Modern Times

Taken As Read.

A Piece Of Paper That Has Trust Written On It.

Modern Times: Turning You Into A Commodity?

Paid by the hour is bought by the kilo.
Paid by the hour is bought by the kilo.

Now those of you who know me well know that I used to be a decorator and furniture maker. What with the crash of 2007 leading to a dramatic contraction in the economy of the Netherlands I was struggling. Don’t be too cynical here – I saw what was happening and it was not pleasant.

Now thanks to Jasper, I knew help was available for self-employed people in trouble. So I duly asked, it being my right and all. So they duly sent someone around to have a look at my business. Now not only was this Bedrijfs Adviseur – business advisor to you and me – Dutch, she was also dense. I’m not talking thinking dense here, I’m talking wooden headed. Intelligent, sure. But any other brain department had been put out to graze twenty years previously. What’s more the Dutch specialize in producing people like this.

So there I sat, chatting away in Dutch. The interview was not going smoothly. Everything I had done, was doing and was proposing to do met with a blank stare or outright negativity. This floored me. I never experienced this from clients – pressure on price, details, you name it. Never this inflexible bovine gaze.

Now this was my first real experience of dealing face to face with a real bureaucrat. Someone for whom racing office chairs is as exciting as life needs to get; I had never before met someone who simply didn’t respond. Not at least at close quarters and with enough time to realize that something was missing. Even my ex, whose emotional life would make that of a tadpole seem adventurous – even he had more life than this wooden implement. Given something to work with, I can get most people to grasp my meaning in fairly short order, and that in four languages. I’ve done it and it’s one of my specialties. Only here I had nothing to reflect on or to consider. It was like playing table tennis in a swimming pool.

The interview ended with her taking my papers with an obvious disdain. She left an atmosphere in my room that I can only describe as cratered.

A few weeks later my report arrived in an expensive envelope. In effect it said that I was a complete twat and hadn’t the faintest idea how to run a business. Furthermore, I couldn’t speak a single word of Dutch. A language I could at least speak reasonably well back then.

It left me shocked.

I’d built a business from nothing more than naked passion. Kept it running for five years whilst learning the ropes of self employment, the ins and outs of Dutch tax law and its requirements – and most importantly of all, the needs of my Dutch customers. The latter I managed to fulfill well beyond their expectations given the rave reviews I got. In their estimation I was the top girl.

The Proof Of Certification

So how was it that my business acumen was rated slightly lower than that of grass mowings? The answer is simple: I didn’t have any certificates. I had no certificate to prove I could pick up a saw and cut a piece of wood. I had no certificate to prove I could lick a spoon. More worrying, my esteemed clients had no certificates to be clients and so their verdict was worthless: an authority they were not. Yet I could speak English – but then she’d seen my English passport! 

Ah, I could speak English.

Now tell me: just how hard is it to tell if I speak English? It’s not that difficult, is it?


And The Dangers Of Reliance On Certificates

So why make a deal out of it? Because this is the other side of certification. It means the person using certificates as a prop for their decision making does not need to take any responsibility. That is taken out of their hands by – in this case – the issuing authority of my passport.

Oops! there’s a flaw here. The authority issuing my passport never checked if I could speak English. In fact, a passport is a travel document and nothing more. My advisor incorrectly construed that being a subject of the crown confers a natural linguistic ability. It does no such thing. My nemesis overstepped the mark. Was she feeling guilty that I had no abilities whatsoever?

Because on paper I have none. Now it doesn’t happen to worry me one iota. I’m intelligent enough to know my own strengths and weaknesses.

But her manager had given her no choice: papers are all that is required. A person need not be able to do more than read a piece of paper in order to make a decision. The problem for them is that there are a lot of pieces of paper, and they have all been written by other people. Their entire lives are driven by the opinions of others, some of whom may not have their best interests at heart…

… you have been warned. Because the banks understand this all too well, and abuse bureaucrats mercilessly. Only the bureaucrats don’t even know it!


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