Saturday, September 10, 2011

Le Monde 100: The Trial

When I was building a certain house, I employed an engineer whose low rate was just what was needed for the budget of the project. However, the engineer was not one who was accustomed to houses people lived in, but rather large commercial projects where there was deep involvement with the government and it's standards.

When the time came for us to actually follow his engineering plans, they were so cryptic that they were essentially impossible to interpret.

When confronted with the impossible nature of his plans, he stated that the typical policy of engineers in NYC was to PURPOSEFULLY make plans complicated on the premise that it would discourage the government building department from looking too closely to the plans and just stamping them approved, freeing the engineers to then properly draft the real plans for construction.

This process showed how defanged the government could be and how the Law as a concept with all it's purpose and intentions would conflict with the patience and capabilities of its very human agents.

This is the same situation that Franz Kafka faces in his book The Trial.

I couldn't help but contrast the story in The Trial with the story of Socrates in the Crito.

Socrates submit himself to the Law to the point of execution even when he disagreed with the verdict of the Law. When presented with the opportunity to escape from his prison, Socrates rejected it on the grounds that by doing so he would in effect be destroying the Law that he had taken advantage of his whole life. How could he only take advantage of the Law when it suited him and reject it when it didn't suit him. Therefore, he patiently accepted the ideal presented by the Law.

What Socrates story leaves out, though, is the awful journey one often has to take to both understand and engage with the Law.

In The Trial, Kafka paints a portrait of a vast bureaucracy that a man accused has to deal with on a nebulous criminal charge, where no authority that he encounters seems to have enough authority to handle his case thoroughly. He is never given the dignity of a clear cut judicial action that he can face with confidence as Socrates did, leaving him in a legal limbo that is both draining to his soul and society. The Law no longer is a true voice of the people but rather the voice of a schizophrenic, unpredictable and narrow-minded in it's regard to the average citizen.

The Law forces lawyers and priests and all who give counsel in the face of such an unbending structure to advise incredible compromise.

Says the Priest to Josef K., the protagonist, "you don't need to accept everything as true, you only have to accept it as necessary." "Depressing view," said K. "The lie made into the rule of the world"

It's never a pretty thing when the rubber of ideals hits the road of reality.

Now, for a bit of levity, we turn to The Little Prince!

1 comment:

  1. The mythic twins! What is real and what is true.

    A great reflection!