“In any bureaucracy, there’s a natural tendency to let the system become an excuse for inaction” – Chris Fussell
A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed by a BC reporter, Melanie Green, regarding the conundrum of aging with a disability. This was done, in part, because of her interest in the recently release B.C. Seniors Poverty Report Card. One of the common themes of the interview, as well as the report card, was the increasing dependence on a complicated bureaucracy which got me to thinking, so let me spin you a little tale using my sense of romanticism.
When I was younger, and I’m sure this hasn’t changed, I would traverse the urban and rural fields of the outland of our society while avoiding the baron’s of bureaucracy as much as possible. That is one of the benefits of youth. The only times I would wander into the wasteland of a baron was when I had no option. If I needed a drivers licence I would have to enter the fiefdom of the transportation baron. If I needed a birth certificate or marriage licence I would slowly slink into the fiefdom controlled by the baron of vital statistics. When forced I would enter the fiefdoms with the stealth of Strider (Aragorn) rather than the tumultuous entrance of the Nazgûl otherwise I traversed the hinterland in an attempt to be as unnoticed by the baron’s as possible.
These baron’s of bureaucracy were all appointments of a much larger institute made up of our elected officials. The elected officials were really the only gatekeepers of the modern day serfdom. And whether you choose to believe it or not we are all serf’s in our own way. Our life’s are governed and controlled by bodies of appointed baron’s of bureaucracy. We have some control which is called a “vote” but that is a control that almost a third of the population ignores. In other words you choose to be a serf and then complaint when a baron of bureaucracy puts barriers in front of you.
Again, in youth, we just jump over that stone fence and keep traversing the area while avoiding the cottage of the baron. As a young man I didn’t let the vagaries of regulations get in my way. I wasn’t about to let some baron tell me (or charge me) to pitch a tent in some picturesque valley to enjoy an evening camp-over. And I would be damned if I wasn’t going to drive ten K (sometimes more but I did have a bit of sense on self regulation) over the posted speed limit. And forty years ago I wasn’t about to let some baron of bureaucracy tell me I couldn’t smoke a joint based purely on their regulations and ideology. Now here we sit just weeks away from the legalization of marijuana in Canada arguing over which baron’s the control will be given to.
I have little faith in a group of baron’s who will spend $15,000 of Canadian tax dollars to keep some marginalized family from receiving $2000 worth of speech therapy for their disabled child. These are the baron’s that do that, not the elected overlords. The baron’s keep that kind of thing to themselves all in an effort to maintain their own fiefdom using the funds grant to them by those we elected to collect our taxes. In other words these baron’s use our money to suppress our freedoms and rights. Common sense never enters the picture until serfdom outrage reaches the ears in the houses of power, when we by-pass these baron’s.
One (of many) disadvantages of aging is the loss of the ability to jump those bureaucratic
fences. The walls, like our abilities, are beginning to crumble and we are forced to face up to the baron’s with more frequency. We start to learn that all of those things we took for granted in our youth are much more complicated than we realized. We begin to see how little authority the elected officials have and how much bureaucracy can endure. The bureaucratic fields that have been protected by the baron’s whose interest is in the maintenance of their fiefdoms not the service of individuals. And as seniors we become much more subject to this type of bureaucratic abuse and incompetence.
I will leave with my most recent personal experience. I recently returned to my old fiefdom of Calgary. Of course, as with any major move one must deal with many baron’s to renew a fertile living environment. Imagine my surprise when a local Calgary baron (Motor Vehicles Branch) was unable to transfer my BC drivers licence to an Alberta one due to an Ontario suspension. I have not lived in Ontario since 1976 but I had to begin my journey through the proliferation of Ontario baron’s of bureaucracy. I had to discover why my “Ontario” drivers licence was being held hostage for non-payment of fines.
Three weeks, seven people and four different departments (I’m guesstimating here) but I suspect about $2000 of government funds were invested to discover two outstanding fines from 1974. One for $13 and the other for $27. Why I find this surprising and frustrating is that I transferred my Ontario licence to Alberta in 1976, no problems. Then I transferred my Alberta licence to BC in 1990, no problems. Then I transferred my BC back to Alberta in 2008, no problems. Then again in 2013 back to BC, no problems. Finally, returning to Alberta in 2018, all of a sudden, PROBLEM. However in order to get my Alberta drivers licence I had to resolve this issue with baron’s three provinces away.
To add insult to injury, of the seven people I spoke with (plus an extensive letter to the Fiefdom of Transportation dated May 23) no one could tell me why this had never surfaced before. No one could tell me exactly what these fines were for (I never owned a car in Toronto) or what the contravention had been. All they could tell me was they were so old that I could only settle them by presenting payment in an “Ontario” court house. No online, no mailed in cheque, just payment in court to have them purged from a system they weren’t in.
Doesn’t even make sense but then the baron’s of bureaucracy seldom make sense. And unfortunately seniors are much more subject to the chains and abuse of these baron’s. Luckily I had a buddy currently visiting Ontario so I e-mailed him the details (with him laughing all the way) and he will go pay the $40 for me. What I will say is that our budget issues are not due to lack of money but misuse of money. There is absolutely no sense in investing over $2000 in time and energy to collect a $40 fine from 46 years ago. Contact your elected rep and demand better use of your tax dollars, like maybe improving health or education services.
Have a good one…