Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Bureaucratic Insanity is Progressing

Six months ago, when my book Bureaucratic Insanity went to print, I couldn’t imagine how the social climate in this country could get any worse, and yet it has. It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that large segments of our society are under intense psychological stress. That might be typical in an election year, but the sense of desperation is more profound than I can ever remember.

When individual identity and self-esteem are undermined, people become quick to anger. Society’s rules provide a kind of safe haven for approved behavior. Lashing out at innocent people, even children, becomes acceptable if it’s done in the name of “following the rules.”

Throughout Bureaucratic Insanity, I documented numerous examples where rule enforcers chose to act without mercy, to put people – often children – in their place. Nowhere is this more visible than in our rule-ridden school system, where students are cruelly punished for even the most minor offenses.

Bureaucratic Insanity:
The American Bureaucrat’s Descent into Madness

is now available as an e-book
and at a reduced price for the paper edition.

Let’s consider a few new examples that have come to light since the book was published just a few months ago:

  • The State of New Mexico criminally charged a 13-year-old for pretending to burp in class. According court documents, the student “had generated several fake burps, which made the other students laugh and hampered class proceedings.” The police were called. The student was handcuffed and held in a juvenile detention center. School officials decided to suspend the student for the remainder of the school year and charged him criminally with interfering with the educational process. As of this writing, the case is still making its way through the courts.
  • A teacher in a New York area Charter School was suspended for a week after a video emerged of her ripping up a student’s paper and shouting. “There’s nothing that infuriates me more than when you don’t do what’s on your paper,” the teacher yelled on the video. The school said it was an anomaly, insisting she was a “model teacher,” but a report by the New York Times cites a number of other teachers who abused students at the school. In one case, the principal mocked a student’s low test score in front of her and another adult. The Times also described how a kindergarten teacher made a girl cry so hard she vomited after she stumbled reciting a math problem.
  • Police in Tennessee arrested and charged a six-year-old with a misdemeanor for merely watching a fist fight. The child and at least nine others, none of which were older than 11, were arrested nearly a month after the incident. According to one parent interviewed by the local ABC affiliate, the fight was “no more than a scuffle of children pushing each other back and forth.” Those children now have arrest records which will follow them for life.
  • Two honor roll students were threatened with 30 days in an alternative school after one of them lent the other an inhaler during a severe asthma attack. She may have saved her friend’s life, but the school says the two possessed, used, and shared a controlled substance.

Of course, all of this insanity isn’t limited to the United States, but is prevalent in most highly complex societies where rules governing behavior are numerous.

  • In July 2016, nursery workers in the UK referred a four-year-old to police after he mispronounced the word “cucumber.” They thought it sounded like “cooker bomb” even though the child was pointing to a picture of a man with a cucumber. UK teachers are required to report any suspicious behavior to authorities after the recent passage of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act. Thankfully, child social services decided not to take action.

When a government worker considers referring a four-year-old to a counter-terrorism program, I think it’s safe to say the situation is beyond parody.

It may be tempting to ascribe all this paranoia and vindictiveness to the criminalization of our society. Clearly, our governing institutions benefit more from criminals than they do from law abiding citizens, and so they are incentivized to make more criminals. But this does not explain the apparent gleefulness exhibited by the state’s front line bureaucrats who seem to jump at the opportunity to punish good people for failing to observe arcane rules.

Throughout the book, I argue that this venomous spite is used as a coping mechanism by bureaucrats who feel powerless. Because of the deteriorating economy and uncaring bosses, mid-level bureaucrats cannot successfully challenge the forces that rule their lives. Instead, many of them choose to live with the rules as faithfully as possible and rule obedience itself becomes a part of their self-esteem. Their suppressed rage comes to the surface, usually at the expense of people they perceive as weaker than thy are. The more controlled and stressful our society becomes, the more we will see bureaucrats lash out.

This craziness didn’t form in a vacuum: it’s the end result of a society that doesn’t provide people with a meaningful identity. So much of modern life seems directionless. The nuclear family has broken down and it’s difficult to get ahead economically. Some people try to find belonging and purpose by segregating themselves into ideological or social groups. But many bureaucrats resort to violence as a way to vent their frustrations at a system that is unable to provide them with a reason to live.

