Soulless, by Hardscrabble

Visiting government offices and viewing the apparatchiks, functionaries, and bureaucrats is a trip to the land of the living dead. From Hardscrabble Farmer at theburningplatform.com:

I read somewhere in the past couple of days a comment about the number of souls versus the population. That souls are a rare commodity but bodies- now 8 billion- are common. That the arrangement throughout time of there being enough bodies for each soul to inhabit has tipped back the other way and that now there are far more bodies than available souls, hence the NPC’s. That the majority of the population is simply soulless cattle wandering the landscape and often confused for three dimensional humanity, those who possess mind, body AND soul.

It sounds a bit esoteric, but there seems to be a truth beneath it. When I go out into the world these days I feel like a disembodied spirit, it is almost as if I cannot be seen by huge swaths of the population and when I try to engage them in any way I can see in their eyes that something is missing; they are there and at the same time not present at all…

I had to venture to the State Capitol the other day to see about a license. I went into a building that very easily could have been picked up from the East Germans after the fall of the Berlin Wall and brought over for our use. It was cold, inhuman in it’s size, design and layout and rather than being accommodating, it gave off a hostile vibe, like a fort or a castle. Ironically this was the Department of Health and Human Services.

I arrived in the afternoon, maybe 2:45. It took me a couple of minutes to convey that I was looking for a form to obtain a specific license, then a phone call to someone up in the towers above, then a ten minute hold time while the right expert was located and then another ten minute wait for them to descend to the lobby to speak with me. Citizens are no longer permitted to travel beyond the lobby, they are quarantined until the proper authority can locate them.

During that time I watched the people around me, looked at the posters, observed. There was a prominent post next to the reception window that assured people in twenty-five languages that translators were available. I found that claim to be highly unlikely- after all Tagalog isn’t something most kids in NH can study in High School, but you get the drift. It was important to virtue signal to people in 25 different languages that their needs would be seen to while the rubes in flannel cooled their heels in the lobby.

The functionaries behind the desks, and the man who brought in the American flag (at 2:45?) were very low in terms of intelligence. I easily overheard their comments, the vocabulary they used, their tone and rate of their exchanges and it sounded like something you’d hear in an assisted living facility. I also noticed a steady stream of employees coming out of the elevators and heading for the doors, almost every one of them toting one of those airport style roll behind cases.

It was clear to me that they were getting out of dodge and headed home. In State Government 3 O’clock is the new 5 O’clock. They all had this look of world weariness rarely seen in anything other than post-disaster survivor faces, as if they’d suffered some horrible setback that day and were done with it all. Not one person I observed smiled, not one.

All of them with one exception, a man my age wearing a flannel shirt and work pants who must have been allowed upstairs for some consultation with his betters, were at a minimum of sixty to 100 pounds overweight. There were a few women that were in the morbidly obese category, maybe twice what their body weight should normally be. Remember these are the people responsible for HEALTH and human services.

When the person I was waiting for finally came down it was not the person I’d been waiting for, but someone else from her department selected specifically for her inability to help me with my very simple request for clarification. We sat down at a cast concrete table designed for beings about 30% larger than normal humans and attempted to communicate with one another in English, both our primary languages.

It proved to be a difficult proposition. She understood only what it was that they required from me, not that I had a question that didn’t fit within their pre-selected parameters. The look of complete disengagement? Disinterest? I’m not sure how to classify what I saw looking back at me other than equal parts confusion and I don’t give a fuck. I could see that the last thing I needed was to make myself a target for their bureaucratic wrath and said that I would leave and research my question further on my own before troubling them again and I left.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Brazil, that’s a good comparison for what I encountered. I think that Terry Gilliam’s world provided a humorous undertone that was completely absent in my experience and the actors he chose and the speed with which they moved was almost Mad Men-ish, but in all other ways it was virtually identical.

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