I have previously outlined some of the major philosophers that laid the foundations for the system of modern government, particularly in western countries. Dillayus, Burocrates, Futilius and Obstrucius all played a major role in this early phase.
After the classic era, there followed the Dark Ages, where the teachings of these wise men were forgotten and consequently chaos ruled. Decisions were made indiscriminately, there was far too much initiative shown (particularly by economic entrepreneurs known then as kings), communication was carried out face-to-face leading to conflict, and the lack of plans for arse-covering left many a king open to being overthrown. International diplomacy was non-existent and a feudal system ruled most countries. However, once King John had signed the Magna Carta, a new legion of thinkers started to research the governance of the people. Some of the most signficant thinkers were Melodius de la Rhium, Sudo Kamikaze, Sir Francis de Nighle and Vasco d"Zarstir.
Melodius de la Rhium (1307 - 1398)
In the 14th Century, Mother Superior Dischordia de Mencha, head of the Nuns of the Non-Core Promises, was knocking back cognac in her local drinking house, when she came across a young woman, Melodious de la Rhium, who was in search of meaning to her life. After knocking back a few cognacs herself, de la Rhium decided that de Mencha's order had a lot to offer. De la Rhium became one of the foremost influences on governments of her time. She specialised in the study of how to deal with the political advisors who trod the corridors of power. Most modern public servants would probably agree that her comments on these people still hold true. A selection of her words of wisdom follows.
The Political Advisor has an attention span of a goldfish and the lifespan of a mayfly.
Political Advisors jump in where even fools fear to tread and leave them fading in their wake.
King Canute is known to have listened to his Political Advisors' views on reality
Most Political Advisors still have the same grasp on reality as King Canute's advisors
Many Political Advisors make light of your work.
Sudo Kamikaze (1780 - 1835)
In the 19th Century, a traveling Japanese Samurai, Sudo Kamikaze, spent some time touring Europe and investigating the way of life in western countries. By this time, most Samurai has become bureaucrats rather than warriors due to a relatively long-lasting peace, and some had looked into international trade. Kamikaze was one of these and decided to see what the world had to offer Japan. He spoke a lot to ordinary people and learnt how the populace and public servants viewed the governments of the time. He was a romantic sort of fellow and rather than put his thoughts down in prose, he used traditional Japanese Haiku poetry. Kamikaze returned to Japan and was met with universal disbelief when he tried to tell people what system was in place in Europe. There was a consensus that he'd lost his marbles and he eventually also lost his life when he was convicted of serious misuse of traditional poetry. Some of his better-known haikus include:
People live with hope
Nothing ever changes here
Governments drag on
The Minister rules
Knows what's best for everyone
A bureaucrat speaks
Castles are built in the air
More trees grow fruitless
Walks through a barren desert
The system grinds on
Sir Francis de Knighle (1835 - 1914)
Sir Francis was a parliamentarian during the Victorian period. He played a significant role in the governance of many of the colonies in the glory days of the British Empire. He held a diverse range of posts within the government of the time, including Minister for Living Dangerously, Minister responsible for the Administration of Prince Albert, and Director of the Ministry of Planning Frustration.
Unlike many parliamentarians of his time, or in fact of the present time, he took a keen interest in the welfare of those who worked for him. He recognised the often soul-destroying and repetitive nature of the work and he actively encouraged his staff to look for ways to bring some light and enjoyment into their days. Sir Frank, as he wished to be known, instigated awards to recognise excellence in performance and rewarded the application of regulation over common sense. Being something of a scholar himself, he insisted that his staff learn and implement the five paradigms of government outlined by Obstrucius and have a good knowledge of the other classic government philosophers. He also added that his staff should never admit to making a mistake or, in fact, any involvement in any matter that was subject of an enquiry.
Sir Frank died at the ripe old age of seventy-nine when he inexplicably let a member of the public into his office and was beaten to death by George Leatherhead, a mild-mannered accountant who had been trying to get permission to trim the tree outside his house for 54 years without ever getting a meaningful or understandable response to his enquiries. The tree fell on his house in 1914 precipitating his complete mental collapse and subsequent homicidal rage.
A public servant can gain immense satisfaction through frustrating the application of common sense.
A public servant should never explain anything in simple terms. The proper application of jargon and policy will provide hours of fun for everyone.
A transparent process should be polished to the point of invisibility, as one would with a window. Much pleasure can be gained from watching the public walk into such a properly polished process.
Remaining calm and polite, but resolute, in the face of common sense will surely lead to a warm glow of a job well done.
Being yelled at, threatened, abused in writing, or being the subject of grudges; these are the signs of public service success.
Vasco d'Zarstir (1757 - 1827)
Vasco d'Zarstir was a nomadic philosopher in the early 19th century who made himself an expert on the transparency of government. He was convinced that only a truly clear and transparent process that let the public know what was happening would enable government to work efficiently.
He tried to convince many governments and monarchies of the time of the benefits of transparency, but was met with almost universal derision. This caused him to turn to drink and drugs. He became a sorry sight for a number of years, haunting the docks of Lisbon, Marseilles and Naples. Then one day he saw the light, moving out of the way before it hit him (it turned out to be train), and realised the true nature of transparency.
He had been sitting in full view of everybody, but nobody saw him until they tripped over him. In this rare moment of clarity, he put his thoughts down on paper. Unfortunately, the paper he used was the back of a box of wine, which he then consumed, losing the box. The next morning he could not quite remember what he had been doing, felt it had probably been nonsense whatever it had been, and boarded a ship to the Caribbean, where he lived out the rest of his life happily drunk on rum and surrounded by scantily clad women. His tombstone inscription says - "I got a rum deal on life, but at least I got it at half-price!"
What he did not know was that the box with his wisdom written on it was found by as aspiring politician from England (Frank de Nighle), who had been ensuring that there were skeletons in his cupboard by misbehaving in various Mediterranean ports. He used d'Zarstir's five points on transparent process to carve out a successful career in the government after his many indiscretions failed to cause enough brain damage to enter politics. The five notes on the transparency of process are:
As with a homeless vagrant, a true transparent process should be invisible to the general public;
Where a process is not invisible to the public, polish it until it becomes less visible than the cleanest pane of glass;
A true transparent process should only be found when it causes people to trip up and fall flat on their face;
Only those who work a transparent system should know of its existence; and
Transparent processes, as outlined above, will dramatically reduce the resources needed to run government.