Today happens to be Bonfire Day in the UK — a commemoration of Guy Fawkes day here. The story behind it is interesting (heck anyone who’s see V for Vendetta should know the basic story) and it’s a novel piece of history to commemorate.
That said, my little neighborhood in Wincobank (Sheffield) South Yorkshire has sounded like a bloody war zone for the last 4 to 5 hours. And while the shiny flashing light through the window is pretty and our neighbors clearly have spent a good chunk of cash on something that ends up being community entertainment, why can’t they just have a damn bonfire and be done with it? Or organize a few city fireworks displays and people who want to go, can contribute to the fireworks fund.
Now, I know I’m American and we have our Independence Day — but in most of the US fireworks are heavily regulated and in many states anything that makes big bangs and goes up in the air is illegal (we have enough problems with out of control forest fires in the half of the country that is high and dry… we don’t need more hot sparks to contribute to them). So, for the most part we rely on town displays or have cute (i.e., pathetic) little home displays of sparklers.
I don’t just say this because after the 3rd hour the artillery shelling gets a bit annoying, but because there are two populations that are actually negatively affected by this. I’ll begin with the ones who are the most helpless — the dogs. Not surprisingly dogs find them mc-scarry and pretty much the only advise is to make sure they don’t hurt themselves or run away… and if they do run away make sure they’re microchipped so if they don’t get hit by a car, you can get them back. I’m not trying to be macabre but Dani — my normally happy-g0-skippy beast has been going bat shit crazy for the last 4′ish hours. Xander, my tough guy, is sitting on my feet just to make sure that I’m not scared by them ;).
However, our furry friends aren’t the only ones affected — our veterans are likely to be as well. And after a decade of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq both the UK and US have plenty of veterans likely suffering from PTSD. In the UK, while the percentage of veterans suffering from PTSD is a debatable question, the numbers seem to be rising. In the US, the numbers seems to suggest between 25 and 30% of those returning from war are affected by PTSD, a number that’s consistent no matter what conflict/war they fought in.
Not surprisingly, not only do fireworks and dogs not mix, but fireworks and PTSD veterans don’t mix. For the veterans, is it any wonder? I’m surprised the numbers aren’t higher for soldiers and residents in war zones… the now 5 hours of ‘shelling’ is about to do me in. For people who have actually been in war zones, 360 degrees of shelling sounds from fireworks is likely to produce a reaction, even if they don’t suffer from PTSD.
I enjoy fireworks — they’re pretty and shiny. I don’t suffer from PTSD and while the 5 hours of the craziness is annoying, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it, but I think we should probably think of our furry friends and our veterans. Portland State University has a number of recommendations for consideration of both veterans and pets … bottom line use common sense and be considerate!
So, here I am flying across the American heartland, crushed into the cattle car that is modern air travel with the aggressive armrest using middle-aged guy beside me highlighting almost everything in a JAMA article, then going back and underlining about half of the highlights. Directly in front of me is the guy who moves like Stevie Wonder grooving to his music, yet this guy has no music turned on, he just randomly moves like that. Oh yeah, and Stevie Wonder thinks it’s cool to recline his chair all the way back and then flop around in it like an epileptic cow. Quality.
So as I’m sitting here updating my FourSquare locations with places like ‘Mile Marker 161′ & ‘Deserted On-Ramp’ in Kansas or ‘God’s Country’ (a farm) in Missouri, I’m completely amused that I can do that on the plane. So, now I get to dot my near mayorships of random shitty places in the US all the way from Dallas to Chicago amd then hopefully een Chicago to the Atlantic later (assuming that I make my connection in Chicago…the odds are about even on that one right now).
There is an absurdity about modern life. We share and post all kinds of meaningless shit in social media and think we’re keeping in touch with those we know or once knew (btw, asshole behind me is about three knee hands in my kidneys away from a stern ‘fuck off’ facial expression…and yes, my seat is in its upright position), but in a way it is kind of like being around them. Must of the stuff that happens on a daily basis is pretty much of the ‘hey, I took a huge dump’ quality and variety, yet that’s what we share with those most close to us.
So is the fact that this goes out to the couple of hundred people we know on Facebook and Twitter, some if whom we haven’t seen in 5, 10, or more years worthless? I don’t think so, especially for those of us who have moved around. Where we were once links by the places we live, now we’re more linked by the connections (good, bad, and ugly) that we choose to keep. Is this a good thing? Who the hell knows?
