The hellishness of dealing with bureaucrats:
In his dystopian novel 1984 George Orwell said this: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.” That is not a bad image for how Big Brother statism deals with us mere mortals. And nowhere does this become more apparent than in dealing with big government and big bureaucracies. (Someone just told me that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series is all about such hellish bureaucracies.)
While I am sure there are some caring and concerned persons who work in such places, bureaucracies by their very nature seem incapable of being much more than dehumanising, depersonalising and even diabolical black holes. As I have often said, a government bureaucracy may be the closest thing to hell on earth we get to.
I mean, if ‘efficient government’ is a rank oxymoron, how much more so ‘efficient and caring government bureaucracy’? I sometimes think that I would rather spend a day with a sadistic and half-blind dentist than dealing with state bureaucrats!
We have all dealt with some of these faceless – and stony-faced – bureaucrats over the years. It can be quite a harrowing experience. For example, you will turn up for an appointment that THEY have made for you, but when you get there they tell you there is no such appointment! You even show them the card THEY filled in for you a few days earlier with the exact time and location! They still will not budge!
Then you get the classic runaround: You are told to show up in person to hopefully get things settled, and all you get are more forms to fill in. Good grief, if they just wanted to hand you forms, they could have posted them to you, and saved you the wasted trip.
So you go home, fill in the forms, and come back for another appointment, only to be told that other forms need to be filled in. When you ask why you were not told this last time and given the forms then, all you get is a stony-faced “I dunno”. And then when the only way you can give them key documents is by email or a memory stick, and they refuse both, saying they don’t accept such things, you are left hanging even further.
And then they give you the lame excuse that “the system” messed things up. Um, there is no system: there are only bureaucrats who mess things up. No one wants to take any responsibility for anything. No one wants to admit that THEY screwed up. In a faceless bureaucracy no one is ever responsible.
On top of all this hellishness in dealing with incompetent and inept bureaucrats who really do not seem to give a rip about you and your problems is the knowledge that your tax dollars are paying their cushy, guaranteed salaries! They know they have their jobs all taken care of by your tax subsidies.
It does not matter how inefficient or incompetent they may be – they are answerable to no one, and likely have careers for life. These government bureaucracies are totally unlike normal businesses, especially small businesses, where if you do not perform and satisfy the customer, you will soon be out of a job. Two quotes by Thomas Sowell readily come to mind here:
“You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing.”
“Those who cry out that the government should ‘do something’ never even ask for data on what has actually happened when the government did something, compared to what actually happened when the government did nothing.”
Indeed, why do I keep being reminded of past history every time I confront these bureaucrats? Consider this set of truisms:
-The main excuses made by government bureaucrats: “We have to follow procedures.” “I am only following orders.”
-The main excuses made by war criminals at Nuremberg: “We have to follow procedures.” “I am only following orders.”
And every time I post about my bureaucracy blues on the social media, I get so many others writing in saying they have gone through the exact same hell. This is a universal problem, with no easy solutions in sight.
What we are up against
Let me finish with two further items, one serious and one humorous. As to the serious matter, I recently posted the following online: “We may never know how many people actually took their own lives after dealing with heartless, soulless, inept and callous government bureaucrats, being frustrated and beaten down at every turn, time and time again. I am convinced there would be so many of them.”
In response, someone alerted me to a sad – but typical story – from South Australia. It begins as follows:
Eyre Peninsula woman Jessica Jolly has renewed her calls for an inquiry into the federal government’s botched Robodebt scheme, saying there had still been “no accountability” over her brother’s treatment. Ms Jolly lost her brother, Corey Webb, to suicide in 2017, later finding out he owed the government money.
It was not until years later when Centrelink — now Services Australia — contacted Mr Webb’s family with regard to paying the money back, that they learnt he had been on an illegal, so-called Robodebt payment plan when he died. Since November, Ms Jolly has been calling for a royal commission to get transparency about how Centrelink staff interacted with customers like her brother.
“It has been years and there are still no answers, no accountability, no ownership,” Ms Jolly said. She said there needed to be more light shone on the impact of the Robodebt scheme. “A royal commission would allow … every single aspect [to be] considered and improvements to be suggested and made,” Ms Jolly said.
“We want this information for our brother, and for our family to have more understanding on how this impacted him and his family.” Ms Jolly emailed her federal member, Liberal MP Rowan Ramsey, to ask if he could help fill in the blanks for her family, but did not receive the answers she sought.
Independent senator Rex Patrick stepped up during Senate Estimates earlier this month and called on Minister for Government Services Linda Reynolds to have the agency respond. Senator Patrick said the documentation he had obtained so far suggested a heavy-handed approach was taken when Centrelink staff spoke with clients. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-04-28/robodebt-scheme-suicide-royal-commission-corey-webb-centrelink/101019506
There would be so many other stories like this. As to a more humorous and satirical look at things, consider the following (which was not very difficult for me to put together in a few minutes!):
I am becoming convinced that the only place jobs ads for government bureaucracies appear are in magazines and newspapers only read by automatons, robots and cyborgs that come off the assembly line! Indeed, I came upon a leaked job application from one government agency. It does not matter which one, as they are all the same. They all operate in the same way.
So I came upon this top secret form, and it was quite a piece of work. As usual with government bureaucracies, this one was around 50 pages long, had a kazillion questions, and referred you to three dozen other forms to be completed. It begins by saying there are various essential criteria needed if you want to work for them. The first four requirements are these:
1. The applicant must provide proof of the ability to treat customers like nobodies, to be a stony-faced bureaucrat, and to guarantee that the customer leaves more miserable, confused and helpless than when they walked in. Only those who are heartless and soulless will be considered for a position with us. Real human beings need not apply.
2. The applicant must have a proven track record of being incompetent, inept, and just plain clueless. He or she must have a proven track record, in other words, in being thick as a brick. Any professionalism, intelligence, and ability to actually think, be helpful, and make useful decisions are frowned upon.
3. The applicant must be arrogant and completely unconcerned about the plight of the hapless customer. No show of emotion or empathy or sympathy or compassion is permitted. Only cold, callous indifference will be accepted.
4. The applicant must first offer proof of having watched at least three dozen zombie films in order to get into the right frame of mind and the right spirit of things. We only operate with staff who are certified as the living dead.
In sum, I am tempted to say that Satan is the original cosmic bureaucrat, doing all he can to harm people, upset people, frustrate people, screw up people, and get them to even want to take their own lives. It seems his minions on earth have learned their lessons well from their master.
As I say, there of course are exceptions. There are some decent, caring and very helpful government bureaucrats out there. But it would seem that they are few and far between. I for one would love to encounter one of these real human beings. Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of a robot disguised as a human who simply hands me yet another form to fill in, I get a human being telling me they messed up, they are sorry, and they will try to do much better. But I will not hold my breath on that one.
Oh, and one last thing: When I tried just now to go online to a government complaints/ombudsmen thing, I was forced to go down all sorts of rabbit holes. The first link they told me to go on ended up being a dead page that no longer existed!
In several minutes I had gone on a half dozen different links and sites before even getting close to being able to lodge a complaint. Good grief, and this is supposed to help the poor citizen who is already being crushed by mindless and soul-destroying bureaucracy? Why do I doubt that an incompetent government bureaucrat is going to help me with my complaints about incompetent government bureaucrats?!