Bureaucratic Bollocks

In a bit of a funk this morning as I started worrying about money as I try to sort out ‘early retirement on health grounds’ as the parlance goes. These bureaucratic things tend to take a while and those who know me know that I have a significant bureaucratic allergy. As ever Kate was very patient with me and helped me calm and allowed me to focus on doing some useful stuff and not feel totally overwhelmed by the bureaucratic bollocks. Despite our impending financial crash I did order a book by David Graeber as it seems that he has a take on things bureaucratic which is very appealing. He was interviewed for Saturday’s Grauniad and recounted how he tried applying for Medicaid in the USA for his ill mother. He soon found himself “sucked into a vortex of form filling and humiliation familiar to anyone who’s ever been embroiled in bureaucratic procedures”. He’s a professor of anthropology and an ‘anarchist author’ and up until this particular bureaucratic episode had been relatively unaware of this aspect of human existence. It stuck with him and led to him writing his latest book ‘The Utopia of Rules’.

The book isn’t just about the idiocy of bureaucracy but more that it’s an attempt to “free us from the rightwing misconception about bureaucracy” in that we have been led to believe that bureaucracy is all the fault of government, red tape and all that. He argues that capitalism in the last 30 years or so has, instead of looking towards the emancipation of us working folk through increased automation and new technology, done the opposite and created new ways to make us work more and in jobs that are essentially unnecessary and utilising the new technology to ‘facilitate and support this’ as they’d say in management circles. Of course the new technology is also used to distract the masses, the new opiate of the masses. Graeber goes on to say that: “The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no-one talks about it”. And Mark, I agree with you about the necessity of some bureaucracy, but Graeber is thinking about the unnecessary bureaucratic bollocks that is sucking the lifeblood out of humanity.

Does anyone else remember the scene in Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’ when  Robert De Niro playing a renegade plumber operating outside the system is caught in a windswept maelstrom of paper, he is absolutely covered in paper until we can see no part of him, then the wind dies the paper falls gently to the ground and there is no sign of De Niro. Good film about mindless bureaucracy is Brazil.

And they promised us ‘paperless offices’ and there’s more paper forms than ever. Someone ought to do a fire risk assessment on all this paper being stored everywhere. And I thought they promised us jet packs?

And Graeber talks about the importance of play and that play is a more fundamental way of being than economics.

Like the way Will Self plays with words, unless I’m very much mistaken Mr Self, whilst a serious wordsmith, plays with words.

Poor old play, it’s become a much abused word in these serious economic times.

And Will Self reviewed the grinning gargoyle’s new book the purple revolution. Hope no one buys it thinking it is about the great Prince. In the review Self reveals that Blighty, as in ‘good old Blighty’, is of Urdu origin and means “foreign”. Funny that, even ironic.

So I’m embarking on a bureaucratic voyage, one of the things I’ll certainly not miss about modern teaching is all the bureaucratic bollocks, but I will try and sail serenely. We’ll see, I’ll keep you posted.

Keep on keeping on filling in those forms, love Duncan.

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