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.

“Believe” in America

The Sirens

These are the seductive voices of the night; the Sirens, too, sang that way. It would be doing [the Sirens] an injustice to think that they wanted to seduce; they knew they had claws and sterile wombs, and they lamented this aloud. They could not help it if their laments sounded so beautiful.

 Franz Kafka, Parables and Paradoxes

The Green Dragon

The door opened and what entered the room, fat and succulent, its sides voluptuously swelling, footless, pushing itself along on its entire underside, was the green dragon. Formal salutation. I asked him to come right in. He regretted that he could not do that, as he was too long. This meant that the door had to remain open, which was rather awkward. He smiled, half in embarrassment, half cunningly, and began: “Drawn hither by your longing, I come pushing myself along from afar off, and underneath am now scraped quite sore. But I am glad to do it. Gladly do I come, gladly do I offer myself to you.”

Franz Kafka, Parables and Paradoxes

Click HERE for Franz Kafka biographical information published by The Kafka Project.