Kafka, The Castle and Local Councils
....There is a passage in The Castle, his other novel about impenetrable bureaucracy, where Kafka describes the mind of officialdom: “It's a working principle of the Head Bureau that the very possibility of error must be ruled out of account. The ground principle is justified by the consummate organisation of the whole authority.”
But of course the organisation is anything but consummate. It is riddled with incompetence. And it is on the double rock of obduracy and inefficiency that the whole principle of localism so often founders. Those who argue that power should be devolved downwards so that the citizens can be brought into closer contact with decision-makers, and can thus make their voice heard, ignore the fact that it is at town hall level that communication is often hardest. Anyone who has ever attempted to sort out matters such as housing benefit, disability allowances or planning permission, let alone challenged the might and right of a council decision, knows that finding someone who is prepared to listen or to understand is well-nigh impossible. Councillors or local MPs may do all they can to help, but when it comes to negotiating the system, even they may find themselves lost.
Yet no party now argues against the principle of ceding power to local authorities. Labour advocates it, the Liberal Democrats embrace it, and David Cameron, for the Tories, has become one of its greatest champions. “Local councils should be the collective instrument of local people rather than the local outposts of central government,” he said recently. At the same time, he added: “I have always believed that power needs to be accountable - and that means visible.”
There is, however, nothing less accountable or more invisible than a hidebound bureaucracy, exercising its right to omniscience and an implacable resistance to reason....
There is a line in that grim but absorbing movie The Lives of Others, about the East German police state, where the Stasi interrogator, instructing a class of students, explains how to tell the difference between a guilty and an innocent suspect: “An innocent prisoner will become more angry by the hour due to the injustice suffered,” he says. “He will shout and rage. A guilty prisoner becomes more calm and quiet. Or he cries.”
Well I'm all for the shouting and raging, though sometimes I get so tired by the continual banging of my head on the wall I feel like becoming quiet and crying, I must remember not to in case they see it as guilt.