Pedro Pietri & The Masses Are Asses (Pages 1-26)

Pedro Pietri

Pietri was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico. However, his family moved to New York City in 1947, when he was only three years old. They settled on the west side (Manhattanville) section of Manhattan. Pedro was greatly influenced by his aunt, who often recited poetry and on occasions put on theatrical plays in the First Spanish Methodist church in El Barrio. Pietri himself started to write poems as a student at Haaren High School. After graduating from high school, Pietri worked in a variety of jobs until he was drafted into the Army and sent to fight in the Vietnam War. The experiences that he faced in the Army and Vietnam, plus the discrimination that he witnessed while growing up in New York, were to become the leading factors that would forge his personality and style of poetry.

Upon his discharge from the Army, Pietri affiliated himself with the Puerto Rican Civil Rights activist group The Young Lords.

Reportage on the Young Lords + NYC Palante! exhibit 

 

“The members of the Young Lords shared a deep sense of urgency and were determined to change the status quo. Puerto Ricans lived in the poorest slums and were unemployed or in dead-end jobs. Our communities lacked health care and quality schools and suffered under institutional indifference, racism, and marginalization. By imagining what society should and could be, we were inspired to action… Women joined from the beginning and constituted one-third of the members at the highest point and helped shaped a unique politics that took into account racial, class, and gender oppressions… We understood the power of mobilization and believed it necessary for our collective survival.” (5)

-Iris Morales, “Power To The People” in Palante

 

Pedro Pietri: “Puerto Rican Obituary”

In 1969, he read for the first time his poem, “Puerto Rican Obituary” in one of the Young Lords’ events.  The poem sketched the lives of five Puerto Ricans who came to the United States with dreams that remained unfulfilled. By turns angry, heartbreaking and hopeful, it was embraced by young Puerto Ricans who were imbued with a sense of pride and nationalism. It was a cry for social reforms.

Sources: Wikipedia & New York Times

 

“The Broken English Dream”

PedroPietriSelectedPoetryExcerptCL

Based on the excerpts heard and read from “Puerto Rican Obituary” and “The Broken English Dream” how would you describe the living conditions of Puerto Ricans in New York during most of the second half of the Twentieth Century?

 

The Masses Are Asses (1984)

Pages 1-26

Keywords defined by Google and Wikipedia:

Imperialism: the policy of extending the rule or authority of an empire or nation over foreign countries, or of acquiring and holding colonies and dependencies.

Socialism: a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

Terrorism: the use of intentional violence as a means to create terror, or fear, to achieve a financial, political, religious or ideological aim.  Broad categories of political organizations have been claimed to have been involved in terrorism to further their objectives, including right-wing and left-wing political organizations, nationalist groups, religious groups, revolutionaries and ruling governments.

Armed Struggle: rebellion and insurrections; the tactic of using violence to achieve drastic political changes. The phrase tends to be associated with revolutionary groups during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s in the Caribbean, Latin America, and Africa.

 

Questions

The stage directions on page 7 indirectly suggest the theme of the play. Expand.

Why do you think a phone ringing and a loud knocking on the door is heard while the couple has their first interaction? (9-11)

What type of self-image are they trying to create with all the compliments they say to each other?

If the play takes place in an enclosed space, how does Pietri introduce outside violence and social tensions? Be specific.

The title phrase, “The Masses are Asses” is presented by the gentleman, what does he mean by it? (17-18)

What opinion holds the couple about poor people? (22-23)

Comments 26

  • The play The Masses are Asses is generally conceived as a political satire, do you agree? Why?

  • Reading “The Masses are Asses” I could not presence a political satire, not yet. The interesting beginning of the play suggests the reader to choose if the scene happens in an empty apartment or a fancy restaurant. The delay to order the food, give the reader the feeling that there is no actually food in the house. All the distraction, taping record and conversation might be a way to avoid the gentleman and lady of their reality. Trying to not think of being starving. The phone ringing and the knocking on the door, might be a bill collector looking to be paid. As far I have read, the play describes in a different way how couples and families live daily. Living in places with almost or no furniture, hungry and with a huge amount of bills. Desiring to be rich and do not worry when and what will their next meal.