Where does that leave us now? The economy is teetering on a precipice. The wailing and worrying about a looming political catastrophe has reached a delirious pitch. The sound of war drums echoes in the distance (which is not so distant anymore). If 2016 has shown us anything, it’s that there’s good reason to think the social climate is going to get worse before it gets better.

* * *

Sean Kerrigan is the author of Bureaucratic Insanity: The American Bureaucrat’s Descent into Madness. He has been a writer and public social critic for the last 15 years, concentrating on issues of economic, political and social decay in the United States. Educated at Temple University in Philadelphia, he worked for several years as a journalist focusing on hard news coverage. Disillusioned by the economic crisis of 2008 and its aftermath, he refocused his attention on political and spiritual matters, with most of his subsequent writing challenging the accepted mythology of American society. His work has been featured on the BBC World Service Radio, popular blogs such as Zero Hedge, and several daily newspapers including the Bucks County Courier Times. He maintains a regularly updated website at www.SeanKerrigan.com and a Twitter account @SeanJKerrigan.

16 comments :

Dioscuri Redux said...

I admit that I was waiting for this to come out as an eBook, which I have only a moment ago bought – for the paltry sum of £3.26. This is not because I am a cheapskate. It's because I moved recently and the movers made jokes about the large number of cartons bearing the label "Books."

Patrick said...

"The wailing and worrying about a looming political catastrophe has reached a delirious pitch."

I listened to Tom Ashbrook's ON POINT broadcast yesterday, and found the ravings of get-tough-on-Putin/Russia guest Garry Kasparov quite disturbing. Shouting, paranoid, rude and dismissive to callers and the other guest when they provided counter arguments. The other guest, Stephen Cohen, was a study in contrasts: quietly thoughtful, with a commonsense & historical perspective. It's hotheaded know-it-alls like Kasparov that get countries into wars. Cooler heads must prevail.

Jack Melson said...

"Clearly, our governing institutions benefit more from criminals than they do from law abiding citizens..."

This doesn't make sense to me. Don't government institutions get stressed out when tax revenues decline? Turning a tax-paying citizen into a tax-consuming criminal would make it more difficult to balance gov budgets, and put pressure on gov institutions downsize. Which gov institutions don't want.

Mister Roboto said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick said...

Oops. I inserted the wrong quote above. I meant to use Kerrigan's next sentence:
"The sound of war drums echoes in the distance (which is not so distant anymore)."

stevelaudig@gmail.com said...

"zero tolerance" plus "see something, say something" equals well I just don't know what to call it except what we see regularly in the US.

StickySweater said...

Jack Melson,

There are a lot of competing interest at play, but I assume the premise that the government's ultimate goal is more power, not necessarily making everything run efficiently.

This may be a bit cynical, but I think the proof is in the pudding. If everyone is peaceful and budgets are balancced, then there is no use for more government. The government is incentivized to create criminals (by making everything a crime). This justifies an increased budget and more legal powers.

Locking people up may cost money, but its an indispensable tool for control.

~Sean

Cynthia Quilici said...

I was listening to an old "From Alpha to Omega" podcast yesterday. The guest was an historian of "economics". At the dawn of capitalism, players were more open about their intents (because the peasantry could not/could not afford to read).

People were driven off the land precisely because a self-sufficient populace didn't put money in anyone's pockets.

http://fromalpha2omega.podomatic.com/entry/2012-04-26T06_11_11-07_00

dermot said...

QUOTE: "Throughout the book, I argue that this venomous spite is used as a coping mechanism by bureaucrats who feel powerless. Because of the deteriorating economy and uncaring bosses, mid-level bureaucrats cannot successfully challenge the forces that rule their lives. Instead, many of them choose to live with the rules as faithfully as possible and rule obedience itself becomes a part of their self-esteem. Their suppressed rage comes to the surface, usually at the expense of people they perceive as weaker than thy are. The more controlled and stressful our society becomes, the more we will see bureaucrats lash out. UNQUOTE

*

"The man who is denied the opportunity of taking decisions of importance begins to regard as important the decisions he is allowed to take."
C. Northcote Parkinson (~1950s)

V. Arnold said...

I would never expose a child of mine to the U.S. (or any other) educational system; child abuse it is...
Read John Taylor Gatto's book, Underground History of American Education.
Or, listen to this free audio book;
http://www.unwelcomeguests.net/The_Underground_History_of_American_Education
The true history of western education will blow your mind; hint, its origins are from the Hindu schools in India, where docility was taught to easily maintain the caste system.

