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Life Imitates Kafka



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Apropos of this news story

Violent, thieving mobs have been making headlines across the country for the past few years, and now they have hit New York City.

And Maurice Dubois reported in this CBS 2 investigation, the teen mobs have left neighborhoods worried as businesses take matters into their own hands. . . .

In New York and across the country, the mobs of kids – 20, 30, 40 or more — appear out of nowhere and suddenly charge a newsstand or convenience store.

They ransack, steal and wreak havoc with no consideration for customers . . . who get in their way.

“They assemble, they do whatever it is that they’re going to do, and then they disassemble in a matter of minutes,” said Jon Shane, assistant professor of criminal justice at John Jay College. “By the time somebody recognizes what is happening or is injured, if the police are able to respond, it’s slow.”

This great Kafka short story from 1919, “Ein altes Blatt“:

I have a cobbler’s workshop in the square that lies before the Emperor’s palace. Scarcely have I taken my shutters down, at the first glimpse of dawn, when I see armed soldiers already posted in the mouth of every street opening on the square. But these soldiers are not ours; they are obviously nomads from the North. In some way that is incomprehensible to me they have pushed right into the capital, although it is a long way from the frontier. At any rate, here they are; it seems that every morning there are more of them. . . .

Whatever they need, they take. You cannot call it taking by force. They grab at something and you simply stand aside and leave them to it . . .

“What is going to happen?” we all ask ourselves. “How long can we endure this burden and torment? The Emperor’s palace has drawn the nomads here but does not know how to drive them away again. The gate stays shut; the guards, who used to be always marching out and in with ceremony, keep close behind barred windows. It is left to us artisans and tradesmen to save our country; but we are not equal to such a task; nor have we ever claimed to be capable of it. This is a misunderstanding of some kind; and it will be the ruin of us.”

And back to the CBS story:

The increase in attacks and their violent nature has many people concerned.

“I think it needs to be addressed,” said Gale Spitalnik. “It’s awful.”

“It’s disturbing to have that kind of activity happening in New York City,” said Greg Lukasiewicz of Nutley, N.J.

“It’s against the law,” said Edvin Brown of Brooklyn. “They should address the problem [like] they address every other issue.”

Or perhaps petition the Emperor.



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