But at this point, I can amuse myself and maybe 10 others with bumfuck egypt updates and wait for the verdict on whether I’m going to make my connection to Manchester out of Chicago….
… a post script — I made my connection with 6 minutes to spare before they closed the plane doors to Manchester.
Can you guess the context for the title?…………………Bureaucracy!
I recently found a quotation that summarizes the relationship between people and bureaucracy beautifully:
“Some third person decides your fate: this is the whole essence of bureaucracy.” ― Alexandra Kollontai, La Oposición Obrera
Just by way of contextualizing Kollontai’s comments, she was a Marxist feminist who worked for and won significant advances in women’s rights in the newly formed Soviet Union. Oh no, now I’ve gone and done it — I’ve identified the work of not just a woman but a Marxist feminist as a way to critique bureaucracy. That’s practically an abomination in the United States, but let’s get beyond the dogma for a few moments to realize that most of us have been hosed by some kind of bureaucrat. When most people think of bureaucracy, they think of the public sector and we know it’s easy to demonize the annoyances we have with government bureaucracies. In fact, both the typical critiques and defenses of bureaucracy are always framed in terms of this false separation of the public and private sector. Yet, these very boring and traditionally politicized debates about whether government is good or bad (yawn) really miss the underlying nature of bureaucracy — it is an organizational tool meant to separate work and accountability.
Bureaucracies can exist in any type of organization from public to private to nonprofit/ nongovernmental.
For example, several years ago I was trying to do research with an indigenous rights group and the structures of their organization were used to direct me from person-to-person and phone call-to-phone call. What I found out later was that because I was white, they were very nervous about letting me do any interviews with the members of the movement, but they were hesitant to actually say that. Now, in a historical context I can understand that, but it’s still a racist conclusion not based on the evaluation of me or my project. Yet, the organizational structure that was used in order to communicate the non-decision decision — bureaucracy. Ok… so nonprofit bureaucracy… CHECK.
Private organizations might have some of the most infuriating bureaucracies ever. We had Verizon Fios at an apartment and loved the fiber optic cable and internet — it was great. Then we moved to a house where we couldn’t get the Fios because it wasn’t available. We set up the new account, shifted our contract to a different provider but still using the Verizon packaging because we had the two-year contract. No problem, right? Yeah, until they charged us for early termination plus messed up a few other things. Here’s where the true bureaucratic craziness comes in — I spent 5 hours on a Saturday being passed from person-to-person, each claiming that it wasn’t their department, so by the time that I had spoken with several departments two and three times, each trying to scapegoat someone else, I lost my mind, used my sailor language, spoke to a manager and we finally got things straightened out — or so I thought. Three months later, while I was out of the country the television service was cut off and because it was in my name, I had to deal with it — my husband could not. After about an hour of sorting things out on the phone at international cell phone rates (yes, from Verizon as well), I just paid the whole bill only to be issued a full refund within 3 weeks. Ok…so private sector bureacracy… CHECK
And, then there’s the obvious governmental bureaucracy (and no, this time, I’m not going to use an American example… there are too many fun ones here, but I’ll vary). The citizens of the UK, pissed off with the economy, Gordon Brown (and his unfortunate microphone gaffe), and the Labour party splits their votes between the Tories, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats (who as far as I can make out are the party that promises the world but seldom has the power to deliver). Absent a clear majority, a coalition had to be formed and the Liberal Democrats decide to back a Tory government. And without a clear citizen mandate, they do as most conservatives do — move forward with the fervent conviction in their ideology behaving as though they have a mandate from the people. So, now in the UK the bureaucracy’s response to a factory worker whose hand had been severed in an accident trying to get public assistance? You still have one hand, you can work in your career field. Then there’s immigration — an even bigger clusterfuck. Again, absent a strong mandate, they rush 1,001 (no, not literally) rule changes about immigration through to be implemented in mid-July screwing up the system so long that the first of September a lot of those new rules had to be changed in order to even get international students into the country. For the rest of us awaiting news, it pushes our applications back months only to find that the rule changes have taken what was described in June as an easily supported application for settlement to a rejection but because they took so long, it screws up other avenues for visas in the short-term. Ok, so public sector bureaucracy… CHECK
So, let’s come back to the Marxist feminist’s critique of bureaucracies — third persons making choices for others (and often screwing up our lives). Now, when well used, these kinds of rule systems can be helpful. For example, even within Kollontai’s work, she wasn’t advocating doing away with the government bureaucracies that discriminated against women — her argument was that the bureaucracy must make better decisions for the people it governed.