  • Yes I do agree that the play “The Masses Are Asses” us a political satire. Because it is giving us entertainment and humor on real political issues that was going on in that time period. The way the play started was funny to me. they couple arise out of a tub and then how both of them were complementing each other. These are just couple of reasons why I choose to agree.

  • What a great question to ask, it would be understandable if one didn’t see political satire associated with The Masses are Asses. Due to the scenes the play describes I kind of got a little lost in the entertainment myself. However the disruption and role playing to create a change in establishment was there. I identify dissent along with forbidden behavior.

    However, if I wasn’t asked I probably wouldn’t have addressed the political satire in my personal opinion of the play. I guess I didn’t see it as a main point. It’s certainly present. The back round noise can be many things now that you ask the question. Inclosing, I felt every time they got under the table for me that screams experience. Bullets don’t have names on them. Get down and stay down until the close is clear. Sounds like my old neighborhood.

  • In the play “The Masses Are Asses” written by Pedro Pietri, I do believe it is generally emphasized as a political satire. The word political satire refers to, “Political satire is satire that specializes in gaining entertainment from politics; it has also been used with subversive intent where political speech and dissent are forbidden by a regime, as a method of advancing political arguments where such arguments are expressly forbidden.” (Wikipedia).
    The play which takes place with both Gentleman and Lady either age 93 or 30, are in a small apartment with no windows or in an expensive restaurant. They fancy themselves with expensive wine with glass after glass. But in reality, they are both imagining what it would be like to live in a upper class minorities. They both imagine what it would be like to live a rich life and the quality of having a maid, butler, and chauffeur.
    The gun shots being heard outside as the “A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I terrorist group”, can be referred to gangs during back then when crime rates was poorly stabilized. And the sirens can be cops trying to catch those thugs off the streets. The non-stop phone calls which can be referred to bill collectors and the knocking on the door which can be the landlord to collect their past due rent(s).
    Both couples are obviously not in Europe but still at home, they both fall away from reality and society so they don’t have to be burdened with bills or they way they are living in life, as a lower class citizen. They push back their meals because they cannot afford to buy food and they drink excessively to void away their daily circumstances.
    During this time, it was a hard way of living and nobody was helping the lower class citizens. I think Pedro Pietri wrote this play into account in voicing his opinion of his political satire.

  • Yes, I do agree. Here we can see the satire is directed toward rich and powerfull people to expose and criticize their foolishness. The man and woman by faking being rich are trying to show their complaint against oppression and the power structure.

  • Yes, I agree that the play is a satire towards politics. The way Pedro Pietri presented the play was entertaining but he also gives subtle hints (some not so subtle) to the events happening around the couple, who are acting to be rich, educated and high class. The mentality of the rich also seems to be portrayed, which isn’t positive at all. The couple is acting out how the rich would act, praising themselves over and over in a ridiculing way. But when the poor is addressed, the lady says they they should suicide or be deported, which shows the ignorance of rich towards other people,who they think, are below them. There is also a context that shows poverty in which the couple is in a restaurant and starving, but they don’t have food to eat so they keep drinking, which also is a sign of poverty.
    So from my point of view all these show how the poor and lower class were abandoned and oppressed by the powerful and the rich. And Pedro showed this in the form of a satire in a his play.

  • I do agree that The Masses are Asses is a political satire, because the characters in the story make reference to a real world situation. For example on pg.23 the LADY makes allusion to a “deportation to a socialist society where everything is free” the she recalls
    “True, freedom of expression is prohibited, but it won’t be so bad for them because they can’t express themselves anyhow”. These reminds me of Pedro Pietri and the Young Lords personal cry for a social reform, as stated on “Puerto Rican Obituary”.

