Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Kafka and Me

     Here is the opening line in Kafka's important 1925 German novel, The Trial:

         * Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without
          having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.
     And here is the parallel to my predicament:

          --Someone must have filed a whistleblower report to the government
            out of spite or for personal gain, because one morning, without having
            done anything wrong, FBI agents swarmed my office, assumed my
            guilt, and initiated the process of punishing me.

And more, from the strangely premonitory novel, written in 1915, and from my life--which is being written now:

          *"You're better off giving your things to us than leaving them in the 
            depository," the strange men said, "because they'll disappear into bribes
          --We're taking all your things, including your money, which will disappear
           into a black hole anyway, between your lawyers and settlements with us.

          * What sort of men were they?  What were they talking about?  What
            office did they represent?  After all, K. lived in a state governed by law,
            there was universal peace, all statutes were in force;  who dared assault
            him in his own lodgings?
          --What's going on?  What have I done?  Why is no one able or willing to
            give me an explanation for this farce?  Who are these people, who have
            raided my office, and confiscated my belongings?

          * "What is it you want, then?" K. asked.  
            "We weren't sent to tell you that," one official said.  Go to your room
             and wait.  I'm exceeding instructions by talking to you in such a friendly
          --"What is the reason for this raid?" I asked.
            "We don't have to tell you that," the FBI agents said.  Then they followed
            orders from their invisible superiors:  not to be friendly, and not to disclose
            the reasons for their drastic actions, whether they knew them or not, and
            to go through with the raid and theft of my clinic whether they felt doubts
            about the legitimacy or humaneness of their actions, or not.

          * "These gentlemen and I are merely marginal figures in your affair, and
             know almost nothing about it," the deputies said.  "I can't report that 
             you've been accused of anything, or more accurately, I don't know if you
           --"We're just following orders," the agents implied.  "Someone, somewhere,
             must know something about you, but we don't know who, or what, nor are
             we permitted to care.  We are programmed, like militia, to carry out

          * "And don't make such a fuss about how innocent you feel;  it disturbs the
             otherwise unfavorable impression you make.  And you should talk less in
             general,"  was the advice given to K.
          --"Don't talk about your situation with anyone--it disturbs our case," my
             lawyers advised me.  "And don't write in your blog--it can't help you, and it
             can only harm you.  And don't go to the media, which generally harms
             cases like yours, and can never be an aid in your defense."

          * "I thought I was under arrest," K said to the inspector.  "So why are you 
            telling me I can go back to work?"
            "You've misunderstood me;  you're under arrest, certainly, but that's not
            meant to keep you from carrying on your profession.  Nor are you to be
            hindered in the course of your ordinary life."
          --I'm under investigation, and I've already been punished, and I may be
            indicted any day, since a grand jury has been convened, probably more than
            a few times, to indict me.  I must have done something terribly wrong.
            Nevertheless, it's fine for me to keep doing it, to go about my daily
            business, as usual, and to file my tax returns and pay the government
            its share of my (illicitly obtained?) earnings, year after year.  If I enjoy
            wasting time, I can do so by guessing what the federal government is
            formulating in the way of accusations.

          * K. has no idea what is going on, nor who is in charge, but as a way
            of surviving this bizarre experience, he denigrates the agents who 
            arrested him, and anyone else associated with this farce. 
          --I have no idea what is going on, why my office was raided, who's in charge.
            Even my lawyers are unable, when I request the information, to tell me who
            is supervising my case--i.e., who my prosecutor's boss is.  This information
            isn't readily available on the internet, either, or from the DOJ's office,
            perhaps because the bureaucratic entanglements of our judicial apparatus
            are too unwieldy for anyone to sort out.  So, my denigration of the process
            is limited to the only individuals I can identify:  the scriveners and
            messengers (prosecutors and FBI agents) who act on orders passed down
            from the ghostly figures who preside over them.

