domingo, 30 de agosto de 2015

Bureaucracy overdose

I heard once from a supposedly serious man that “the level of development of a country is directly proportional to its degree of bureaucracy. The more you can label property the more industrialized a society is”.
Bullshit all around! Procedures exist as diseases or taxes do, just to ruin our lives and make us miserable. For one thing they solve they complicate a dozen beyond reason.
One of my most hated is the MOT test. Every year I pass between one and two car inspections to prove my vehicles are in good shape, smoke-free and all that stuff. I don’t care about paying. I accept the formality as the lesser of evils because some people have a right to earn their living checking cars as well. What really annoys me is the process itself. All that “turn on right indicator; now the left; the warnings; back fog light...” I think someone invented that test and the velocity of execution just to make users appear as sheer stupids. A visionary worker anywhere throughout Spain realised it was easier to get the drivers out of the car and do most of the testing by themselves. Not all. We still need to put our foot in it for a while.
Second wonder: the income tax return. This one chases you for a working lifetime. I accept we must contribute to retirement pensions and to unemployment benefits, everybody must look after everybody, but there’s no need to readjust the balance. A well designed tax system would be even and fair, without needing further compensation for or against. The quantity of material and human resources saved would be vast. Moreover, the procedure is not easy for the average man or woman. Sometimes, or most of the times, professional aid is needed: a civil servant from the Treasury, the bank clerk, an expert in legal matters or else. In any case, any mistake in the process will be your fault and therefore you are to be fined, even if it was the civil servant who did the formality.
What about buying a house, lending money to a close relative, selling a car or any other not very difficult transanction? Be ready for the apocalypse. To a big deal of papers a lucrative percentage of taxes and commissions for gurus and experts will be added.
Bureaucracy is necessary. Our lives are built on private property and we can’t do without it. But things should –and possibly could– be hugely simplified. Everybody would be happier; everybody but bankers, lawyers, politicians, brokers, state agents and so on. Maybe too many interests to be erradicated all of a sudden.

martes, 11 de agosto de 2015

Living with a candidate to pass a competitive exam

Spain is different. Everybody knows that. Starting with the habits of increasing food ingestion from a minute breakfast to a sumptuous dinner, continuing with the compulsive purchase of stock housing or the urgent necessity of getting a permanent job at any cost.
This essay has to do with the last of those assumptions. And with its implications in everyday life. Because who doesn’t want to have a post forever? Things have gone so wrong in the recent past in Spain, with the crisis and its over-elongated shadow, that top desires have changed from a lottery prize to a public job in the administration.
But there’s no easy way to work slavery. With a proportion of at least one post for twenty candidates, if not more, it is a path that a person knows when to start, but not when will be over.
A candidate is a difficult person. Even in his heyday, his mood will turn gloomer and darker than usual, his time for social life will be nonexistent, and his expectatives will go round the examination. No matter how much time one spends on studying, it is always insufficient, especially if there’s a family –parents, wife, children. For them, who understand but do not the situation, the feat is even harder. People who love you want to have good times with you, but you’re not in the mood. And contradictory feelings arouse. The candidate feels guilty because he can’t attend his personal and his professional life, and an aura of pessimism pervades everything.
One life is not enough to face the test. The challenger just wants the competitive examination to be over, to rest, to be the owner of his destiny, even if we are just talking about a couple of hours a week devoted to a long-forgotten minor occupation. And everything turns to be difficult. He doesn’t undestand the lack of comprehension of the others, who obviously are playing in another league. The relatives and friends demand their part of attention and care, and time is very limited, up to the point that, should the candidate have three lives to spend on exam preparation, he would take the three of them in studying and preparing.
But the real tragedy is not here. We have been taught that to a supreme effort a worthy reward must come, but this doesn’t normally occur with competitive exams. If you have, say 700 people for 40 posts, it doesn’t matter how good you are or if you deserve it. Fate doesn’t understand about divine justice and that stuff. The only thing that matters is to be one of the top forty in the examination. It has nothing to do with doing your work well or being the best, it is only about proving that you can do the best test attending to the established strange rules, those that normally have no relationshipship with the post you are applying to. Neither try to understand the assessment criteria or the professional capacity of the examination board: they always know less than you and probably less than the majority of your rivals. Nobody said it was easy, but it wasn’t fair, either.
If you or somebody in your family is undergoing this situation, good luck. You truly need it. Just to pass the exam successfully and to avoid conflict, divorce, distance, madness, remorse of those moments that will be lost forever. Maybe the expectations were, like those of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations’ Pip Pirrip, too great for somebody like you. But do not let yourself be disappointed by this pessimistic narrator. Maybe you are good enough and “it cannot be done” literature only manages to encourage you to try harder. Impossible is nothing, says Nike. It’s just quite difficult.