Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mole Series # 1

Note: the following four entries are from the Mole series posted on my former truewest blog. The fifth mole piece was posted on May 20 (see list).

Note: The following sad piece of cultural detritus washed up on my leaf-strewn lawn in the mouldy, mouldy month of October. Soaked through with tears and small rice beer, it was encircled by Chinese rubber bands, and apparently tossed onto my premises by unseasonably heavy rains occasioned, no doubt, by global seething.


By which title you are to understand, dear happenstance reader, that I am a mole of the burrowing, semi-blind kind, a group of which is called by common tradition a labor, which is an apt description of what we do: we labor blindly. Our particular clan, the Mouldywarps of Yorkshire, once migrated to White County, Tennessee, and there let that matter rest.

Here, fallen upon hard times, I labor in a bureaucracy of the State, for vole crumbs and roots. My great great something Grimm-Molus, Viscount, said it all: "We are obsessed by the idea of regulation, and our Masters of Requests refuse to understand that there is an infinity of things in a great state with which a government should not concern itself."

Not any more. As my cousin the philologist, Warpus Root-Searcher, informed me, a bureau is a French desk covered with baize (yum!), and a –cracy means power. A bureaucracy is a power desk that seeks to dominate everything through rules, and a bureaucrat, no matter how mild in appearance, is nothing put a power addict seeking to devour. Satan, my grandfather Luminous Mouldywarp declared, is the supreme bureaucrat (cf. C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters).

These missives from a mole are meant to deepen and understand exactly what it means to live in a State dominated and constituted by bureaucracy. Max Weber, the supposedly great (but very important) founder of sociology, said several prophetic things about a society under bureaucracy. One, he lauded a supremely efficient system based on hierarchy and rules that would supplant the traditional hierarchies composed of highly individualized (and therefore unpliable) human beings; two, he realized that bureaucracies could become inefficient when they tried to deal with individual persons and cases, which tend to become troublesome, have elbows and other odd characteristics, and often rebel against those who are only trying to serve their greater good.

Though only a semi-blind mole, I was once able to stay behind after closing hours in the Smithsonian and view an extraordinary exhibit of 19th century photographs of West African chiefs. I was, simply, stunned, and at first I did not know why. Then it came to me as I stood staring at photo after photo of chieftains staring directly at the camera: these men know exactly who they are, without self-doubt or irony or insecurity. Take any lineup from modern times, prisoners or welfare seekers or employees or students, and one can immediately see the contrast. Right away there is the fear that “I don’t really stand in my own shoes, I am waiting for definition from the system which I inhabit or clues from the passing scene of opinion; in fact I am a walking hunger for identity and what I am about, what so many of us are all about, is that desperate hunger, that erasure of the fear that my entire life—if I dare to think of all that in one moment—might amount to nothing after all.”

I am sure that there are other lineups that would yield the same impression as those African chiefs: saints, for instance; and occasional persons in our world who do in fact have complete affirmation down to their toes. One sees them occasionally, even from down here in the grass and roots where true moles dwell. Even a mole can be secure in moleness, as can that wretched cat that comes hunting me. But even being hunted can be wholly authentic because the fear is real, not neurotic.

But now, dear reader of this desperate missive, I am, as the poet said, losing myself, piece by piece, or so I fear. What I try to hold onto just now is my very moleness, which I have brought from the garden and am trying to reprise in the bureaucratic office to which I am confined many hours a week.

More to come.

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