Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dickens on Bureaucracy

Just one of many reasons Sir Charles is the greatest writer in English except for Shakespeare.  Here he is on the Office of Circumlocution, ahead of his time, as usual.  Also go here for great Orwell take on him and his greatness and societal impact. Dickens: 
The Circumlocution Office was (as everybody knows without being told) the most important Department under Government. No public business of any kind could possibly be done at any time without the acquiescence of the Circumlocution Office. Its finger was in the largest public pie, and in the smallest public tart. It was equally impossible to do the plainest right and to undo the plainest wrong without the express authority of the Circumlocution Office. If another Gunpowder Plot had been discovered half an hour before the lighting of the match, nobody would have been justified in saving the parliament until there had been half a score of boards, half a bushel of minutes, several sacks of official memoranda, and a family-vault full of ungrammatical correspondence, on the part of the Circumlocution Office.
This glorious establishment had been early in the field, when the one sublime principle involving the difficult art of governing a country, was first distinctly revealed to statesmen. It had been foremost to study that bright revelation and to carry its shining influence through the whole of the official proceedings. Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving—HOW NOT TO DO IT....
It is true that every new premier and every new government, coming in because they had upheld a certain thing as necessary to be done, were no sooner come in than they applied their utmost faculties to discovering How not to do it. It is true that from the moment when a general election was over, every returned man who had been raving on hustings because it hadn’t been done, and who had been asking the friends of the honorable gentleman in the opposite interest on pain of impeachment to tell him why it hadn’t been done, and who had been asserting that it must be done, and who had been pledging himself that it should be done, began to devise, How it was not to be done. It is true that the debates of both Houses of Parliament the whole session through, uniformly tended to the protracted deliberation, How not to do it.
It is true that the royal speech at the opening of such session virtually said, My lords and gentlemen, you have a considerable stroke of work to do, and you will please to retire to your respective chambers, and discuss, How not to do it. It is true that the royal speech, at the close of such session, virtually said, My lords and gentlemen, you have through several laborious months been considering with great loyalty and patriotism, How not to do it, and you have found out; and with the blessing of Providence upon the harvest (natural, not political), I now dismiss you.
All this is true, but the Circumlocution Office went beyond it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

TheCROWN ' s



" . . . adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.

Fog everywhere.
Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows;
fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city.
Fog on the Essex marshes,
fog on the Kentish heights.
Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs;
fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of great ships;
fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats.
Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards;
fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin;
fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ’prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds.
. . .
The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation, Temple Bar.

And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln’s Inn Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery.
. . .
which has its decaying houses and its blighted lands in every shire,
which has its worn-out lunatic in every madhouse and its dead in every churchyard,
which has its ruined suitor with his slipshod heels and threadbare dress borrowing and begging through the round of every man’s acquaintance,
which gives to monied might the means abundantly of wearying out the right,
which so exhausts finances, patience, courage, hope, so overthrows the brain and breaks the heart, that there is not an honourable man among its practitioners who would not give — who does not often give — the warning,

“Suffer any wrong that can be done you rather than come here!”