DeVaul said...

My daughter was punished at school (elementary) for "kicking some mulch on the playground" towards a group of boys who were verbally abusing an autistic girl. Her teacher was standing nearby and knew what was happening, but she chose to punish my daughter instead because of "rules" about "projectiles" and other nonsense. The psychological abuse that the autistic girl suffered is not in the "rules", but it was far more damaging than some mulch landing on shoes, and may even last a life-time. It was this incident that was the last straw for me.

I have been preparing for homeschooling some time now, but I fear that authorities will come after me, as well as my own mother (a life-long burocrat), but I do not want my daughter in a school with violence coming from both students and "classroom officers" who body slam kids instead of just calling their parents to come get them and take them home.

I also plan to teach my daughter that one does not "take" a decision (where, by chance?), but instead "makes" a decision, after they have "made up" their minds (or should we "take up our minds"?). This strange and nonsensical use of the word "take" comes from England -- not the most grammatical nation on earth, and now pervades nearly every article on the internet. A form of grammatical insanity, that needs to be "taken away". Glad I got that off my chest.

I think I will buy this book in print form to prepare myself for what is coming, and hopefully figure out a way to avoid the more severe consequences of this modern plague. I have actually witnessed this same behavior in the private sector from middle management type workers, including my own boss, so it is not just government workers. I think any salaried manager is being squeezed between oppressive oligarchs and helpless wage earners, and they lash out at their employees because they cannot stand up to their own bosses. It's a cowardly thing to do, and perhaps deep down, they know it, which only makes them even more desperate.

At least, that's my opinion.

voodooville said...

@Arnold - "The true history of western education will blow your mind; hint, its origins are from the Hindu schools in India, where docility was taught to easily maintain the caste system". Now, that's very funny.

Britishers brought the western system of education, to create bureaucrats, that furthered the imperial goals of the British empire. Thomas Macaulay, of the governing council of the british govt, says this in "Minute on Indian Education", 80 years back.


" I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation".

"It is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect".

Vedic/Hindu educational system, under trees, by streams, with students of all ages, was replaced by claustrophobic western education, in sealed, sanitised settings, in classes with homogenous students of the same age group.

V. Arnold said...

@ voodooville

We're talking early 1800's not 80 years ago. Listen to the free audio book and learn something. By the way, it's in chapters so you can listen to one at a time or randomly. Cheers.

Jambudveep said...

@voodooville. very true . most westerners have no concept of India beyond caste,cow and curry. The"caste" system as it exists today is a direct by product of the Britnazi rule in India. Ossification started off with the first census carried out in the 19th century.

Heres a good article for those who want to go beyond the racist stereotypes : http://www.infinityfoundation.com/mandala/h_es/h_es_hobso_caste_frameset.htm

The maximum number of students in traditional Indian schools were the so-called "lower castes" of today. A good read would be Dharampals book " The Beautiful Tree: Indigenous India Education in the Eighteenth Century".

It is availaible for free download here: @voodooville. very true . most westerners have no concept of India beyond caste,cow and curry. The"caste" system as it exists today is a direct by product of the Britnazi rule in India. Ossification started off with the first census carried out in the 19th century.

Heres a good article for those who want to go beyond the racist stereotypes : http://www.infinityfoundation.com/mandala/h_es/h_es_hobso_caste_frameset.htm

The maximum number of students in traditional Indian schools were the so-called "lower castes" of today. A good read would be Dharampals book " The Beautiful Tree: Indigenous India Education in the Eighteenth Century".

It is available for free download here : http://www.samanvaya.com/dharampal/

de amateureconoom said...

It's the end result of a society that doesn't provide people with a meangfull identity. This made me realise that this system of education (I only have experience in my own country which is Belgium) and jobs all is their to strip whatever is your personality. Your soul is being killed and distraction by countless images (sexual, violence) are crippeling you as a caring, loving human being.

Jean-Paul Printemps said...

The socialization of humanity into mechanical roles has led to the first world/third world polarity in our time. Activists in India have pointed to the stark, systematic poverty in their country, in contrast to what pre-existed colonial domination.

Mercantile powers claim to introduce systems that can end poverty. What they are doing is replacing a simple, sustainable lifestyle with a mechanized predation.