Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Growing Up Absurd (1)

At the beginning of Franz Kafka's "The Trial" Josef K is arrested in his boarding house by two men who march him into the room next to his for an interrogation by a police inspector.

Regarding all this, the following passage says much, notwithstanding that Kafka later deleted it:
The interrogation seems to be limited to looks, thought K., well, I'll give him a few minutes' grace. I wish I knew what kind of an official body it can be which goes in for such elaborate arrangements in a case like mine which, from the official point of view, offers no prospects of any kind. For elaborate is the only word to use for this whole setup. Three people already wasted on me, two rooms not belonging to me disarranged, and over there in the corner three young men are standing and looking at Fräulein Bürstner's photographs........
Absurdity and the wasting of time by paid officials are what this passage is about. This is also a theme of "The Trial". A huge judicial bureaucracy has to exist because large numbers of people, of whom Josef K is one, are charged with crimes, but aren't told what their crimes are. They must spend years trying to get the charges lifted. Hence the need for large numbers of police, lawyers, judges, and the administrative staff to support them.

While the jobs of these officials are clearly absurd and a waste of time and money, are they any less absurd and any less a waste of time and money than most jobs today?

Think of armies. They exist to fight wars, but wars most times never come. So the generals and ordinary soldiers spend their entire working lives practising for wars they'll never fight. However, if the army is big enough, it'll often find excuses to start little wars to justify its existence.

Think also of all those who make the guns and tanks and aeroplanes for the soldiers to use. Are their jobs not as absurd and as much a waste of time and money as the jobs of the generals and soldiers?

Think of all the jails that must be built, and all the prison warders who must be employed to keep drug-users and drug-sellers in jail. Most of these drug users and drug sellers have never harmed anyone. If they live in free societies, why aren't they free to take drugs and sell drugs if they feel like it? If they were free to, as they should be in a free society, the jobs of all the prison warders who keep drug users and sellers in jail, wouldn't be necessary, nor would the jobs of those who build the jails. Hence their jobs are absurd and a waste of time and money.

While schoolteaching is looked on as an honourable profession because it lessens ignorance, does this apply to the teaching of history in schools? Since history, as taught in schools, is shaded to inculcate flag-waving patriotism, any history that shows that the country's founders did bad things and told big lies must be ignored. So, history as taught in schools is merely propaganda, and, as such, perpetuates ignorance. Is not, then, the job of the history-teacher absurd and a waste of time and money?

I've dwelt only on some "public sector" jobs. What about some of the "private sector" ones? I'll speak of them next time.........


  1. Maybe you'll like this:


    I do.

  2. Fun-nee, fun-nee!!!

    I came across this from Kafka, "Literature is a hatchet with which we chop at the frozen seas inside us."

    Deep, deep!!!

  3. Your sweeping generalisations bespeak that you're of the ilk of the tiresome bar-room orator whose utterances are the dogmatism of the half-educated.

  4. I do generalise. I hate all those tiresome qualifying sub-clauses that put one to sleep.

    And, while I am only half-educated, I hope one day to be two-thirds educated.

  5. I am fully educated. I brush off what others say with sweeping generalisations.

  6. You sound more a cocktail-lounge orator than a bar-room one.

  7. I would only add, since I am fully educated and orate in cocktail bars, that I also brush away, with sweeping generalisations, what other people say.

    Since you are only half educated and orate only in bar-rooms, you will not grasp the difference.

  8. On that happy day when I go from being half-educated to two-thirds educated, and step up at the same time to orating in cocktail bars, I pray I may then grasp the difference.