They hate us
because every time they fight For freedom, we demand a royalty Since we claim we
own Freedom’s copyright. They hate us because we lay down the law And think the
rules do not apply to us, Because our system is without a flaw And clearly all
the rest are villainous. And they despise us every time we say That we know best,
without pursuing it. We want to help the world in the worst way— And that’s the way
we end up doing it. It’s how we
always will and do behave: To win your
freedom?Be our freedom’s slave.
that we profess to be—
How the cruel engines, under what we care The most about, will
not be satisfied Till in the name of fairness we’re unfair, And in the name of
honesty we’ve lied, And all that we believe in is undone By what we
do.And if we cannot see Our way to being just to everyone And make no vow in
vain, our fate’s to be A pompous giant
whom we cannot call A land of laws
till justice works for all.
The song below speaks for itself. All I’ll say is, if you’re me, and you hear anything that has the line "My legs would give out in your undertow," then your own legs give out, and you have to share that song with everyone you know. It's from the Amy Speace CD How To Sleep In A Stormy Boat, and it's so good it sounds like it's been around for a hundred years.
The Child and the City is the title of a lost novel by Franz Kafka. He began working on it in 1904, but he never finished it, and the manuscript was lost. The story below was originally conceived as a monologue.
"The Child and the City," by Franz Kafka.
once was a boy, a timid little boy, more in love with his mother than he was
with his father, a small and silent boy who was spoiled by his mother, when all
he really dreamed of was to make his father smile. But his father was a mountain, his father was Mount Sinai, the
boy would dream of his father almost every single night; and in these dreams
his father would goad the boy into a fistfight, or starve him in a circus cage,
or have him put to sleep like an infirm dog, or simply stare at the boy with
the cold unyielding condemnation of fatherhood until the boy obediently woke up
One night the boy woke up crying from a dream of his father,
and when no one came to tuck him in and see what was the matter, he started
whining for water, even though he wasn't thirsty. It was in his mind that if he cried for water long enough, his
mother would come and hold him. But he
could not simply ask his mother to come hold him in the middle of the night; it
was not manly, it was not done; it was trayf, it was forbidden.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, the door to his room
opened, and there was his father. He
had his coat on. He picked the boy up
from his bed and carried him outside.
He carried him in his arms down the silent boulevard, and he did not say
a word until they reached the gates of the City. At the Main Gate stood two small men in shiny leather coats. The boy's father went up to them and said,
"He was crying." Then one man
took the boy and the other man gave his father twenty dollars and a signed
receipt. And the boy's father turned
around and started walking home. The
boy wanted to call out after him, but he was afraid that if he did, his father
would not turn around and come back for him; so he waited for his father to
come back for him on his own, he waited and watched until it was too late to
call out, until his father had disappeared into the darkness of the wide silent
Then the two men in shiny leather coats led the boy to the
checkpoint, where they handed him over to a doctor. The Doctor took off his white gloves and bent down. "So," he said. "You would like to come live with us,
yes?" And he cupped the boy's chin
in his smooth warm hand. "Don't
worry," said the Doctor. "You
will be safe here." But he looked
at the boy with the eyes of Job, he looked at the boy with the eyes of a man
who knows in his heart that there is no safe place anywhere; the eyes of a man
who will never complain when he sees pain and suffering, because he knows that
it is against the law for life to be anything else. Then the Doctor
stood up and said, "Give him a number.
Give him a number and put him to work." And one of the men said, "His arm is too small." And the other man said, "We're up to
eleven numbers now." "Then
give him a letter," said the Doctor.
"And let it be the eleventh letter." And that is how the child came into the City. The child whose little arm was once tattooed
forever with the letter K.
Twenty years passed.
The boy worked every day, and he grew into a man who knew the laws of
the City, every one of them, by heart.
And in all those twenty years, not a day went by when he did not blame
himself for what his father did to him.
Whenever he would look at the tattoo on his arm, the boy now known as
Josef K would search his fading memory for that awful deed without a name which
had made his father give him away.
