Wednesday, June 20, 2007

On Dissent

I don't know what it is that keeps all the oily machines in the world going, but you can't not notice. No matter who you are, where you are, there's always some dirty little rook who's trying to use you into the 'mechanics' of things. What mechanics? It's difficult to say. It could be simple, everyday things, like getting the newspaper while you're waiting at the airport, or making a phone call from the hostel without a phone chit. All of these things, quotidian as they are, involve the biggest amount of officialese.

And those who don't speak the language are in for some real dirt.

In a school, for example, what's so big and important about getting a simple form signed? It's the simplest thing there is. But bureaucracy has it's own way. If you want a form signed, you have to first decide who you want to sign it. If you know the person, you approach him. If you don't, you do that anyway. The person, ostensibly a teacher, isn't available for the time that he or she teaches lessons. So you have to find the right time and place to locate this one person. But then, the person might also want to read through it. Well, it's justified; after all, you expect the chum to sign it. The person tells you that it'd take some time. Of course, you agree. It must take some time. After all, a signature, given prevailing commonsense, is the most difficult of difficult things. By the time it gets back to you, after much unwarranted movement, you think it's some kind of a blessing in disguise and that every other person is the kindest Samaritan there is.

You also forget that bureaucracy "works in mysterious ways".

I remember my maths tutor, who always grumbled about the telephone department, hated the way his phone was, invariably, disconnected every month. He always paid his bills, or so at least he claimed, and spent lots of time contemplating the twisted minds of many twisted phone officers, who, for some reason, hated that he had a phone and persecuted him. I tried some consolation. You know, stuff like: it's quite normal, we're all in the same rut, we're all victims of some grand telephonic mega-conspiracy, et cetera. I tried telling him that this new Right to Information thing would be a good way out. But, I suppose, a man separated from his phone is as inconsolable as a fly caught in spiders' web.

He went and spoke to the regional manager. This one was rude, diffident and very obese. His conversation was smattering of 'Do you know who I am?' or alternately, 'Who the bloody hell are you?' My teacher, octogenarian man, old war-monger, took him on and sprung on him the biggest bureaucratic whiplash possible - he called up his immediate superior, whose son, fortuitously, was another one of his tutees. That was that, for evermore.

I guess I know what the government does with all its work, or lack thereof. Insofar as "work" is concerned, it's safe to say that kindergarten kids work with a better conscience. No matter how many drawings they disfigure, how much they disregard the spellings of words and the Oxford dictionary, these bureaucrats take the lid off them. What's actually funny is the way we, the people, have to take it all in, obligatory as it were. Would you ever have people sling things at you? Would you ever let them rob you of you livelihood's worth while you stand outside and help them load your stuff onto a truck full of stolen things? Would you even let someone take water from your backyard well, even if it were filled to the brim? People call it presumption. We never let other people get away with these things they presume they can do, but aren't entitled to.

It's tough to stand up to bureaucracy. It's very discomfiting. It's tough because these people are deafened, they have lost the faculty of hearing. They lost it long ago. They don't speak your language. They're insecure and messed up in the head beyond repair. They smell and their looks don't help very much. But it's better to start somewhere. Maybe that somewhere is here, in your head, where you can see them and mock them and prepare for the next time you meet them.

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