Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Bureaucrats are not people

I know that lurking somewhere deep beneath the bureaucratic veneer there’s a human being. But that’s not who I am confronted with here. It’s the machine, the institutional servomechanism that I am engaged with right now. There is nothing human about the interaction between us. There can be no communication, only instructions and directives, manipulation and coercion overt or subtle.

The bureaucrat is a scarecrow, a finely crafted ventriloquist’s dummy with a badge, a mere projection of the human form, an exploitation of appearances. There is a human voice but it is not human speech. Words fall from the lips, but they are formed someplace else. 
If I could I would rip away the institutional skin, kill the instrument while preserving the human being. But the machine’s tendrils run to the core, and it is impossible to separate the person from the tool.  

So instead I build protective psychological fortifications. I remind myself that although it looks human, it is in reality something else entirely and I should not allow myself to be deceived. I am making the bureaucrat’s life difficult if I refuse to comply, if I refuse to submit to the process, if I refuse to acknowledge the validity of restrictions placed on my freedom to choose—on my freedom to refuse. But bureaucrats are not really people, and any difficulties they may or may not experience are not my concern. 

And as I am tasered or pepper-sprayed or zip-tied or forcibly removed from the premises for not displaying the appropriate respect for corporate policy, the rule of law, or some other fictional authority, I draw strength from the thought that, just perhaps, somewhere in a still-human corner of the dark cold recesses of the bureaucrat’s brain, the memory of my simple act of resistance will sit and smolder like a tiny spark of hope.

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