Salus Populi Suprema Lex Esto*

Es gibt viele Arten zu töten. Man kann einem ein Messer in den Bauch stechen, einem das Brot entziehen, einen von einer Krankheit nicht heilen, einen in eine schlechte Wohnung stecken, einen durch Arbeit zu Tode schinden, einen zum Suizid treiben, einen in den Krieg führen usw. Nur weniges davon ist in unserem Staat verboten.

There are many ways to kill. You can stick a knife in someone’s belly, take the bread out of someone’s mouth, not heal someone’s illness, stuff someone in substandard housing, work someone to death, drive someone to suicide, lead someone into war, and so forth. Precious few of these are forbidden in our state.

―Bertolt Brecht

I’ve been a fan of Brecht’s for a long time, mainly because he never failed to depict our emperors without their clothes, and always stood for the one indispensable principle of any civilization worthy of the name: that in the end, either we all matter, or none of us does.

*A quote from Cicero: “Let the safety of the people be the highest law.” Fifty-five years on, I still remember being in a car with some other half-wasted students from Oklahoma State University, passing by the Grady County Courthouse in Chickasha, Oklahoma late on a 1960’s Saturday night. Since the courthouse just happened to be an Art Deco masterpiece, and lit up like a fairground attraction, I got a good look at it as we passed. On the side of the building, high up, was the motto “The safety of the state is the highest law.” That sounds like fascism, I remember thinking as the building passed from view behind us. Indeed….