          * K. finds a lawyer, who makes it clear how unlike normal legal proceedings
            this is:  guilt is assumed, the bureaucracy running it is vast, everything is
            secret, including the charges, the rules of the court, the authorities behind
            the court, the role of the judges.
          --My lawyers tell me that this is how badly many federal cases proceed
            these days.  For a variety of reasons having to do with passage of statutes,
            one by one, over the past two decades, the government has acquired powers
            representative of a totalitarian state, including the ability to intrude on an
            individual's private and business life, obtain warrants to take money and
            personal belongings with ease, and abstain from providing any explanation
            whatsoever.  K. and I both face a government of the absurd.

          * K.'s attorney says it's difficult to prepare a defense since the charge is 
            unknown, and the rules are unknown--and may never be known.
          --My lawyers have told me repeatedly that their hands are tied, there is
            nothing they can do, the government has all the power, and they must
            wait for the government to "make a move" (meaning, indict me) even
            though that's what we have to try to prevent.  But there's no way to
            prevent it, at least no transparent way.  They have no idea what charges
            might be levied, as there appears to be no wrongdoing on my part.  Not
            that that matters.

          * K.'s lawyer says his most important task is to deal with the powerful
             court officials behind the scenes.
          --One professional friend, who was raised in the south, said to me:  "Don't
            underestimate the power of the good-old-boy network.  It's really how
            most problems get solved down here."  I understand this to mean that due
            process, legitimate cause, and facts have very little to do with the
            resolution of problems, including incomprehensible federal investigations
            like the black onw hanging over me.  Instead, who you know, and how
            you schmooze, are what determine your fate.

          * The lawyer tells K. how bad his situation is, and how many other
            hopeless clients he's had.
          --My lawyers regale me with stories about their past dire cases with clients,
            people who were hemmed in by inscrutable government forces, and
            whose ultimate fates remained a mystery until the very end.

          K.'s work at the bank deteriorates as he is consumed with worry about his
          --I have much less energy and focus for my work as a physician, and very
            little motivation to continue practicing medicine.  In fact, my instincts tell
            me to shut down my medical clinic, stop interacting with people
            altogether, and hide out in a cave, away from everyone.  Then, maybe,
            I'll be safe from the lethal forces of greed, resentment, envy, and the
            misuse of power that seem rampant in our country.

          * K. learns from a long-time portrait painter in the court that not a single
            defendant has ever been acquitted.
          --No matter what the outcome, the fact of this "trial" will have changed
            me so definitively that I could never declare myself "acquitted" in such
            a way as be restored, finally, to my previous life.

          * K. meets another of the lawyer's clients, who is downtrodden, enslaved
            by his dependence on the lawyer, and almost bankrupt.
          --I have accumulated $115,000 in legal fees, and still have no information
            about my case, no understanding of the rationale (if any) behind it, and
            have made no discernible progress toward its resolution.  If this is how
            much it costs to go nowhere, surely I will become bankrupt if the case
            picks up speed.

     What happens to Josef K.?  In the end, beaten down psychologically, he is led to a quarry where two men place his head on a block and seem to expect him to thrust it into his own chest.  He refuses to kill himself, so one of the men takes the knife and plunges it into K.'s heart, twisting it twice until he dies.  There is never an explanation, there is never a legitimate trial, and the absurdity of the plot is trumped only by its terrifying correspondence to the non-trials of modern life. 
     The Trial, like Kafka's other two novels, was never finished and was not intended for publication.  Artists and writers are far more attuned to future events--the antecedents of which are embedded in the present--than the rest of us.  Perhaps the story's eerie portrayal of the twistedness of man's hierarchies, written almost in anticipation of the Nazi regime of World War II, was too much to bear and made him, like his protagonist, Josef K. (and like me), feel like a failure.  Kafka's last request, documented in a letter found by his friend after his death, was that all his manuscripts be burned.
     Kafka's macabre view of political reality, behind the sham reality (of democracy) we all agree to agree is "real"--until we're caught in its lunatic grip--is now my cynical handbook as I lumber through the cruel, cold, secretly choreographed judicial process, waiting for the next act of corruption by federal officials, whose paychecks for apprehending me are financed--ironically--in part by my own earnings.


  1. Part 1
    Enjoyable reading! Franz Kafka lived that intrigue. Sadly, Josef’s experience is not rare.

    Most do not understand the basic facts about the Nazi regime, but everyone should. It is a good lesson that could serve as a warning to us all.

