Empire of Death
The crisis is booming and so is the power of the politicians who manage it. Everywhere human and civil rights are being interfered with. Temporarily this may be necessary, but it is also a great moment for autocrats: Orbàn, Erdoan, Kaczyski, and the Polish Minister of Justice Ziobro are all using the unavoidable fight against the pandemic to strengthen their rule in more permanent ways. “Vive la crise!”: Rainald Goetz could have placed this quotation from Proust at the start of his new play, because he too describes a government that, in the shadow of an imminent threat, destroys democracy with furore and supposedly patriotic zeal. His play is about the “War on Terror” that George W. Bush declared immediately after the 9/11 attacks. What? Why did it take Goetz until now to write about the abuses of power and human rights violations that happened in its name, in America and even more so during the unlawful Iraq war? Including the assaults and torture that took place in American prisoner of war camps such as Abu Ghraib? Journalistically these events have been comprehensively documented. But Rainald Goetz is obviously not interested in documenting. He banishes the real historic personalities, Bush, his cabinet, and the perpetrators of Abu Ghraib to what he calls “Hades”, a roll call directly below his list of characters. The characters have the same roles, but Goetz gives them different names that evoke personalities from other moments in history: Roon, 19th-century Prussian Minister of War, Kelsen, the famous constitutional expert of the Weimar Republic, or Schill, former “Judge Merciless” and Senator of the Interior for Hamburg. This ambiguity is systematic: Goetz constantly calls for new contextualisations, sometimes by direct allusions, for example to German fascism. He also creates more associative impulses through mottoes, intertitles, music that he cites, parallel worlds that resonate implicitly and give the piece a greater range. Goetz tries – both fundamentally and playfully – to think about structures of the politics and abuse of power. History shows that crises can become great moments for autocrats and dictators. In this context, Goetz poses the grim question: Which factors have to converge in order for the excessive, “evil, and broken" to gain the upper hand?
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