War Teaches Nothing

Francisco Goya

A number of people remarked at the time that Mother Courage learns nothing from her misery, that even at the end, she does not understand. Few realised that just this was the bitterest and most meaningful lesson of the play.

They did not see what the playwright was driving at: that war teaches people nothing.

Misfortune is itself a poor teacher. Its pupils learn hunger and thirst, but seldom hunger for truth or thirst for knowledge. Suffering does not transform a sick man into a physician. Neither what he sees from a distance, nor what he sees face to face is enough to turn an eyewitness into an expert.

Bertolt Brecht, “Misfortune in itself is a poor teacher,” 1949

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