Pretense. Waiting in a castle of make-believe…
I think at the root of my conflict with our dear bureaucrats is they want me to accept their version of ‘reality’ and pretend it’s all about my safety and the safety of others. This reaches the 5 lights or 2+2=5 level of the denial of reality.
Building a house here: There is a long list of incredibly petty, silly, pointless rules – claiming to be ‘for your own good’. For your safety and the safety of others. The fact that you can demonstrate, empirically, that most of these either are not of any real use, or actively damaging… doesn’t matter. Trust me on this, I’ve looked at the numbers, and in most cases the ‘danger’ they’re protecting you from at great expense with multiple credentialled experts that you must pay, and many forms, and more payments, and permits and inspections… are less likely to realistically threaten your life as you being hit on the head by an asteroid. Could happen. But… I wouldn’t spend my life in bunker because of it.
I sort of accept that I have to put up with all this. Pay and get all the paperwork. It’s worthless, but it must be done. Even if they tell you black is white, and you must sign that you accept this. Stupid though it is, they have the power to enforce it.
The law states that anything put onto a new site is ‘building’… NEW building – from its toe to the toppy-tippy most piece of hair it is ‘NEW’ and must obey ALL the NEW build rules.
Now, if you relocate an old house – common across the world, and Australia too, once– but short of demolishing and rebuilding the house, it CAN’T comply with all the inspections and requirements of a new build. The standards differed, the inspections due before cladding just can’t really take place. But you must PRETEND they do. Not that they will do them, but you must make the pretence. If the house is too old (as mine is) for the local council to have or have retained framing drawings… you must get someone to fake them. But you mustn’t SAY fake. NOOOOooooo! You must pretend they are real. And they will pretend to have inspected it. And pretend that it is all important, relevant and just there to he’p you.
For a guy who writes ‘pretend’ (i.e. : Fiction) I don’t pretend well. I know my fiction is fiction and I don’t pretend against all evidence that really the world’s oil reserves come from a time-traveler with his food replicator stuck on ‘Beluga caviar’ sucking up primordial oceans and turning them into quadrillions of little balls of fish-oil – which, buried the sedimentary mud formed modern oil deposits. I wrote it and laugh at it. It was supposed to be funny… But primal sin to bureaucrats… is that you should ridicule their make-believe. No matter how utterly ludicrous and pointless it is.
About the only driving logic seems to be that if anyone dares to question and is allowed to do so, then… maybe others will follow suit, and see the emperor really has no clothes. The ‘authority’ they exert is really not based on safety. It’s based on intimidation. Its purpose is power – safety is a mere stalking horse. Power and the rent-seeking that is derived from that.
You must accept there are five lights. Not only must you accept it, you must PRAISE it. Logic, the evidence of your own eyes, math, stats…must be denied. Because of the authority conferred on them
Um. I’ve never been very good at that sort of thing, which sort of explains most the difficulties I’ve had dealing with them. This is a little odd because it is mirrored in publishing, where publishers pretended to be looking for books people wanted to read, and you as an author had to pretend you didn’t know that what they wanted was books that aggrandized their hobby-horses. But it’s a metric of power: how much they can force you believe (or agree to pretend very convincingly) whatever the current ‘thing’ is: be it xy chromosomal people can have menstrual bleeding or any number of four lights being five.
And the only weapon we do have is to laugh. It makes them very angry and vengefully unpleasant. But iffen a don’ laff I’s gonna sure as hell gonna cry, and that ruins my complexion.
Write books. Write books that SHOW four lights. Because there are a lot of naked emperors out there.
They don’t even make good fictional villains because they are both dull and implausible
Then make them comic relief.
Or a banal reminder that defeating the existential enemy isn’t going to stop Ms. Busybody from complaining that your tulips are too tall.
As I recall, wasn’t one of the most horrific villains in the Harry Potter universe a bureaucratic functionary?
What makes them horrifying is not their goals; those are vandal to the extreme, but rather the lengths they will go to to achieve them. Sort of the difference between a comedy of manners and horror.
Dolores Umberidge. As far as I can tell she is more viscerally hated than Voldemort by most. Because most folk have suffered under one or more of her ilk. Voldemort types are less common. (But terrifying if you actually DO meet one.)
