December 19, 2006
God Rest Ye Merry BureaucratsBy Christopher Chantrill
How does the old carol go? Something like this?
God rest ye merry, bureaucrats,
At this time of good cheer we ought not to forget bureaucrats. This is the age of the bureaucrat, after all. We build vast temple complexes to honor bureaucracy at the center of every major city-office buildings. The French for office is bureau, but they call their bureaucrats fonctionnaires, functionaries. Bureaucrats are the champions of order and stability. And like the gentlemen addressed in the original carol, it is not clear exactly what they do. But it is impolite to ask.
Let nothing you dismay.
People who take up the function of bureaucrat, we know, are people who are afraid of everything. Protected from almost every adversity, they are consequently frightened to do anything that might stir things up.
Perhaps that is why the complete plans of the Ba'athist insurgency, discovered by low-level US bureaucrats in the ruins of the Iraqi foreign ministry soon after the fall of Baghdad, never got up the chain of command, according to Stephen F. Hayes of the Weekly Standard.
Imagine how the intelligence might have interfered with the well-laid plans of the US State Department and US Defense Department to transform the land between the rivers into a bureaucratic democracy just like the United States.
For Jesus Christ our Savior,
Was born on Christmas Day;
Hmm. That won't do. Obscure prophets can't save the planet, not in today's complex society. Saving the planet starts with scientific research conducted by teams of government scientists writing in peer-reviewed journals. Experts agree that the symbolic sacrifice of God's Son will not be enough to save the world. Real sacrifice by real people will be needed.
To save us all from Satan's power,
When we were gone astray.
How did humans manage to keep to the straight and narrow down the ages without the rational, factual supervision of bureaucratic experts?
Thank goodness for wage and hour laws to save us from the oppression of those dark Satanic mills. And compulsory education to make sure that our children are splendidly literate and numerate. And pure food laws to make sure that Taco Bell and Olive Garden don't poison us with E. Coli. But do we really need to be protected from minor things like unsafe sex?
O tidings of comfort and joy,
For Jesus Christ our Savior
Was born on Christmas day.
We are going to have to do something about that Jesus Christ bit, because it might be offensive to some people. Perhaps we could replace the Savior with the patron saint of bureaucrats. But who is the patron saint of the fonctionnaires?
Surprisingly enough, Google is not that helpful. One scholar recommends Confucius, certainly the inspiration of the Chinese imperial bureaucracy. Another proposes St. Matthew, a tax collector before talent spotters discovered his literary talent. Or there is this:
For Christopher Columbus
Was born on Fitzmas Day
That's just our little joke. Fitzmas, you will remember, was the day on which bureaucratic special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was going to indict the evil genius Karl Rove and maybe even the Vice President for performing the unspeakable act of naming the name of a bureaucrat operating deep in the Central Intelligence Agency. Taboo is taboo, and some things are so sacred that they must never be mentioned except obliquely through the manipulation of symbols in obscure bureaucratic rites.
'Tis the season, and we should observe its injunction of Peace on Earth, good will towards men, even bureaucrats. But has anyone noticed that the west is trying to win the war on terror with ponderous bureaucratic organizations that are resisting mightily their orders to engage with an enemy that is, significantly, organized into loose entrepreneurial bands? What would the late John Boyd, the inventor of the OODA Loop, have said about that? In his understanding you won a conflict by thinking and acting faster than your adversary. The idea was to render the adversary confused and demoralized.
At Christmas 2006 you'd have to admit that someone-Satan, perhaps-has done a pretty good job of making the United States confused and demoralized. The bureaucrats had better make merry while they still can.