I enter into a Shopping Mall. While keeping my office bag at the reception counter, I pull out a cotton bag. The security person objects and informs me that I am not allowed to carry anything in the Mall. “I do not want plastic bag that your store gives, so I am using this cotton bag. You can check it. ” I explain as if I am guilty.
“No madam, you can’t take it inside.” He is adamant.
I speak about pollution, Municipal order against carry bags etc. but to no effect.
“I am sorry Madam, but rules are rules. We have strict orders.” The security man says.
Next moment I am out of the Mall.
The Mall it neither bothered about losing customers, nor about pollution; it is worried about its Rules.
I am staying alone in a Government guest house. I go to the Dining Hall for dinner. As I have late afternoon lunch, I just want a cup of milk. I know that they serve milk in a big glass. So, I specifically order for ‘cup of milk’ and add that I do not want ‘glass of milk’. The waiter comes back within a minute and informs me that menu card does not have ‘cup of milk’. I smile. I have traveled and talked a lot during the day, I am tired. I do not have energy to discuss the issue.
I tell him, “Ok, you charge for a glass of milk but give me only a cup of milk. I do not want to waste milk.” He nods.
He comes back and tells, “No madam, we cannot give you a cup of milk. You will have to take a glass of milk. ”
Why? Rules are Rules.
“I would really love to kick you out of here,” my reporting officer says coolly.
“Did I do anything objectionable?” I ask, feeling confused and of course insulted.
“You don’t follow the systems,” the reporting officer is happy to bring out the ultimate weapon.
“Can you give me some example?” I ask politely.
The reporting officer quotes one incidence, conveniently forgetting that I had taken written permission in advance; not from anyone else, but from the same reporting officer. I know how much of system people follow, I am not stupid. Only thing is they don’t say anything against it – they just break it. On the other hand, before I take any action, I communicate to the concerned. In a way I am an easy target.
“However, I cannot kick you out, because your work is indeed excellent” laments my reporting officer.
“ Ok, I will submit resignation.” I try to be helpful. What is the fun if the reporting officer does not want you and that too because you are excellent?
“But that won’t give me satisfaction of kicking you out,” reflects the reporting officer. I admire the honesty.
The conversation is only one way, linear, hierarchical. It can happen only in this way because that is the Rule. The System gives one way power to some and makes many others vulnerable. One’s insecurity is another’s power.
That is the buzz word. That is the most powerful word in the era where ‘Survival of the Fittest’ is the Mantra. Recently I read that Herbert Spencer who coined this term admitted later in his life that ‘fittest always may not be the best’. People can think about philosophy only when they stop participating in any kind of race. If one is competitive, one cannot really grow on the level of ideas – is my experience, I am sure that is yours too.
Most people love systems, either because it gives them a position of privilege or a comfort of stability. Some love systems just by habit and some others because they can’t think of any option. What is a system and what is a good system are subjective definitions. They keep on changing. Even a persons’ perception about the system changes as the person experiences it differently at different times.
I have nothing against systems. When many people are together, rules and regulations are necessary. A system is supposed to be a rational one, no space for emotions and personal favors. I generally follow systems if they work for the advantage of more.
But I am not ‘systmaniac’ like all the people I mentioned earlier. I am aware that certain aspects flower only outside the given framework. Having such moments and freedom in life, where one can cross such barriers is an ultimate luxury. Each one of us has the potential to blossom beyond the stereotypes we are taught to accept, live and expect. But these moments are rare; rest is to be brought into the fold of a working system.
If is only when the soul of the system is lost, when it starts destroying individuality beyond admissible limits, I rebel against the system. When people become maniac about the systems, someone has to demonstrate the futility of that system. Verbal rebellion is not much effective. One has to give up the benefits of the system to make a change. One has to take a stand – intellectual, moral, and social – whatever it is. It is not easy. One just wonders how all those ancient ones who brought changes in the systems had the courage to stand against the tide. One admires the people all around who are in the business of ‘making a change’ – at whatever level micro or macro!
Changing the systems to keep their relevance is not only an intelligent task; it is also creative and exploratory journey. The failures lead to new directions as one gains insights.
When one starts treating RULES as GOALS, that is a sure sign of a systemaniac.
There is very thin line between follower of a system and a systemaniac. We need to be aware and keep asking questions to ourselves – that strengthens immunity against systemania!