Most children are familiar with the story of Robin Hood, the oxymoron. Robin Hood was a noble thief who stole from the rich only to give to the poor. Hood battled injustice and oppression in the only way he knew how. He had a radical idea, acted on it, and was mostly praised as a hero. Discrimination is something that humans have been guilty of since the dawn of time. Whether it be for the color of skin or amount of wealth, discrimination tends to show in all levels of societies. But where there is discrimination, there are those fighting it, like Robin Hood.
Franz Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist” demonstrates how destructive it is for society when people are not treated equally. “A Hunger Artist” is about a fasting man’s internal struggles of self love and self acceptance in the wake of liars and skeptics. Unequal treatment in society leads to lack of trust. While this may not seem like a crippling social problem, trust is an often forgotten pillar of society, necessary for the proper functioning. Because all societies are based on cooperation, the less trust there is the fewer things get accomplished.
In “Trust” by Francis Fukuyama, Fukuyama describes a functioning society as one with an atmosphere of strong cooperation and a “culture of trust. ” (86) Also, according to the European Journal of Public Health, differing incomes in society or unequal treatment leads to less trust which therefore leads to higher homicide rates and lower health (Elgar and Aitken). Kafka uses allusions to an unequal society and mistrust when describing The Hunger Artist and how nobody really believed he was fasting the entire time.
The townspeople did not see him as an equal and an honest man and believed that something was suspicious about the fasting man even though he did nothing to deserve this treatment. The butchers or other watchers “made his fast seem unendurable. ” This so offended The Hunger Artist that he would somehow muster up enough strength “to sing during their watch for as long as he could keep going… “(789). Although, he mastered this feat, the townspeople believed that he was somehow”able to fill his mouth even while singing” (789).
Inequality in societies can cause so much oppression that the oppressed truly believe they can never escape. And if they truly believe that they can never escape their current situation, they do not try. Stockholm Syndrome occurs when, for survival, kidnapped peoples with no control over their fate no longer attempt to escape and can also feel sympathy toward captors. Similar to the idea of Stockholm Syndrome but less extreme, an unequal society sometimes makes people feel that they belong where they are currently like the Indian Caste System.
The religion of Hinduism believes in reincarnation and everyone is where they deserve to be, therefore people do not revolt against the system because they understand it cannot change their path in life. They only live with the hope that their next life is better, thus they work their hardest in their current life to get there. The Hunger Artist had a choice when confined to the cage. He chose the life he lived but ultimately felt trapped by it. The Hunger Artist fasted in the cage for so long and knew he could fast for longer that when the “forty days”(790) he was allotted were up, he had no desire to leave.
The Artist’s “inner dissatisfaction always rankled and never yet, after any term of fasting … had he left the cage of his own free will” (790). The inequality he felt internally only made him have more selfloathing. Inequality decreases education. According to Seven Pillar Institute, “in an economically unequal society, the societywide average level of education decreases while the number of educational elites increases” (Birdsong). Lower income and poorer treatment usually also means lower education level. While this may not be the case in extremely technologically advanced societies, it is true for numerous other cultures.
Many of these people are not aware of the inequality they are in the midst of. Simply, this is a result of poor education and misinformation from the media. The people who are at the bottom of these unbalanced cultures are sometimes misguided into believing their situation is better than it actually is. Some take jobs without reading the fine print and end up stuck in a situation and a life with no easy way out. Kafka mentions The Hunger Artist “took leave of the impresario … and hired himself to a large circus; in order to spare his own feelings he avoided reading the conditions of his contract” (792).
Kafka foreshadows The Hunger Artist’s unfortunate life and eventual quiet demise with the mention he did not read the fine print. Though, The Hunger Artist’s lack of education was intentional, it may have been because he was terrified of what he was agreeing to do. Unequal treatment in societies decreases opportunities for people to find jobs they are truly passionate about, so they lead an unsatisfied, unfulfilled life. As aforementioned, an unequal society garners worse education so the people who receive poor quality or quantity of education are not able to find or be chosen for the jobs they truly want.
They simply are unqualified through little fault of their own. The Hunger Artist was qualified for his profession because all he had to do was not eat. While for some this would be an impossible feat for The Hunger Artist it was simple “because [he] couldn’t find the food [he] liked. ” He speaks of “if [he] had found it” (794) he would be like everyone else and not starve himself for a living. The Hunger Artist’s qualification for his job does not mean that he was satisfied with himself. The not eating part was always easy for him, but what he had to learn to deal with was the people that came to watch.
In a society like the one The Hunger Artist lived, people did not receive the jobs they wanted, they became what they were good at or qualified for. For example, the butchers in who watched over the hunger artist were most likely born into a butcher family and were not given any other choice for a profession. Their fathers and grandfathers were probably all butchers. People in an unequal society are often unaware of it until it is too late to do anything. In the novel “Animal Farm” by George Orwell, the animals were oppressed by their farmer.
After a planned revolt, they overthrew the farm and became their own masters. The animals decided on seven commandments one of them being: “All animals are equal” (Chapter 2). However, after some changes in the system the pigs began to rule and changed the commandment to read: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” (Chapter 10) The non-pigs did not realize that they were being oppressed again until it was basically too late to do anything. When The Hunger Artist caught “the first sight of [the crowd] from the distance” (793) he liked them best.
He enjoyed when he could not hear them speak and argue, for he liked the idea of them at a distance and was disgusted when they came close. Because when the crowd arrived at his cage “he was at once deafened the storm of shouting and abuse that arose from the two contending factions” (793). There were the people who wanted to stop and stare and those who wished to go on further to see the animals. Ironically, The Hunger Artist began to despise the former more than the ladder. In “A Hunger Artist” by Franz Kafka, Kafka shows why the degradation of society happens when people are treated unequally.
It is most likely true that there will never be a completely fair and equal society, for a some amount of inequality must exist for a society to function. However, if people could just learn to treat others they way they would want to be treated, then society would function so much smoother and more people would be satisfied. While there are always people in a society to counteract injustice, these people need to be informed before it becomes too late or they risk not being able to make as much of a difference.
Countless people now are filled with self-loathing because they do not have what their neighbor does, yet everything in life does not have to be fair for people to all be treated as if they are on the same level. Eventually maybe those who support discrimination are completely wiped out and maybe, just maybe, Robin Hoods will take their place. But for the time being, the world needs to work with what they have even though it may not seem like much. “You can start with nothing. And out of nothing, and out of no way, a way will be made. ” (Michael Beckwith)