An American Paradox

“Our laws are not generally known; they are kept secret by the small number of nobles who rule us.”

[Franz Kafka, “The Problem of Our Laws,” Parables and Paradoxes, Schocken Books, New York.]

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka

The laws of which Kafka wrote in the early 20th Century are not the ones peculiar to his time. They are not written in legislation. They are not acts of Congress. They are not the federal, state, or local statutes and ordinances lawyers argue in courts of law. The laws of which he speaks are not visible to the masses. They are the secret of the nobles. They are laws of a different order.

“The laws were made to the advantage of the nobles from the very beginning; they themselves stand above the laws.”

According to Kafka, the nobles themselves have inherited the Law as a mystery whose origins are hidden in antiquity. The nobles believe in this Law, but, in fact the Law is whatever the nobles do.

We, the populace who live under the Law of the nobles, dream of a time “when everything will have become clear, the law will belong to the people, and the nobility will vanish. This is not maintained in any spirit of hatred against the nobility; not at all, and by no one. We are more inclined to hate ourselves, because we have not yet shown ourselves worthy of being entrusted with the laws.”

Franz Kafka knew nothing of Donald Trump, the noble who knows the Law is whatever the nobles do and convinces the masses that we, too, can become nobles.

“Actually,” wrote Kafka, “we can express the problem only in a sort of paradox: Any party that would repudiate, not only all belief in the laws, but the nobility as well, would have the whole people behind it; yet no such party can come into existence, for nobody would dare to repudiate the nobility. We live on this razor’s edge. A writer summed the matter up in this way: the whole visible and indubitable law that is imposed upon us is the nobility, and must we ourselves deprive ourselves of this one law?”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, writing from the shoreline of Lake Shagawa, Ely, MN, September 9, 2015.

4 thoughts on “An American Paradox

  1. I was thinking of TPP, and the Atlantic one that is equally bad — TTIP maybe. Written in secret by large global corporations, and with the force to ruin the environment, eliminate worker protections, give themselves faster “lanes” on the internet, etc. Of the 24 chapters, 6 or 7 deal with trade. The entire remainder is a huge barrel of rights of corporations over rights of individuals, giving them the ability to make us pay for clean air, water, etc., things that should be in the public arena, and accessible to all. Of course in the days of Wikileaks “they” have not been able to *keep* it secret, which is why we know so much that is very bad about it.


    • Carolyn, Yes. It’s the current face of Kafka’s nobles. Have you read the chapters of TPP? I know there has been great difficulty getting the text of the document, but, as a professional librarian, you would be among the most likely to break open the secret.


      • Actually, I tried to read a bit once, but they are additionally protected from public view by being written in legalese, or as changes to laws by name and numbers.  Created by me example: Insert in Farm bill 2014, section 1A paragraph 20 “…genetically modified [foods handled according to rule 16a shall not] be considered….”    You need the farm bill and 5 lawyers to interpret.  Fortunately, there are people who have the farm bills and some lawyers, so we have a decent idea about some of the provisions.  I have been trying to put some of what I have found out in order to show to Joe Sestak who is trying to unseat Pat Toomey — a very worthy cause.  If I ever work it into shape, I’ll send you a copy. Peace, Carolyn Carolyn A. Kidder Thank God for music.


        • That was my understanding from earlier conversations and reading about TPP. Obtuseness is the name of the game. What I love about Kafka is that his perspective is irrespective of today’s partisan divide and dysfunction. The longing to be among the elite, the secure, the comfortable, the privileged, the blessed few – that longing beguiles us into an illusionary chase away from reality itself.


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