Thumbnails of the three plays :
Captain Martin :
The plot of this play (eventually written, in English, after I had already lived many years in Australia) is closely based on a personal “incident” (?) on which I have been brooding most of my life. This incident is what is called in French army-slang “une corvée de bois”. Of course you will not find it in any dictionary because its means “disguising a summary execution into the shooting of prisoners trying to escape”. The French version of Wikipedia, to its credit, has an entry for “corvée de bois”. Anyway, in Algeria, when my turn had come to organize one of these ghastly affairs I thought that I would escape direct involvement by calling for volunteers.
What marked me forever was the number of volunteers ! What amazed me still more was that many of them were religious people who, I very naively thought, could not have harmed a fly. This did not make me become a pacifist on the spot. Indeed I spent another two years in the Algerian War, including one year in a “Commando de Chasse”.
On the other hand, I think that it was this response of the volunteers which started me to re-question everything about war and peace. Then, two years after the end of the Algerian War, I went to Australia in 1964 at a time when the Australians were getting more and more sucked into the Vietnam War by the Americans. However, having already too much on my plate (getting a B.A. and my Teaching Qualifications, as well as teaching full time) I had to forget about politics, pacifism and war ! I could only participate in the Anti-Vietnam marches in public holidays because I was teaching in a private school and I could not take the risk of losing my job.
In the 1980s I started writing “Captain Martin” and the copy you will find in this blog was copyrighted in 1985. Obviously the names have been changed but the settings and the claustrophobic atmosphere of this pointless Algerian War are as close as could be to its hideous reality. I would like to express my gratitude for their help to Jill and Harry Redner. Jill had done some research on “violence on the stage” (Shakespeare, etc) for her thesis at Melbourne University and her advice and encouragement were precious to me. Harry was lecturing at Monash University and was my Tutor for one of the Politics Units of my B.A.
Who could ever have believed, in 1985, that a quarter of a century later the USA and Australia would still be bogged down in another pointless war, Afghanistan ?
To download the play go to “Captain Martin”.
Morts pour Quoi ? :
This play was written in French in 2002, many years after “Captain Martin” and, as well, after a semi-failure (see below) which had brought me back to writing for the stage.
After my failure to have “Captain Martin” staged, I had moved to the trash my theatre ambitions when, in 1985, a friend of my step-son Jonathan, called David Marshall (1954-1994), approached me about writing with him a play on the Australian losers in the globalisation under American hegemony. David, who was working for a soul-destroying commercial television network, would bring his experience in retaining the attention of the audience and he was expecting me to provide the human content of our new world confused by the insanity of this hegemonic globalisation. I was enthu-siastic about his idea, all the more so because we both were aware that globalisation was inevitable but that this hegemonic approach to it was evil. We started work at once.
Our working days were already very long but we could spend more than half of the night on the play. David was single and I was on my own as my wife was overseas (in China and then Europe) on long service leave. We were alone in the house and could make as much noise (play loudly classic music, etc.) as we wished. We called our play “Jobs for All” (*) and we had it work-shopped in 1985. It was well received but the feeling of the workshop was that it would be easier to commercialize it if we wrote a second act. We did not manage to do this before the premature death of David.
(*) As, after his death, I lost contact with David’s sister and heir, Elizabeth Marshall (the current co-owner of the copyright), I am unfortunately not in a position to offer “Jobs for All” for free downloading on this blog.
Anyway, after David’s death and having reconciled myself with the idea of writing for the theatre, I started thinking about “Morts pour Quoi ? ″. Being by myself this time I chose French as the language. More importantly, while my pacifism had been crystallizing over the years, I had also come to two more conclusions about human affairs.
The first one was that a major obstacle to the spreading of pacifism is that History as it is currently taught (more so in France but even in the English speaking world) and which “brainwashes” us into old clichés such as “the civilizing influence of the Roman Empire” [is Scandinavia less civilized for not having been part of it?], “a just war” [the only kind of “just war” coming to mind is the repelling of an invader. So, what are we doing in Afghanistan?], “morality in International Relations” [which, of course, is that of the winning side!], the “white man’s burden” [this expression, fortunately, has collapsed into such ridicule that we no longer hear it much!]. Enough said.
The second one was that, while brooding on pacifism over the years, I extended to the “ruling class” of a country the use of the English truism that “power corrupts”, which is normally used (e.g. by Lord Acton) about a single ruler. When I applied this to the case of pacifism it soon struck me that (contrary to what we are taught at school) it is the “ruling class” which is less sensible than the rest of the country in refusing to accept that war is always stupid. Indeed it is the rulers who start wars NOT the ordinary citizens (even Clausewitz took this for granted). This is probably why that ruling class, which also determines the education syllabus, keeps training us to admire the victorious field marshals and their fellow politicians instead of learning a great deal more about the disaster of wars. Incidentally, the case where the “ordinary citizens” fight most ferociously is when their country has been invaded; if the USA did not disregard this fact they would probably leave Afghanistan before being thrown out as already had happened to them in Vietnam.
It is for these two reasons that I have made “Morts pour Quoi ? ″ a farce on the sheltered life, in retirement, of a sample of the French “ruling class”. Go to the page “Morts pour Quoi?” to download it.
This play is a more acerbic continuation of “Morts pour Quoi ?” because I believe that the religions have invented the cruellest of all wars, i.e. the religious wars. Moreover (in most wars) religion has been the main, sneaky beneficiary of the destruction and suffering. The religions make people believe that God was on the winning side and, in the opposite case (if the country has lost the war), they tell the people that their defeat was due to having disobeyed God and that therefore they must become more religious than before.
Many years before becoming a pacifist, indeed quite early in my life back in France (on an off) I had become an atheist. So, after having migrated to Australia, I was in the interesting position of being both an uncompromising atheist as well as a teacher in catholic schools. Combining my double-nationality and my “double-life” (of atheist and “catholic-teacher”) furthered my aptitude to look at everything from outside. This has been the most fortunate aspect of my life and I have explained all of it somewhere else (*). I believe that being able to detach yourself from your original culture/religion/etc… greatly enhances the chances that your analysis will be more realistic.
Anyway, what I would have liked most to write was either a novel or a play that would help to debunk the greatest fraud of all times, religion, which is also the only self-inflicted curse of humanity. Of course I am aware that religion has been one of the developmental stages of human evolution. No problem about this. On the other hand, just as Astrology has become just another superstition since scientific developments have created Astronomy, why hasn’t religion also been demoted to superstition with the advent of Science ? Why is religion still “authorized” (and/or expected) by a probable majority of humankind (including the USA, and possibly, France and Australia) to dictate what is good and evil ?
This last question is what I had always wanted to write about, but didn’t know where and how until after I had finished writing “Morts pour Quoi?” . Why not reusing the same bunch of fools (which I had called our ruling class) to write another farce about WHY & HOW the curse of religion is still so enduring ? Done, hurrah ! Needless to say that I could not find anybody to stage “Mélanges” ! Now (in 2013) I dearly hope that some fringe-theatre will have more luck than me. Go to the page “Mélanges” to download this play.
(*) In “Vingt Estompes” © 2014, a novel on which I am still working and which I do not intend to release for free downloading.