  • I personally believe that the play The Masses are Asses is definitely a political satire. Throughout the play I got lost in the humor of the scene and sort of lost track of the whole political topic. Pedro Pietri has a unique way of reaching out to his readers and entertaining us while he’s at it. In the play Pedro grabs the readers attention with humor while also informing us about the daily obstacles that one would have to overcome. Both characters use their imagination to play a role in the higher up lifestyle, where they are currently not able to fit. In reality they are just part of the average under class people.

    In this play you can feel the power behind the words as you read them and although there was abandonment that made the lower class and poor feel less of themselves they valued the small that they had. They were also grateful for the small things like Gods presence.

  • the play ” Masses are asses” in my perspective, was planned to be a political satire because of the way it describes how the wealthy people view minorities believing that God had placed them in that position because they believed that they are better people. Having an in-human feeling towards the lower class. It also shows you the struggles minorities have to face not because they want to, but because society pushes them to. experiencing hunger, unemployment, and the violent crimes that happen on the everyday basis. Despite all of the struggles, they still have dreams and hope. No matter how hard society tries to break them they still have hope that one day they can live and have the lifestyle the wealthy have. Pedro Pietri pointed out the point of views of the two classes adding humor into it, making it more interesting. However, he is pointing a cry for a change in society.

  • I completely agree that the play “The Masses are Asses” is a political satire. Pedro highlights crucial issues that are dominating urban communities during the 70’s, through comedic relief. Satire is different from typical political humor because it demands critical reflection on the part of the audience, so the laughter isn’t the end of the joke. In the middle of the play the satire begins to effect the “lady” and forces her to embrace the harsh realities of her life, community, and future. Implementing satire throughout the play Pietri leaves everyone, even one of the main characters “lady” questioning her own conscious and lover; “Can we do better?”

  • I agree that the play can be seen as a political satire. In the play there is the use of humor and ridicule through what the two main characters do and say. Also, there is a political connection that can be made by the audience or reader due to all the things going on in the background or outside of this “fancy restaurant/empty apartment”. For example, while this couple is indoors about to have this dinner it sounds like chaos is going on outside with all these gunshots being heard, the repetitive knocking on the door, and the phone ringing over and over. These scenes can be interpreted in a way which can make it seem as though this couple is a representation of the rich during this time and their attitudes toward the lower class. They are living their lives ignoring the reality which surrounds them because they don’t care enough to help bring about change even if it is affecting them in a way.

  • Yes I do agree with the fact that the play, “The Masses are Asses”, is generally conceived as a political satire. I agree with this because the play has many humorous dialogue between the two characters in which they daydream about who they want to be while we can clearly hear the actual state they are in. With gunshots going off every few minutes for long seconds at a time to the decrepit state they are living in, it all speaks volumes about the society and government they are faced with and how they want to live the better life and judge others the way they are currently being judged.

  • In my opinion, I do agree that “The Masses are Asses” by Pedro Pietri is a political satire because the characters in the story are creating a scenario in which, they ridicule the way rich people think. Clearly, in the story the author provide evidences in which demonstrated that the characters surrounding is not a wealthy. Therefore “The Masses are Asses” is a representation of the foolishness and the belief of the rich people towards the poor class.

  • The Masses Are Asses is in my opinion is a political satire, it gives us two individuals who exaggerate in expressing how the lower class is perceived. They also ridicule the lower class on how they live their lives and the reason as to why the are lower class. They often refer to the fact that the lower class is the lower class because God made them that way and that they are full of lazy people. However they do reference to real life situations that the lower class may come across on a daily basis, but they way they constantly talk about them is basically them making a mockery of the people. They tend to criticize the lower class people as well during their discussion.

  • Yes, I do agree that the play, The Masses are Asses is 7generally conceive as a political satire. I love the way Pedro Peitri made fun of the rich is quite entertaining. Now we do not yet know if the couple that are having dinner at a fancy restaurant or an apartment are in fact really rich. However their conversation about politics, terrorism, and the poor is very strange and comical. At the same time Pedro Peitri is getting across a message of how the rich really view the poor.

