Survivors guide to Bureaucracy

Before, I didn’t know much about bureaucracy, but after having a baby in Belgium and registering a tuk tuk in Thailand, I’ve learnt a few things. Bureaucracy is something that comes between us humans and it’s a way of control that nobody controls. Bureaucracy is a computer built of humans working behind their desks. All humans, who must ignore emotions to keep the Spinning Jenny rolling.

We’ve learnt here that the essence of humanity is empathy and the only way to make the ManMadeMachine human again is to be empathetic towards it. When encountering bureaucrats, act human. Smile, communicate and look at them as an equal human being instead of an obstacle. Help them anyway possible, because they are as much victims of the machine as we are. Showing empathy towards others makes them feel empathy towards you. Reflection is the basic tool for learning. We must learn how to make bureaucracy work. After all, at it’s core it is still human.

For the same reason, give them the papers they need, and try to make their work easier. Try to make human contact. It fastens your own bid and a happy bureaucrat is a good bureaucrat for all of us.

In the Jungle of bureaucracy, aim as high as possible. Try to introduce your problem to the silverback or other bosses. There’s two reasons for this:

1.  They will probably ask you to contact the right person and they know who it is, and the right person does what their boss says. Thats the point of bureaucracy. So instead of begging for recognition from the small bureaucrat, introduce yourself to the big boss.

2.  Silverbacks have power, they are not as tied to the system as the workers. They have some real responsibility and with responsibility comes perspective. In a way silverbacks realise that the machine is just an illusion. So if they have a nice day they might just do your bidding.

As an example, in Belgium after having the baby I had to get a signature from the city judge for the birth certificate. I went to the Palais des justice and because of my lousy french went to the wrong floor, straight in to the office of the judge of supreme court. His secretary told me that I’m on the wrong floor and should queue for 3 weeks to get the signature. Luckily the judge heard the discussion, popped by and after being open and honest with him he signed the paper.

We have all met the cold hearted bureaucrat ants who insist on having one stamp from somebody else before putting his stamp so you could get the third stamp etc. Getting a stamp to get another stamp is just ridiculous. We all know that there’s no point, but not for the Ant. For them it’s life and death. Their responsibility is to follow the rules and that’s all they have power to do.

If people have power, for some reason they want to use it. Of course not everybody, but many. But for the ant the power of the stamp is all they have. They have convinced themselves that the stamp is meaningful, and to them, the stamp symbolises power. If they would skip the procedure, they would lose meaning in their work and with it the only power they have. THEREFORE IT CANNOT BE DONE!

But it can.

Show them that there is more to life than a stamp. There’s a whole world full of meaning waiting to be cherished. Open yourself to them and they will open their eyes and see outside of their bubble. With a good chance you might also see outside of your own bubble, and I tell you that’s an eye opener.

As long as we live in an organised society we will have bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is supposed to be For us, but now we are for the bureaucracy. We can’t fight it, we cant escape it, but we can learn to be human within it. Then it will be for us.


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