Because if he was not blameworthy, if his father simply sold his
six-year-old son to strangers because the boy was whining for water, then there
was no justice in the world. And Josef
K believed in justice. He knew that his
father had not acted without a reason, without some dark inexpiable trespass
against the law that had forced the boy's father to punish him this way. It was the law of the City. There had to be a crime. If you were being punished, then there had
to be a crime. There had to be a crime,
because if there was not a crime, then there was no justice. Only punishment for nothing.
And mankind had a right to know why it was being
punished. That, to Josef K, was the
lesson of the Book of Job. It was not
the Adversary who inflicted the punishment, but the God who allowed it, who
must be petitioned to reveal the inexorable reasons behind His unfathomable
actions. So Josef K questioned his God,
and like Job, in his God he found no answer to the question "Why?"
except a voice from the clouds crying out, "Because I said so."
One morning, towards the end of his twenty-seventh year in
the city, Josef K left his Spartan lodgings and made his brooding way through
canyons of indifferent stone to the office where he checked insurance claims
for his department supervisors. He had
never actually seen one of these supervisors, but it was common knowledge that
at least once a day they pretended to be policyholders or new clients or even
accident victims, in order to test the efficiency and good manners of their
employees. It was even said that they
one or two of them worked the floor in offices like Josef K's, when they
weren't disguising themselves as secretaries or pretending to be his fellow
Josef K did not know whether to believe these rumors or not;
but like everyone else who worked in his department, he was wary and distant
with everyone he met. Like all the
other workers whom he could not bring himself to trust, he spoke as little as
possible, for in the office as in the city, nothing was more sinful than the
disgrace of iniquitous disquiet. So
quietly he kept to himself, with the nagging feeling that someone was always
looking over his shoulder, as he performed the demanding duties of an insurance
claim processor. These duties were
exacting and precisely quantifiable. In
Josef K's job, every injury and abuse known to mankind had its precise and
particular compensation. Every accident
had value; every wound had a price tag; every painful ounce of suffering was
worth its weight in gold. In Josef K's
office, the man without an injury, the healthy untouched man, was totally
worthless. Unless, of course, he was a
supervisor in disguise. And that was
why the only two feelings that Josef K ever had for his fellow human beings
were fear, and indifference.
On this particular morning, on the stroke of ten, a blind man
came into Josef K's office; and when Josef K began to read the blind man's
claim form, he saw his father's name.
He looked up. It was indeed his
father; older now, smaller now, as frail as a tree in winter; and his eyes were
blank and featureless, like two eggs dipped in milk. It was assuredly his father, and yet when Josef K read through
the man's insurance forms, there was no mention at all of a son; only three
Josef K cleared his throat.
"It says here that you have a son," he said. Josef K's father shook his head. "No," he said, "I have no
son." But Josef K persisted. He said, "It says on your form that
twenty years ago you sold your son to a doctor at the Main Gate of the
The old man shook his
head again. "It says whatever it
says," he said. "But if it
happened, I do not remember it. If I
did it, I can't recall."
And Josef K started to say something, he started to tell his
father who he was; but the words caught in his throat, because he was afraid
that if he spoke, his father would remember, and reveal at last the awful
reason why he sold his son to the City.
So he waited for his father to recognize him on his own, he waited and
he kept his silence until his father's claim was processed, and it was too late
to say anything but goodbye as the old man shuffled out of the office to the
tap tap tap of his walking stick.
That night, Josef K returned to the tiny room that he had
made his home. He ate a frugal dinner; he
smoked a filtered cigarette.He thought
of how the city, like a flower, was nothing more than a collection of
cells.He thought of how the eyes that
greeted him every morning from his bathroom mirror stared back at him now with
the look of a man who knows that it is against the law for life to be less than
suffering.Hethought of what his father had said; and he looked at his arm,
which still bore a cloudy mark shaped like the letter K, and he wondered then,
with all that he had lived through, he wondered then what kind of life it was,
this life of his, that had left not a mark on anything, not even his father’s
memory.And he touched the letter K on his arm, and he
remembered the pain he had felt when it was branded onto him, and he knew at
last that the crime was his and always his alone.