    Hermann Goering, an aristocrat, was the son of a judge and a war hero (pilot) during WWI. Goering brought to the table his many wealthy and powerful contacts and he was a prize recruit for the Nazi Party. Martin Ludwig Bormann worked behind the scenes. He controlled the Nazi press, the Party’s finances, and all administrative affairs.

    Goering was known to be mentally ill, morphine addicted, and to have a brutal hunger for power. Bormann earned his reputation as a ruthless murderer for the assassination of his own elementary school teacher. He was known as an evildoer; he was a thug.

    Neither Goering nor Bormann could become Fuhrer. Voters vehemently disliked both men.

    Adolf Hitler was born of modest means, the son of a strict and authoritarian father and a hardworking indulgent mother. Adolf was a hostile, resentful, and discontented child who could also be described as moody, lazy, and of unstable temperament. During his early adult years he led a vagabond existence living hand to mouth doing odd jobs. He became embittered when he was refused admittance into a famed art school. His dreams of being an artist ended and his interests diverted to politics. After his stint in the infantry during WWI, he joined a small group of idealists, the German Workers’ Party, and quickly became its chairman. He discovered through that position that he had a powerful talent for oratory; he dominated audiences. His failed attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government led to his imprisonment in a posh hotel-like fortress where he met fellow inmate Rudolf Hess (Nazi), a loyal follower. During his nine month stint in prison Hitler dictated Mein Kampf (my struggles) to Hess.

    When the ban on the Nazi Party was removed and Hitler regained permission to speak in public he reestablished himself in an ideologically social movement. The up and coming dictator started out as a democrat; his focus was on job creation. Mein Kampf resonated with the Germans who were struggling with the onset of the Great Depression along with the devastating effects that hyperinflation had on the middle class. Hitler played on national resentments, high unemployment, social dissolution, fear, and the beginnings of revolt in order to extend his leadership beyond Bavaria.

    His message became very popular with the German populous. The Nazi Party leaders (Bormann and Goering) recognized that they needed Hitler so the Nazi Party helped Hitler to the position of Reich Chancellor. It was from this position that Hitler was able to outmanoeuvre his opponents and remove rivals from government positions. He abolished the free trade unions. Special “enabling laws” were ramrodded in secret through the Reichstag to legalize Gestapo intimidation tactics.

  2. Part 2
    Soon after officially becoming a German citizen Hitler ran for the Presidency. He was declared the “guiding spirit” or fuhrer of Germany’s Third Reich. Hitler’s hidden objective was to impose state control over society. He used persuasion, propaganda, terror and intimidation to secure his power over Germany. He spoke phases like “National Awakening” and ‘Legal Revolution” to seduce the voting populous and disguised the reality of autocratic power behind a façade of traditional institutions.

    Bormann and Goering had vacation homes in the popular mountain retreat Obersalzberg located in the Bavarian Alps above Berchtesgaden. Together they financially helped Hitler rent the Haus Wachenfeld at Obersalzberg, where he finished writing Mein Kampf after he was released from prison. After becoming Chancellor, Hitler purchased Haus Wachenfeld even though the builder/owner did not want to sell the property. Hitler remodeled the property and renamed his private residence Bergorf. Hitler spent the majority of his time at Bergorf and it was from here that most of his strategic planning was done.

    Across the road from Bergorf was the Hotel Zun Turken owned by Karl Schuster. Business at the hotel had declined dramatically since Bormann and Goering bought property on the mountain. The hotel had been a good business for three hundred years. Herr Schuster became vocal in his opposition to the Nazi Party. In response, Bormann offered to buy the hotel but its owner refused to sell. Herr Schuster changed his mind after he spent three weeks in Dachau, however. The hotel housed the Security Service guarding Hitler. The German government refused to hand the property back over to the original owners after the war forcing Herr Schuster’s widow to file suit against the government. She was eventually awarded the property.