  • Initially, I didn’t really get any sense of satire when I was reading this a day prior to class. I was actually interested in what was going to happen, although it was the second time around that I understood the true meaning of what Pedro Pietri had in mind in truly exposing the behavior of potentially rich people and the downright poor. He also expands his criticism against the government, both state and federal, of their benign neglect of the socio-economic crisis in which was not exclusively a geographically isolated disaster. So yes I do think that “The Masses are Asses” should be seen as satire since it does use entertainment to ridicule the injustice or hypocrisy of political actors in terms of contemporary issues the common people want solutions to.

  • Even though “The Masses are Asses” by Pedro Pietri is not a classic version of a political satire, I should say it is, still, political. The first part of a book that I rad was a digest of social life in yearly 70’s; The Black Panther Party and The Young Lords, simultaneous fires, poor and chaotic life in the ghettos.
    Political part or significance is felt when the poor couple talks about poor people. But from the rich man perspective; the way upper-class would talk in those times. I felt a huge and very deep gap between those classes and that gap is the subject of political discussion.

  • Yes, I agree the play The Masses are Asses conceive as a political satire. From the start, something was off with the characters and what the narrator describes was going on in the setting. Pedro Pietri is using a comical way to show us how the “rich” express themselves about the poor. Also, he is using this entertainment to criticize the political issues of that time.

  • I do think that the Masses are Asses is political satire as the structure of the set and the actions of the main characters are satirical of the upper and the lower echelons of society and their political standing.

  • Most people in our group believe that The Masses are Asses is a political satire or that, at least, the play has satirical elements. The site penlighten.com defines political satire as follows:

    “Political satire is a part of a genre that entertains us at the expense of current political issues. Using humor, it does a political analysis as an attempt to expose the absurdity, vanity, and hypocrisy of the socio-political field. It goes beyond a mere mockery and exposes the underlying truth. The definition of political satire suggests that it works on bringing the issues forward.”

    This definition coincides with what folk is saying here. The humor, absurdity, and general strangeness entertains. Simultaneously, the play is critical of the echelons of society, the stereotypes about economic and social classes, the welfare state, low wage labor, revolution and activism, the hardship of daily life in underserved communities, crime, political violence, among other topics. As many have pointed out, Pietri’s purpose is to expose socio-economic issues, while requiring a reflection from the audience or readers.

  • The Masses are Asses certainly has many elements of a political satire, mainly the sarcastic tone used to signify foolishness of the rich, ruling class.

    The Lady and Gentleman adopt the voice of a rich couple, humorously belittling the lower class and only ever listening to themselves speak– emphasized by the recording of their traded compliments to one another.

    There is clear political motivation in the sarcasm employed. For instance, with the A.B.C.D.E.F.G.H.I terrorist group: Armed Brave Comrades Determined Efficient Fighters Gonna Humiliate Imperialism which gives credence to the fact that an uprising against the ruling class is gaining force while at the same time discrediting from the arrogant perspective of the rich.

  • The Masses are Asses by Pedro Pietri can safely be called a political satire. Many of the sufferings faced by the poorer class of society were exposed in this play in a more diplomatic manner. Focusing on the plight of the poor whose parents and parents parents have all been on welfare to the rich who can dine in fancy restaurants and converse like royals, Pietri added humor to portray the desperation of the poor who dreamed of a better life yet cannot escape from their fate.

  • Yes, I do agree. Here we can see the satire is directed toward rich and a group of rich powerful people to expose and criticize their foolishness. they live in so called the gutter but use their imagination to try and live the best life.

  • Yes, i do agree that “The masses are asses is a political satire” as the show portrayed the poor couple who love to live a life like a wealthy people. But they are unable to live as they desire. So they hide their true reality inside the small room in the Bronx and fantasize themselves as wealthy people where political issues and Governmental inadequacy are discussed in their play.

  • I’m not certain if I believe the Masses are Assess is completely political satire as I see it more as personal bias and heavy stereotypes on the part of the gentlemen.

    To me, the major politics is with the A.B.C.D.E.F.G.H.I terrorist organization, which involves a rebellion from the working class against the ruling class elites but again this is bias from the gentlemen and may be a reflection of the current political climate but seen from his perspective.

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