In fact, that is a fair response to all bureaucracies — their existence isn’t the problem, their use to scapegoat owning uncomfortable decisions, to fleece consumers out of money, or to mess with peoples’ life plans (among so many other effects) are the problem. Too often, we see people in positions of authority in bureaucracy who have lost their humanity, their minds, or just a basic grasp on reality that rules are necessary to keep things in society and life ordered but people cannot and should not use rules (or rule changes) to fail to do their job CORRECTLY.
It was not appropriate to use a bureaucracy to justify a racist argument against granting me research access just because it was more convenient compared to telling me that because I was white I wasn’t being granted access (later confirmed in a face-to-face). It isn’t appropriate to use an organization’s structure to hurt their consumers service or financially. And it’s certainly not appropriate to screw up existing (and probably already bureaucratically challenged) policies with even less clear and less sensible policies.
Like with most other Marxist critiques of capitalism and bourgeois problems, the critique is spot on. The challenge comes in what people can do about it, which is often the failing of Marxist critique — identifies the problems but doesn’t pose nearly as many solutions. With regard to nonprofits and private companies our recourse is often a bit limited because we can only indirectly affect them — unless enough people are pissed off like we saw with the mass campaign against Glenn Beck on Fox directed at threatening his advertisers with the loss of business. Absent that, we can at least most affect government bureaucracies through the elections process.
Yet, that doesn’t even address the more fundamental challenge of bureaucracies — even when change is brought about, later bureaucracies can come in and fuck it all up (e.g., Stalin’s removal of many of the protections gained for women initially after the revolution in the USSR or Congressional removal of the protections of the Glass-Steagall act protecting the economy from the financial industry–thanks to the GOP Congress and lack of advocacy from the Clinton administration). Bureaucracy is necessary but it must be managed. It cannot be left to the lazy, unmotivated, and self-serving people that often self-select into these types of positions — protected from owning responsibility.
If you build it, they will come!
My Dad is having a minor surgery today to repair a hernia. He’s 69 years old and on Medicare and I’m glad for it because since he turned 65, for the first time in his life, he’s had affordable access to medical care. You see, my parents have always been self-employed and there were a lot of years where proper regular medical care was a luxury they couldn’t afford.
And then in the years leading up to their eligibility for Medicare, their health insurance premiums were about $650/month….EACH. So, for a family making around $65,000 per year, about one quarter of their income went to their health insurance premiums. Gold plan? I think not, they still had a $2,500 co-pay, plus cost sharing up to $7,500…each. One year, they both had to have surgeries, so they paid 47% of their annual income that year to medical expenses, and they had insurance. Fortunately, they were able to shoulder the expense, unlike the thousands of Americans each year who have to declare bankruptcy because of medical expenses (about 60% of American bankruptcies are a result of medical expenses).
Do you want to know the irony of it all? My Dad’s a lifelong Republican, who has spent his whole life voting against his own interests. He’s spent his whole life begrudging ‘government interference’ in education, health care, and life in general. Yet, my whole family are the products of public education. My grandparents and my parents (all faithful GOP members) have all taken more out of the federal system than they ever contributed. And yet, each and every one of them would’ve voted against any or all of these programs.
Thankfully, politicians have more sense than my family (scary thought) and have enacted policies designed to educate and help at least some segments of the American population in spite of themselves. But this is the problem… We have a political system that relies on voters and politicians to be sensible and focused on not only their own good, but what’s good for society.
So, now as we look ahead to the 2012 election, we face a fundamental question…do we want to live in civil society or “Deadwood”. While I’m pretty confident I’d make it alright in Deadwood, I don’t think most would. Yet, when you listen to the rhetoric of the right, I genuinely don’t think they understand the implications of their advocacy. I also don’t think it’s because they’re evil, I do think that they’re so isolated from where regular Americans live that they just can’t understand the lack of access absent shared costs through government programs (notice shared costs, not free).