What I find interesting about Umbridge is that she had no problem working under Fudge’s “Deny Voldemort Exists and Persecute Anyone Who Claims Otherwise as a Lunatic” regime, Scrimgour’s “Go to Extremes (and Perhaps Excesses) to Prove We are Fighting Voldemort” regime, and eventually Voldemort’s puppet minister regime. I believe that Rowling intended that last to be proof of her “true beliefs” and an indication she was always a pure-blood supremacist, but I saw it as proof that she had no true beliefs. Say what you like about Fudge and Scrimgour, but they did have principles guiding them. Umbridge was willing to spout literally anything as long as it would give her the opportunity to be a petty tyrant.
That’s what’s terrifying about a bureaucrat. They have no principles beyond paycheck and pension, so right and wrong are measured in relation to that.
Umbridge was so invested in The System and her department that she had no moral difficulty following corrupt orders. “Procedures must be followed. Fairness demands that we force everyone to jump through the same flaming hoop.”
The petty bureaucrat is a familiar evil, even when they don’t intend true Evil. The Voldemorts of the world are rarer, but they seem to delight in making use of the petty bureaucrats. (With a few exceptions, and those are even scarier.)
Yes. And I think it is a unfortunately, a very human way to fail too; to have your identity so tied to being part of and being in charge of the group that one becomes blind to whether the group is good or evil or even one one should be part of at all.
THIS. Honestly, if a dictate came out saying people had to rip their roof off for winter… they’d be ordering roof-rips, and persecuting those who didn’t tell them how wonderful it was, let alone be slightly tardy in exposing their home to the weather.
The Voldemorts you just have to zap. Difficult, but doable.
Umbridges, on the other hand, you can’t just dispose of. Even if you have a way to do so quietly, without being caught – there is always a replacement that is likely to be even worse.
It’s not about power as much as it is about status insecurity. Their role is in peril if you protest or scorn their dictates, and that sort of threat is always defended against ferociously. After all, if you lose status in the tribe, they might not feed you next starvation time — it’s a fundamental drive, and people can get downright vicious about it. Logic is not involved — it’s a deeper issue.
We’re subdividing a 300 acre farm right now and selling 10+ acre lots. Among the various regulations we are attempting to deal with is ensuring that the runoff of the eventual new house roof and paved driveway will meet the arbitrary standards of not-too-much-ground-blocked-for-groundwater-replenishment. Of course, we’re not the ones building the houses — that would be the eventual individual lot owners. It isn’t possible for us to ensure their compliance — that’s between them and the local bureaucrats when they go to build. But try explaining that to the local authorities and getting a sane “oh, right — that’s not you” reaction. They have literally copied their legal/guidance documents from example-books, without applying any thought to what the language means, and have a very hard time taking any individual responsibility for dealing with the literally impossible demands that result.
I remember the clones of these people from middle-school, and they haven’t improved any since then.
They just CAN’T take responsibility – it’s ALWAYS your fault – even when it logically or physically is impossible that it could be. And I agree about the status (and I think the inability to accept responsibility stems directly from that insecurity) – but it is the status – derived from the position not their ability – that grants them power. And I think that power – and the status it feeds back into is a heady drug for them. By their own ability it’s not something anyone grants them.
Best of luck to you, Dave. Dealing with bureaucrats is often quixotic.
System design thing that I like, in law– if a paper has been treated as existing for X time, then even if it can’t be found, it’s treated as existing.
Makes the value of destroying old records much, much lower.
In this case it is truly hilarious (not from the inside and now, but later) is the authority demanding the paperwork from me… is the same authority that was supposed to have it and doesn’t.
I vaguely remember that being mentioned– sadly, most of the stuff in the US like that seems to come with a footnote of “and almost nobody else on earth does this, it’s from a pissed off immigrant making it so the reason their family was messed up can’t happen so easy.”
For an organization, (Government agency, corporation, school, church, whatever) It’s all too easy for the right hand to not know what the left hand is doing. Or not doing, that it’s supposed to be. This explains why they frequently show symptoms of clinical insanity.
Some other time look up George Rogers Clark and the Virginia House of Burgesses during the American Revolution. You would like to sit on the porch and chat with George about bureaucrats who lose your papers and make you pay for it…
The ONLY thing worse is a bureaucrat in the HR world… Gah… spit…
So, this Beluga caviar time travel story….