    Most interesting is the relationship between Bormann, Goering, and Hitler. There was a system of bunkers inside the mountain. The construction of the bunkers was elaborate. A train would bring in supplies on a lower level and above was a series of rooms (some as large as a football field), elevators and hallways. Bormann would not allow Goering access or connection to the bunkers belonging to him, Hitler, or the Secret State Police compound (Gestapo) and Security Service. Goering’s bunker system was completely separate and isolated from the other system.

    - Credit due to the Jewish Virtual Library.

  3. Part 3
    I think there are many parallels between early 1900s Germany and the United States today in regards to the money situation. When looking at the outcome of a government not being able to manage money, the situation today is very concerning. It’s a fact; a government in financial straits issues more and more money, which is counterintuitive because it only serves to deflate the currency’s value. The truth of the situation is masked but the stories have a familiar ring in that there are explanations, promises, and new regulations that hide the situation from most citizens until they have lost their savings. The majority of Americans are now penniless living paycheck to paycheck without benefit of any savings for emergencies.

    I have concerns about special “enabling laws” being ramrodded in order to legalize intimidation tactics by law enforcement and the theft of citizens’ property through a “get tough of crime” initiative. During last night’s election debate, President Obama boasted his success in recouping millions of dollars from his crackdown on Medicare fraud. The most recent examples that come to mind are the encroachments on our Bill of Rights done in almost secret maneuvering, specifically Obama’s new security law that he signed into law in December 2011 that gives the military the go-ahead to indefinitely detain US terrorist suspects without charge or trial to include US citizens arrested in their own country. Any one of us could be shipped to Guantanamo Bay stripped of all rights until the ‘end of a war that appears to have no end’ without recourse.

    Then there is the matter of encroachment on First Amendment rights when Obama signed the Anti-Protest Trespass Bill in March 2012 criminalizing protest. President Obama signed into law a bill that makes it a federal offense (felony) to peacefully protest wherever a person or event is under Secret Service protection. The Secret Service protects not only President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden and their families, but also former presidents, visiting foreign dignitaries, presidential candidates and a host of other figures and events.

    There are other recent encroachments. The contraception mandate trampled religious freedom. Attorney General Eric Holder in March 2012 announced that the administration has embraced the assassination of U.S. citizens without charge, trial or any form of due process.

    So, to recap: your government can now lock you up indefinitely without charge nor trial, assassinate you if it deems you to be a threat and arrest and imprison you for up to 10 years for exercising your constitutional rights.

    – Credit due to Brett Wilkins on Moral Low Ground, March 10, 2012

  4. What interests me greatly about the rise of the Nazi regime is the fearful, sheeplike quality of the general population at the time--very vulnerable to a charismatic, manipulative leader whose hatred toward Jews and thirst for power could be translated into ideological terms that made the Germans, downtrodden after WWI, feel vindicated and empowered. Unless everyday people pay attention to what is happening at every level of government, and don't fall into complacency, the same scenario can be repeated in subsequent generations. I am concerned that Americans, for the most part, have fallen into a complacency borne of ignorance and powered by corporate propaganda.

  5. Part 1
    I lived my teen years in Germany in the 1960s and then off and on until 1994 for a total of 22 years. I graduated from high school in Frankfurt I have many close German friends, not so many American friends. The Germans that I gravitated to are wonderful people. I have a very positive impression of Germans as a whole. I find them to be hard working, honest and friendly people. That said; there are factions in Germany who do not fit my description of the general population.

    I cannot say what the early 1900s were like for the average German citizen. I have heard stories about the Great Depression and the period of Hyperinflation around 1923. Very noticeable about Germans in the 1960s was their poor standards of hygiene. They lived generations without soap. It was not available and they could not have afforded it if it were. They all tended to bathe on Saturday evening in preparation for Sunday services. No need to change clothes until after the bath. They did not use deodorant and the women did not shave their legs or arm pits.

    Hitler’s popularity increased during the time of the Great Depression when Germans badly needed someone to help them. Hitler made the future look brighter by not only taking their side in issues but he also made sure that citizens were well cared for by the government. He gave the people tax breaks and enacted social benefits, many of which are still intact today. He ensured that every citizen had enough food. Hitler was seen as a saving grace and blessing, which made it much easier to overlook his hatred and murderous nature. Many citizens claim that they did not know of the killings.

