FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Kafka Warned Us

Photo by Sébastien Bertrand | CC BY 2.0

Kafka’s The Trial can be read in retrospect as a prelude to the Twentieth/Twenty-First century. Although probably not written as prophecy, Kafka’s short unfinished book nevertheless provides a road map to the terrors of the current Surveillance State.

As readers of CounterPunch are all too familiar, modern man, as a single individual, is at the mercy of the modern state and those who, lurking in semi-secrecy, direct it.

Kafka’s The Trial superbly conveys the unease of our current existential situation.

Early one morning, The Trial’s main protagonist, Joseph K, awakes to find that, totally unexpectedly, he has been arrested. Throughout the book he endeavors to find the reason for his arrest without any definite success.

However, what he does discover is a vast semi-secret bureaucracy/organizaton whose inner workings and outward displays of power and decision making remain opaque at best.

Initally, Joseph K, believes that he lives in a “Rechtsstaat” (a state where the rule of law is respected) and thus where it is expected that all civilized norms and laws are upheld.

Yet, he soon comes to see that he has lived in a state of fundamental error and illusion about the true nature of his existence.

What appeared to him as a well ordered and just state is, all of a sudden, revealed to be a capricious omnipotent octopus capable of strangling (in this case literally) anyone deemed to be, for whatever reason, expendable.

All law is suspended or, at least, made a mockery of. All that remains are the inner, turgid demands of power.

Joseph K. is convinced of his innocence. But his conviction is no match for the monolithic power that stands against him. He is eventually crushed, if not by his enemy’s repetitive legal machinations, then by his fatalistic far-reaching administrative power.

In the end, the “Organization” which Joseph K has confronted is almighty and can be controlled by neither appeals to law, logic, or custom. In this, modern man is in a similar situation.

He stands, at any moment, beneath the mercy of a gigantic machinery that, if it wills, can almost casually set into motion his utter annihilation. The devastation and erasure of ones past, present, and future self is an ever-present possible function of the modern state. Advances in technology and organization make such a function all the more easier.

How to combat this greatest threat to humankind’s liberty will make the difference of whether or not future generations live in a world of securely grounded freedom or if they will succumb “like a dog” to the increasingly totalitarian powers of what we call today: the Surveillance State.

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael Duggin
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail