Pelosi, Take a Lesson From Kafka

Yair Assulin
Yair Assulin
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A dog wearing a Make America Great Again (MAGA) hat during a campaign rally for U.S. President Donald Trump ahead of Election Day in Scottsdale, Arizona, U.S., November 2, 2020.
A dog wearing a Make America Great Again (MAGA) hat during a campaign rally for U.S. President Donald Trump ahead of Election Day in Scottsdale, Arizona, U.S., November 2, 2020.Credit: EDGARD GARRIDO/ REUTERS
Yair Assulin
Yair Assulin

When I heard Nancy Pelosi quoting Ehud Manor’s poem last week, I wanted to tell her: Your country isn’t the only one changing, the whole world is changing.

The closer we get to Israel’s fourth election in under two years, the more the Israeli left resembles Josef K., the tragic hero of Kafka’s “The Trial” becomes. More than it illustrates the cruel mechanics of existence, the great novel mocks those who insist on denying them.

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Like Josef K., the Israeli left clings to the past, to empty promises, to the illusion that time can be turned back. Like Josef K., the left refuses to heed reality, events themselves, to notice the tremendous revolution in which we live, what is really happening in the world. It insists on formality, on sterility, on being “right,” instead of asking what it might not understand. Like Josef K., too much of the left seeks definitive answers, magic solutions, that will eliminate the only imperative that cannot be eliminated – the imperative of time – and revive the fantasy of that state that purports to be God and with which their identity is so tightly bound that they cannot imagine existing without it.

Like Josef K. from the village, from the Old World, from the old order that fell away in the 19th century, they refuse to acknowledge that perhaps their understanding of reality is flawed, that they have blind spots that prevent them from seeing the full picture, that their actions and fervor might yield the opposite of the desired result. And just like Josef K., instead of trying to understand what reality seeks to tell them, instead of asking what makes this situation possible, instead of listening to different voices, they dig themselves deeper into a sense of insult and scorn.

You think about the priest, toward the end of “The Trial,” who, using the parable of the man who seeks to enter the doorway of the law but is never let in, practically pleads with Josef K. to take a more in-depth view, not to rush to superficial conclusions, to understand that reality is much more complex, that it is changing, that there is no one clear truth, that the desire to find a simple solution in a situation where none exists will necessarily lead to defeat. And you think, too, about Josef K.’s firm answer in that debate: “The lie made into the rule of the world.” Judgmental righteousness arising from the self-deception of “once it was different.”

Last week, when I heard the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives recite with emotion the words of the great Israeli poet ... ‘‘I can’t keep silent of how my country has changed her face,’” I wanted to tell her: Not only your country is changing its face, the whole world is changing its face. Human life, which that been more or less stable for 100 years, is all changing. The labor market, the media, transportation, the economy, health. Space and time. Everything. Look around you, new rules of the game are being written as we speak. It’s important not to keep silent, but it’s also important that the outcry not become a tool for repression, for closing one’s eyes, for denial. As with Josef K. I wanted to say the same thing to all those who still expect the world’s crumbling politics to set the new digital universe right, as if this were the oil market of the 1930s, without grasping how the context today is fundamentally different.

For we must understand: More and more forces are taking note of the great void of this time and joining the struggle to shape the future. This struggle is between freedom and totalitarianism. By definition. And those who, like Josef K., continue to blindly cling to the past or who, like Pelosi, don’t see that the entire world is changing its face, those who insist on formality, who blindly reject the priest’s advice and seek simplistic answers to a reality without answers, may unfortunately end up, as Josef K. said in his final words, “Like a dog!”  

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