Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Bureaucracy

“And the worst part of it is that he was killed, and no one knows who killed him. Yet he was killed. He was forwarded, like the others, at the order of Maslenikoff. Maslenikoff probably signed the usual order with his foolish flourish, on a printed letter-head, and, of course, does not consider himself guilty. The prison physician, who inspected the convicts, has still less reason for considering himself guilty. He carefully fulfilled his duties, separated the weak ones, and could not possibly foresee either the terrible heat, or that they would be taken away so late and in such a crowd. The inspector? But the inspector only carried out the order that on such a day so many men and women prisoners should be sent away. No more guilty was the officer of the convoy, whose duty consisted in receiving so many people at such a place and delivering them at another place. He led the party in the usual way, according to instructions, and could not possibly foresee that such strong men, like the two whom Nekhludoff had seen, would succumb and die. No one was guilty, and yet the men were killed by these very people who were innocent of their death.

“All this happened,” thought Nekhludoff, “because all those people—­the governor, inspector and the other officers—­saw before them, not human beings and their duties toward them, but the service and its requirements. Therein lies the difficulty.”
Resurrection (1899)
Leo Tolstoy

"I built it with my hands. Straightened old nails to put the sheathing on. Rafters are wired to the stringers with bailing wire. It's mine. I built it. You bump it down — I'll be in the window with a rifle. You even come to close and I'll pot you like a rabbit."

"It's not me. There's nothing I can do. I'll lose my job if I don't do it. And look — suppose you kill me? They'll just hang you, but long before your hung there will be another guy on the tractor, and he'll bump the house down. You're not killing the right guy."

"That's so," the tenant said. "Who gave you orders? I'll go after him. He's the one to kill."

"You're wrong. He got his orders from the bank. The bank told them: "Clear those people out or it's your job."

"Well, there's a president of the bank. There's a Board of Directors. I'll fill up the magazine of the rifle and go into the bank."

The driver said: "Fellow was telling me the bank gets orders from the East. The orders were: "Make the land show profit or we'll close you up."

"But where does it stop? Who can we shoot? I don't aim to starve to death before I kill the man that's starving me."

"I don't know. Maybe there's nobody to shoot. Maybe the thing isn't man at all. Maybe, like you said, the property's doing it. Anyway I told you my orders."
The Grapes of Wrath (1939)
John Steinbeck

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