If we remember Orwell for Big Brother, it is to Kafka that we understand mind-numbing bureaucratic irrationality and distortion. ‘What is Kafkaesque is when you enter a surreal world in which all your control patterns, all your plans, the whole way in which you have configured your own behavior, begins to fall to pieces, when you find yourself against a force that does not lend itself to the way you perceive the world,’ said Kafka’s biographer Frederick R. Karl. ‘You don't give up, you don't lie down and die. What you do is struggle against this with all of your equipment, with whatever you have. But of course you don't stand a chance. That's Kafkaesque.’ Chilling.
So here we are protesting that Western Governments must reduce their carbon footprint for the sake of the planet, that the casino banking system is irretrievably broken, that the Blair government invented a fictional rationale for taking us to war in Iraq. We rage against poverty and cruel public service cuts that hurt the weakest in our society. Numb with emotional fatigue, we bear witness to the judicial killing machine in the United States, the school shootings, public beheadings in Arabia and the IS caliphate. Way after the event, when the calamities have befallen us and our lives are littered with broken dreams, there might be a grudging admission of ‘mistakes’. But in the moments that count, the political bureacracies make their decisions anyway, continue to frack the earth and burn the oil, bail out the bankers and blame the feckless poor for our spiralling debts, launch us potentially into another catastrophic military adventure in the Middle East while sucking up to oil rich allies, castigating our enemy for barbarous practices while hoisting down our knickers, sorry, flags to half mast as a mark of respect to the death of their religious bedfellow, the Saudi King?
Closer to home in Ledbury, a few stalwarts continue to bang their head against the Town Council wall, hoping for a more humane, enlightened and intelligent approach to the governance of our town. Democratic progress is painfully slow, if at all. So much effort and enthusiasm ground into the dust. The contagion of despotism is everywhere.
Is it any wonder that ordinary people turn away from politicians in disgust, sickened by all the hypocrisy, greed and double dealing? Is it unreasonable to ask what really is the point of trying to change things? What is democracy anyway?
And yet… like baffled Kafkaesque victims, we do keep going, putting ourselves in the firing line and hoping for a better future. The point is, do we stand a chance?