee on Un-​Ame­ri­can Ac­tivi­ties (HCUA).

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