    Why were they fearful and sheep like? Germans were fearful of Third Reich because there were weaknesses in their Constitution that crippled their government. They were afraid of being murdered. Their Constitution today is much like the Americans’ but it is better as it has safety features in place to protect the power of the Constitution.

    In order to accomplish his good works Hitler systematically robbed and murdered the weakest in society. It does seem like the police and SS agreed that it was right to kill Jews, Gays, Gypsies, Communists, Socialists, people with disabilities, and everyone else who the regime did not like. They did not kill openly. The police would make arrests by hook or crook; often offering monetary rewards to anyone willing to point the finger of suspicion. Once arrested the victim would be swept away to prison. At a later date, prisoners were loaded into boxcars in secret and transported under darkness to remote concentration camps where they were murdered in mass and buried like garbage.

    In Germany today there are so many Neo-Nazis (fascists) who still support Hitler. The majority stands up against them, though. The polizei and Neo-Nazis have had some nasty clashes. I was vacationing in Berchtesgaden and staying at the General Walker Hotel. Hotel management warned all guests to be careful to stay away from the Bergorf ruins because it was Hitler’s birthday and his followers would come there. There actually is not much left there but a small retaining wall and what is left of the garage. It is said that the reason that there is no debris on the grounds is due to the citizens taking it away as souvenirs, chunk by chunk. I believe that is true as that is exactly what happened to the wall dividing East and West Germany. I was in Berlin when the wall came down and I have a big chunk of that. I walked down the hill from the hotel to the ruin around dusk and found nobody there. So I walked around to an opening in the garage wall and was amazed by all the flowers and notes left in that ruin. It looked like a large fully stocked flower shop with big beautiful arrangements everywhere…eerie.

  6. There exists a nationalist and racist party (NPD) who has gained enough votes in a few states to send their leaders to parliament. Remember that Hitler and the Nazi Party were democratically elected. Once in power, they abolished democracy.

    The German government early on did much to curb and silence accusations, which helped their society move forward. Germany acknowledged their part in history. Reparation was made. The government quickly rebuilt, destroyed remembrances of Nazism, and banned Mein Kampf and Nazi symbols. Talk of Nazism in public forums does not happen, outside of museums where no punches are pulled. Modern Germany has nothing to do with it.

    To talk about it is hard. There was a lot of recrimination over the event on a personal level. Many Germans were remorseful and reflections were painful. They wondered, and still wonder today, how Hitler came to power. From the experience, many now see that it is a “personal responsibility” to make sure that injustice and oppression against other human beings is brought to light and is made public knowledge and to fight it as best as is possible. The Germans I know say that the United States seems to be a breeding ground for injustice and oppression in targeting certain people. This being their view of terrorist laws, airport scrutiny (should Muslims all be pulled aside), the imprisonment of so many poor blacks and so forth.

    Below offers were found in the Gainesville Sun:

    Heart of Florida CRIME STOPPERS Crime Stoppers pays up to $1000, if the information you provide results in an arrest. You can remain anonymous.

    Gun Bounty Program ANONYMOUS TIP LEADING TO: Arrest + Gun Recovery + Weapons Charge = $1,000 Reward

    If these tactics lead to the arrest of even one innocent person it is Diabolical. And it will!

    There is nothing about pointing the finger of suspicion that is anonymous. The finger pointer has to sign a sworn statement against the accused in order to be eligible to get any money. Details of the complaint could possibly be kept a secret from the accused if police got a warrant based on the sworn statement and sent out a swat team to storm someone’s home and actually found an unregistered gun therein. If no gun is found, do not count on getting either the reward or anonymity. In fact, the finger pointer can be sued in civil court for making a false statement (libel, vilification, defamation).

    ‘For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:10)’ the evils growing out of ambition, and intemperance, and debasing lusts, and of the hatred of God and of goodness.

    The $1000 is the seduction and deception of prospective wealth, useful in leading souls away from truth. Pierced themselves with many sorrows; such sorrows as remorse, and painful reflections, and the apprehension of discovery and future punishment. A bounty offered that has led them down a path of wickedness in bearing false witness. The end will never justify the means.