On the Kafkaesque

 

Kafkaesque: you may be familiar with this term. Not everyone is. I sometimes say to a patient who has brought me a particular type of problem, ‘Do you know the meaning of Kafkaesque?’ Many do not. I then explain that it is a situation where a person feels in a nightmarish situation: they are standing in a queue for hours; then are told that they are in the wrong queue, that they need to go to Section 7 and wait for further instructions; they go to Section 7 and wait; nobody comes for them. They ask for guidance and are told they should not be in Section 7, how silly of them to come to Section 7, they need to be in Section 9a; they go to Section 9a and find a sign which says: ‘Section 9a is closed for refurbishment, please go to Section 7 and await further instructions’. And so on; you get the picture. Patients are usually helped by being aware of this term and its meaning: at least someone has described this, recognised this; they are not alone.

Like the patient who has quite severe, enduring depression; he has seen psychiatrists, is on medication, but feels dreadful, hopeless. He feels physically exhausted and spends a lot of time in bed. He feels ashamed of his inability to get going. He goes to the DWP medical examination (with great effort), and is told, in a letter that arrives a week or two later, that based on the examination (one test was to see if he could fold a piece of paper and put it in an envelope) he has been deemed fit for work, and that his benefit (including his housing benefit which is paying his rent) has been stopped. This is a true story, incidentally, and occurred recently. This is Kafkaesque. The patient appealed the decision; then waited several months (benefits cut off); when he went to the Tribunal they apologised and re-instated his benefit. (In a truly Kafkaesque situation, they would have turned down the appeal….)

The writer Borges said this: ‘Kafka’s most striking talent was for inventing intolerable situations.’

Yes, intolerable situations. Our situation with having to register all patients was Kafkaesque.

The policy of registering with whatever GP you would like, anywhere in England, is Kafkaesque.

That nobody is discussing this policy is, in itself, also Kafkaesque. When I asked about this at a GP meeting a few months ago, I was told, ‘Yes, it is a crazy thing but all 3 parties are in favour of it so there’s nothing we can do.’ They are all worrying about how we are going to form Consortia, grapple with a limited budget, and so on.

One Response to On the Kafkaesque

  1. Lucy says:

    Kafka used to work as an insurance clerk. This explains quite well how he managed to produce such nightmare scenarios that are “normal” for so many of us to endure, in day to day life.

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