giovedì, ottobre 25, 2007

The Querolous American

So I have a new friend, by which I mean someone who I'll buy birthday presents for or at least feel guilty over if I forget or am too broke to buy presents for. Beastly sentence. Anyways, she's American and I like her pretty much best of all the girls who I've met here, and I realized in Paris my dearest girlf is also American. I spend a fair amount of time bashing America. For example, last night at a certain degree of highness, the F-word gave a mini-lecture on German cinema in the 1920's, to which my response was an extended diatribe about how emotionally retarded American cinema remains because of the historically infantilizing effect of the Hay's Code - though obviously I was too high to remember it was the Hay's Code - I think I called it 'that 1930's Jesuit shit' and the F-word understood.

My point is I spend a fair amount of time bashing American market dynamics, political structures, foreign policy, social programs, income inequality, et cetera - maybe less time than I spend bashing France or Canada, but still a disproportionate amount of time considering I've never lived there - and yet the cultural and social reference points I have in common with my American girlfriends makes their company just superb when I'm living abroad. There are particularities to living in Europe which wouldn't be tolerated in Canada, the States, or Australia which I need to discuss with people from those places when they bug me, just so I know I'm not going insane when they piss me off.

For example: though the F-word and I are European citizens and hence have the automatic right to live and work here in Belgium, the mandatory process of acquiring an identity card is one that takes several weeks and a couple of visits to the local city hall and police station. We need the identity card - our passports won't do, because they need to have our address on file. However, when I say the word 'file', I mean a physical slip of paper kept in a physical file, which is copied and given to the cops and other institutional bodies - eventually. And if there is a mistake on that piece of paper, all the copies of that piece of paper must be hunted down and corrected or the mistake will remain for the length of your tenure in Belgium.

In the case of my American friend and her Dutch husband, such a mistake was made four years ago when they registered at the local city hall and the trog civil slave there registered them as living in separate apartments in the same building, though they were married. The consequence of this is that four years later, they're still taxed as individuals instead of as a family, because not all the pieces of paper have been corrected. Every year she complains to the taxation authorities, every year they refer her back to her local city hall so the trog civil slaves there can correct the mistake, every year the trogs fail to do so and every year she's taxed once more as an individual instead of as a family.

Of course, in Canada or the States (at least in California, where she's from), records would be sufficiently integrated and electrified that the mistake could be corrected over the phone, probably whilst talking to the tax people, and never worried about again. But making an effort towards that degree of integration and electrification here - taking away all those little physical slips of paper - would mean that half of the troggy civil slaves responsible for their upkeep, copying, and correcting would become even more redundant than they are now. Then the government would try to cut civil slavey jobs, and then there'd be strikes. The country would shut down for a few weeks, billions of euros pissed down the drain, and in the end the records would stay papery and shitty because it's fundamentally cheaper that way. If you think about it stupidly.

5 commenti:

Baywatch ha detto...

Your tale of bureaucratic bungling and institutionalized idiocy recalls to mind the movie Brazil. A fly leads to a fumbled keystroke. Tuttle morphs into Buttle. hijinks ensue.

Melbine ha detto...

I try and remind myself that for every person in America who makes me mad, there's another person that I could be friends with. It's more comforting that way. :)

I think people who work in federal revenue have distinct idiocy problems because I'm having my own issues here, in Canada, land of the electronic record.

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

Brazil was a sweet movie. I need more Terry Gilliam in my life.

Yeah, civil service is usually crappy service. And what I try to remind myself about America is that any country would be that fucking annoying and infuriating, probably much more so, if it was that important.

Sugarplum ha detto...

Something that I learned from my American is that 50% of Americans are just as frustrated with that country as the rest of the world is. And we should not bash those people or just blindly bash that country.

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

We shouldn't, but it's better than bashing the weak.