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Bureaucratic Insanity: Free to be Slaves

Bureaucratic Insanity: Free to be Slaves

Schools in America today are less concerned about the overall welfare of students than they are with making sure that they obey all the rules, no matter how pointless, and produce good test scores. The emphasis on mindless obedience and rote learning prepares them for dehumanizing office work, where employers don’t even try to pretend that they care about the welfare of their workers. Instead, they shame them for taking vacation time and force them to work overtime for free. Employers and school administrators only care about what they can produce: children are treated no differently from widgets, and employees are treated no differently from robots.

It is only a slight exaggeration to say that the hierarchical power structure embodied in our rigidly regulated and controlled schools and jobs closely resembles the relationship between a master and a slave. But there is a difference: slaves are under no obligation to pretend that they are free and can be as sullen and apathetic as they wish. They know that they are property, they do the bare minimum to avoid punishment, and they cannot be shamed for such behavior any more than a lawn mower or a toaster oven. We, on the other hand, require both students and employees to cheerfully and meekly deny their slave-like status, and to perpetuate the fiction that they are not compelled to conform but are acting of their own free will. They are gradually driven insane by the chronic cognitive dissonance caused by the mismatch between their pretend-freedom and their all-too-real slavery. In the following excerpt from his new book, Bureaucratic Insanity: The American Bureaucrat’s Descent into Madness, Sean Kerrigan delves into the nature of this effect.

 

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