In my previous post I described how my twenty-year-old son with passport in tow was told he couldn’t buy a 15-rated film at a local supermarket because he was accompanied by his sixteen-year-old brother who, in the absence of the relevant ID, couldn’t prove his age. A totally irrelevant and unsustainable request, of course. The latter having nothing to do with the former.
Anyhow, to this post one of my brothers has just added a wonderful comment which includes this fascinating concept:
You and your family seem genetically pre-disposed to attracting ‘jobsworthy frustrated bureaucrats’ like horse shit is pre-disposed to attracting flies.
Let’s hope that the geneticists find the ‘Kafka gene’ soon so we can screen future generations from this terrible affliction.
Presumably, he means something along the following lines: the “Kafka” gene, in a very 21st century way, is what predisposes some of us to experience the world as a place full of inexplicable stupidity. Another way, perhaps, in a strange kind of manner, of explaining what in different times and cultures we were inclined to define as “fate”.
If truth be told, I am unsure whether such a gene describes a reality or a perception – but never mind: in this frustratingly post-modern world, who cares any more if the tree makes a noise? The essence of this particular issue surely lies in the undeniable fact that whilst some of us do experience the world as if we were suffering from the kind of genetic make-up my brother has so astutely identified, the rest of us appear to breeze relatively easily through life without so much as a madly bureaucratic entanglement on the horizon.
In my case I can mention an untold number. From the time I wanted to start working in Spain (you needed a work visa to get a contract but without a contract you couldn’t get your work visa) to attempting to “import” my humble worldly goods in the face of the bizarre machinations of the Spanish port authorities (I remember on one occasion bringing a printer over the border and having to learn the importance of asserting, with the support and connivance of a kindly border official, that I hadn’t purchased this item but had, rather, been given it as a present); from the time we wanted to give our first-born a Croatian middle name (we were obliged to obtain confirmation from the then-Yugoslav embassy that the name was real and had no equivalent in Spanish) to the day I imagined that an existing contractual relationship with Spain’s main telephone provider would guarantee me a decent Internet connection fifteen kilometres from one of the most important cities in Spain (it didn’t, of course – whilst the frustration which built up over the following three years almost helped bring about my end); from the moment I fell ill with epilepsy and was considered by my GP to be faking it (I’m still on epilepsy medication almost forty years on) to the time I was judged ill enough to enter a psychiatric ward (see previous mention of Internet-connection grief and what this almost did to me) and was then informed on leaving four weeks later that I was only good enough for a maximum of two hours per week voluntary work (I immediately started working for a fast-food restaurant on 20-hour-a-week shifts) … well, I could go on.
But you’ve probably already had enough.
And, in any case, maybe we all could. Perhaps, here, I am focussing too much on my own dramas – and not understanding enough that this disjunction between reality and perception, between what they say and what they mean, is a pretty common experience for awfully vast swathes of the world’s unhappier populations.
Oh yes, indeed, dear world – it would seem that many of us (though not all) have Kafkaesque genes.
And so it is that I begin to wonder if the “Kafka” gene as a tool to understand what happens to us can’t be applied to other areas of human endeavour.
How about progressive politics for example? What do you think? Are the left-wingers amongst us predisposed to understanding and relating to the world in these terms in a way that the right-wingers amongst us are not? And does this mean we on the progressive end of the political spectrum are not only inevitably condemned to undergo longer periods out of power than in but also to suffer from a generally more uncomfortable upper hand – when, that is, on those very rare occasions, we are fortunate enough to have it?
If your genetic make-up binds you to a view of the world which releases upon you with great ease a sense of rank and outright absurdity, how can you possibly be comfortable with the implications of such power structures?
I know I can’t be.
Does that make me fit for a mental institution then?
What do you think?