Eight o’clock in the morning (Morgens um acht)


I saw a dog recently. He was on his way to work. It was a sort of stuffed sofa cushion, decorated with long tassels of skin, wobbling down the Leipziger Strasse in Berlin. He was dead serious, he looked neither to the left nor to the right, he sniffed at nothing, and certainly did nothing else. He was definitely on his way to work. What else could he have been doing? Everybody around him was doing it.

The river of to-work-goers flowed through the city. Day after day. They trotted along on their way to the holiest possession what, like the German has got: his work. The dog really had no business there, but if he also went to work, he was absolutely welcome.

Two serious, well-fed, well-shaven men were sitting in the train, smoking, and looking, entirely contentedly, out the window. At such moments, one wishes for a miracle, for example that balloons float out of the helmets of the policemen on the corner, just so that they open their mouths and nostrils for once! The train passed a tennis court. The golden sunshine played on the light yellow courts. It was glorious weather, much too good for Berlin. And one of the serious men muttered, „Have they got nothing better to do? Just look at that! Playing tennis at eight o’clock in the morning! They ought to be at work!” Yes they should, because mankind is on this Earth to work, to work hard, that what, like completely occupies the whole man. It makes no difference whether it is meaningful, whether it does good or harm, or whether it gives pleasure (“Work is supposed to be fun? Are you crazy?“) One must have a job, and one has to be able to go to it in the morning, otherwise life has no point.

And if the whole business should stop, if the trains are on strike, or even a Bank Holiday, then they sit around and don’t know what to do with themselves. There is nothing inside them, and no more outside of them, so what’s the point? There probably is no point. And then they run around like schoolchildren whose lesson has been cancelled unexpectedly. They can’t go home, and don’t feel like playing. They doze and wait: for the next working day. That’s one reason why the German revolution failed: they didn’t have time for a revolution, they had to go to work.

It may be true that one can also doze while playing sports, which at the moment are played like playing cards: strictly according to the rules, and wonderfully vacuous, but it’s still better to train than to make mischief in black robes.

Yes, they go to work. „What business do you do?” “We don’t do business, it does us.” The dog didn’t jump. One doesn’t jump on the street. The street is there to… you know what the street is there for! And the dog took no notice of the temptingly low-hung patriotic poster. He went to work.

Author: Kurt Tucholsky

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