Guest contribution by Gabriel Matthew Schivone
News of Sixteen Minutes to Palestine’s winter cupcake contest inspired in me fond thoughts of a passionate, savory poem I’d read once by the marvelous German anti-Nazi dramatist and poet, Bertolt Brecht. (His poem, “The Bread of the People”, is included at the bottom of this post.)
I am continually humbled by the role that food and culture—really everything in everyday life—plays in political thought and action. I lament that this role is not overtly appreciated or highlighted enough.
SMP’s bake-off has the potential to remind us that baking can be a political act.
It is miraculous that the abundant fruits of the earth can be kneaded, caressed, shaped and formed into fiery servings of sustenance that arms the body and feeds the soul with whatever content is baked within: existence, growth, desire, struggle, resistance, self-determination, justice, freedom. In “Bread of the People”, Brecht so seamlessly interweaves into the senses of the reader several crisp, ordinary feelings of bread and politics that, immediately, within a few lines, these ideas of bread and justice become indistinguishable. After all, there is a deep-seated cultural knowledge of bread and baking that is immemorial to people, because it is often perennial in our upbringing. The effect of the metaphor itself is strongest as a representation of solidarity between these two seemingly unlike things, that their merging is that much more special and meaningful.
The collective strength of family and community rises from the ingredients of sympathy and solidarity, and sharing this act together animates these feelings within everyone. To such an extent that to bake and dine together is a way of maintaining strength especially through times of social struggle.
So, I hope that when those of you who are planning and executing your delectable political activities, with the oven as your weapon, this poem may bring you a warm and sweet delight that you can feel in the soft pit of your gut.
Gabriel Matthew Schivone
Gabriel Matthew Schivone is a Chicano-Jewish American from Tucson, AZ, and an organizer on the ad hoc steering committee of Students for Justice in Palestine National Conference 2011. He was a passenger aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla 2. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @GSchivone.
The Bread of the People
Justice is the bread of the people
Sometimes it is plentiful, sometimes it is scarce
Sometimes it tastes good, sometimes it tastes bad.
When the bread is scarce, there is hunger.
When the bread is bad, there is discontent.
Throw away the bad justice
Baked without love, kneaded without knowledge!
Justice without flavour, with a grey crust
The stale justice which comes too late!
If the bread is good and plentiful
The rest of the meal can be excused.
One cannot have plenty of everything all at once.
Nourished by the bread of justice
The work can be achieved
From which plenty comes.
As daily bread is necessary
So is daily justice.
It is even necessary several times a day.
From morning till night, at work, enjoying oneself.
At work which is an enjoyment.
In hard times and in happy times
The people requires the plentiful, wholesome
Daily bread of justice.
Since the bread of justice, then, is so important
Who, friends, shall bake it?
Who bakes the other bread?
Like the other bread
The bread of justice must be baked
By the people.
Plentiful, wholesome, daily.