As for the citizens of Deadwood, people like my family, they’ve all drunk the Kool-Aid, they fail to think, and they can’t see beyond their own fake world … one where people are fooled into thinking the interests of the wealthy are the same as the interests of the working class. See, that’s the big lie in America — the ‘American Dream’ sometimes happens, kind of like winning Lotto, but for the vast majority we just spend our $1 each week to be disappointed, and then get on with the rest of our lives.
So, as I’m looking around this waiting room, at a majority of old folks having surgeries, I’m glad they’ve left Deadwood… at least once they reach 65, no matter whether they vote their interests or are like my family, vote against their interest, their family’s interests, and the interests of average Americans. That’s one reason representative democracy is a heck of a lot better than direct democracy :).
Unless you’re a responsible citizen.
It’s nearing the “big” election in the US — the one that rolls around every four years and where we still only have about a 60% voter turn out in a banner year (i.e., 2008). In a midterm election, like 2010, the figure drops to about 40%. Now, as we’re approaching the 2012 general election, the voter registration drives are in full force and honestly, I ask why bother? Seriously – This is a question I ask anyone (liberal or conservative) who says, “but I’m not very political, so I go with what I hear around me…”… why vote?
If folks aren’t political, then why vote if you’re not genuinely informed about multiple sides of an issue or multiple candidates? I’ve had a lot of occasions on local issues and local elections (e.g., judges) where I just haven’t cast a vote because I had no idea genuinely whether or not a particular candidate or issue was good, so I figured, why vote a party line when that may not actually be the best choice?
I think this is a challenge because we have this idea that voting is inherently good. It’s not… we can make bad decisions (anyone ever regretted someone they dated?), but we’re certainly more likely to make bad decisions when they’re not informed decisions. However, there’s this pressure that gets put on us to participate in our democracy because we think we have to… well… we should, but if we’re not prepared then why participate when we only know a part of the story? I’m all for people getting involved because the decisions that get made at the local, state, and federal levels affects us (e.g., health care, etc.) and because there isn’t anyone nor any party with all the answers, yet it seems like we don’t ask the questions to force an answer most of the time.
I’m also sick of hearing people bitch about government not doing what they wanted — not representing the people. Well, the majority of voting Americans are dumbasses — they either don’t vote (i.e., the 60% who didn’t bother to vote in 2010… even the 40% who didn’t vote in 2008) or they don’t know enough about politics to make a reasoned decision. If you are not political — don’t screw it up for the rest of us. If you don’t trust the rest of us to make your decision, then be a responsible citizen and learn something about history, politics, economics, and start following this stuff.
We get the government that we deserve and clearly in the last decade it’s been a dysfunctional government because our populace is too lazy, entitled, and self-absorbed to make critical and reasoned decisions about the things that actually affect us on a daily basis like education and foreign policy. Instead, we get so worked up by whether a gay man gets to marry his life partner or what a woman is doing with her body that we forget what government is supposed to be there for — to protect us from the state of nature.
So, ignore the media campaigns this year — if you’re not already registered to vote… don’t bother. If you haven’t been following politics — if you didn’t bother to watch any of the GOP primary debates, if you don’t watch/read multiple political news sources (with multiple viewpoints) on a regular basis, if you shy away from political conversations because it’s not ‘nice’ to disagree, or anything along those lines — save the rest of us the annoyance of your irrational decision-making and just don’t vote!
As the US was in its infancy, Thomas Jefferson argued, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” He didn’t mean that we all had to have PhD’s or even bachelor’s degrees — he meant that it was a citizens’ responsibility to understand the world, the issues, and the politics if we were ever to protect the ‘freedom’ that so many Americans are so quick to talk about. We have failed and we should be embarrassed because we haven’t lived up to our end of the bargain.
Welcome to my World of Warcraft. My life partner (who shall remain nameless lest he post this blog onto crazy people sites ) introduced me to the game in 2006. I’ve played since then and collected quite a few characters, stuff, and thoroughly enjoy killing animals, other players, and NPC’s… I even enjoy occasionally laying waste to whole towns of innocent people. Why?! Because it’s a game and it’s fun.
