Brilliant literary scholars love to analyze Franz Kafka, but absolute poseur morons love to say his name out loud. All the time. Franz Kafka was a Czech writer who lived from 1883 to 1924. His most famous works are probably the short stories "The Metamorphosis," "A Hunger Artist" and "The Penal Colony," and the novel The Trial. Much like me, he was Jewish and thoroughly unimportant in his lifetime, but he became a wildly respected writer after his death. (Also, while working his day job at the Worker's Accident Insurance Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia, allegedly he invented the hard hat.)
"Thanks for mentioning my day job, Gladstone. Remind me to tell everyone in heaven you're a weekend manager for T.G.I. Friday's when you're not writing for Cracked."
So you can see, it's pretty clear that I'm one of those terrible people who try to seem smart by referencing Kafka. But here's the way to spot people who are really insufferable in Kafka terms: They'll drop his name or turn it into the adjective "Kafkaesque" without really having any understanding of the author.
At this point, Franz Kafka has become a spokesman for the merely strange or a champion of the common man's struggle against bureaucracy. And the people who believe that that's an accurate description of Kafka's writing are the same people who've probably never read a thing he's written. The Internet is not the place to gain a deep understanding of Franz Kafka, and I'm not quite obnoxious enough to think that I'm the one to teach it, but suffice it to say that Franz Kafka might be many things, but a man whose writing fits neatly into a simple description is not one of them.
Where most people focus on the darkness of his writing, supposedly Kafka would laugh out loud while reading his works to friends. (See? I told you he was just like me. He thought his own stuff was hilarious.) And far from being some champion of the common man against the abuse of authority, there are often no good guys in his work. If you can't be bothered to read, try to dig up Harold Pinter's adaptation of The Trial starring Kyle MacLachlan. You'll see that the protagonist, Josef K., is not just a victim of rumors from a cruel system, but also an arrogant, frightened man equally responsible (if not more so) for his suffering.
See? Doesn't it look funny?
So the next time you see a guy in a suit riding a unicycle down the street and someone says, "Dude. So Kafkaesque," just ask them if they think that Hunter Gracchus is meant to be a Christ figure, and, if not, what his true significance is. (Spoiler alert: If they answer with anything other than "I don't know," they're wrong.)
The world has no shortage of foolish loudmouths vomiting forth their opinions in desperate attempts to seem wise, but I don't need to tell you that. And I won't. Instead, I'd like to focus on a different bunch of game-playing imbeciles who are just as omnipresent, but somehow escape condemnation: people who refuse to argue. Sure, some people aren't worth arguing with, and some things aren't open to debate, but employing silence or a simple world-weary dismissive phrase to shut down conversations is also a trick used by the intellectually feeble who are attempting to look smart.
Most opinions that can't be debated aren't worth having. If beliefs don't stand up to cross-examination, all the raised eyebrows and silent eye rolling won't suddenly make them legitimate. Eighty percent of the people who will not engage in an argument or go toe-to-toe with dissenting voices are not wiser, more mature or more sophisticated. Most are just incapable of explaining their own beliefs. Outclassed in the marketplace of ideas, they hope that silent indifference will be mistaken for quiet reflection.
"In closing, my rebuttal is: this face."
And when they say, "Well, I'll debate with the people whose opinions matter," nine times out of ten all that means is "I'll debate with my closest friends, who likely already agree with me." Previously, I'd described a refusal to argue as a sign of arrogance, and it can surely be that, but just as often it's a mask worn by someone incapable of defending their views who would rather be mistaken for arrogant than exposed as simplistic.
The best way to be smart? Watch the season finale of HATE BY NUMBERS. Also, be sure to follow Gladstone on Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest regarding Notes from the Internet Apocalypse. And then there's his website and Tumblr, too.
Be sure to check out more from Gladstone in The 8 Greatest Eddie Murphy Movies of All Time and The Top 5 Worst Lines of Dialogue (From Movies That Don't Actually Suck).