So, let me introduce you to my army — on the Horde side fighting for the Schipperkee Psychos (from left to right, of course) is:
- Hookembevo my level 38 Tauren Hunter. Yes, he’s named after the UT mascot.
- Xmarxthethug my level 60 Orc Death Knight
- Xanderbug my level 67 Tauren Druid. He’s named after one of my dogs.
- Sizzlinhot my level 68 Blood Elf Paladin. C’mon, like the Blood Elves don’t deserve silly names?!
- Zyla my level 85 Blood Elf Warlock. She’s been several races on multiple servers and is all about slaughter.
On the Alliance side fighting for the Ginger Ninjas is:
- Audny my level 85 Draenei Shaman. That’s my first character and will likely change names soon.
- Dizzy Dani my level 83 Night Elf Death Knight. She’s named after another of my dogs.
- KylieJean my level 85 Night Elf Priest. She’s also named after one of my dogs.
- FunkyArtemis my level 62 Draenei Hunter. It seemed appropriate to name a female hunter Artemis.
- XanderZone my level 85 Worgen Hunter — No, not named for the Vin Diesel character’s ‘show’ on XXX — named after the dog again.
I introduce you to my army and would remind you that I not only have friends, a life, a job, and don’t live in my parents’ basement (despite the annoying stereotypes), but I’m also not a gun owner (and really think we need to reconsider our modern interpretation of gun ownership in the US) and generally think that violence is for small minded idiots who are too thick to figure out a better way to resolve conflict (yes, there are always exceptions to the rules).
Yet, I really like playing this game — in fact, I enjoy fantasy violence and if I were running for the State Senate in Maine this year as a Democrat the GOP would have used one of my forms of entertainment as a character attack and listed it as a reason to believe that I live a “bizarre double life” and they would ‘have questions about my maturity and ability to make decisions for my constituents’. Now, before you accuse me of being one of those liberals who sees conspiracies all around me, blah blah blah and yadda yadda yadda (insert whatever daft bs falls out of Sean Hannity’s mouth on a regular basis), this is actually happening to Maine State Senate Candidate Colleen Lachowicz (D) who just happens to have an Orc Rogue and plays World of Warcraft.
I honestly thought that my first post on WOW would come under the header of “Guilty Pleasures”, instead this comes under “Seriously?!” because this may be one of the most pathetic political arguments and is coupled with one of the most annoying protectionist arguments possible. On the political side, this is a genuine indicator of the lack of ideas, lack of advocacy, and unwillingness to try to focus on what people need that I’ve seen from the GOP since Sarah Palin’s “Don’t Retreat, Reload” campaign during the 2010 midterm elections. Seriously, GOP — is your party so devoid of leadership, arguments, and viable positions that you think this is the only way to win an election?
Now, the other annoying issue inherent with critiques of ‘violent games’ and gamers– the arguments about the ‘risks’ of fantasy violence… that somehow we all are going to someday crack and go postal on everyone. I have a friend who did his Master’s thesis in 1997 about this very topic and I know that there have been a couple of hundred studies from several fields on this very topic.
After all of this study, you know what researchers have really found to support the worries that fantasy violence leads us down the slippery slope (yes, a logical fallacy for good reason) to real life violence?
- Fantasy violence may stimulate the parts of our brain that reduce inhibitions, self-control, and arouse our emotions.
- So, among teens who already have problems with controlling inhibitions, etc. this may help them make some bad choices. Yet, there haven’t been any documented cases of playing video games actually leading to violent behavior.
- Now, how about adults? Our moral systems are in place, so there isn’t the same “risks” associated. In fact, while brain scans of young men show increased ‘arousal’ after playing video games, there’s no change in adults’ normative beliefs about violence and aggression.
- While it’s possible that games can arouse our emotions, the research is just too inconclusive and biased to really suggest there’s a credible risk.
- Yet, there is clinical research that found that violent video games may actually provide an eye health benefit to people suffering from particular eye problems.
Here’s the thing — parents have to be responsible for their annoying brats and not only help them develop good decision-making abilities but figure out what’s appropriate and inappropriate for them at different stages of development. There’s lots of research out there to help.
For the rest of us — frankly, if we like slaughtering creatures at 10pm at night because it gives us a release from our day, leave us the hell alone. Most of us live perfectly mature and productive lives outside of our silly obsessions. Oh yeah… and GOP, get a life.