The Secret Of Systems, Part 11.
(Caution: adult content).
I made a mistake: I let a Dutch tradesman in my home.
Actually, it’s considerably worse than that. The consequences of my error have been far worse than I could have expected. It’s not as if these guys mean to be nasty, they are only doing their job in the way any bureaucrat will. The problem is that they’re doing the job their boss tells them to do and give it no further thought. That means when something unusual happens, they are caught unawares.
Because they removed an electrical socket from my bathroom and then forgot all about it. After all, they’re working in the bathroom, aren’t they?
So there it is: 220v just waiting to catch the pipework.
I will remind you that there is an expression here in Holland that says, ‘Shit Happens.’ It’s not common in other cultures because you need a Dutchman to be present for shit to happen. Because in my box room, shit might just happen. And my electrician is blindly oblivious. He visited my bathroom the other day – I know this because all Dutch tradesmen tell you that they switch off the light when they leave the room. When you see the light left on, you know they’ve been there. It’s simple: the Dutch don’t even know when they’re lying! There is no other word for it.
Anyway, there was no loose wire in the bathroom. His business wasn’t in the box room.
This post isn’t about the egregious mistakes that the Dutch make through their incompetence. This post is about what happens to the unwary when they are faced with the consequences. Not like the time when a student was electrocuted at the university in Amsterdam; he only got a severe shock from a poorly mounted fitting. They sat him down, patted him on the head and gave him a coffee. You can imagine the shit-storm an American would raise, but this isn’t America. This is dull witted Holland and nothing more was said.
You learn to deal with their incompetence, and the easiest way is not to let them start.
Boys will be boys, and live as though they cannot die. My electrician is one such, or he would have a very different attitude to the dangers associated with his work. I had those illusions torn away as a child growing up in a war zone. We were sitting down to dinner and I remember the bang that confused us all. Bangs don’t happen, not at dinner time, anyway. This was a real thundery bang. The next day there was a report about a jet fighter that had crashed into a block of flats. (1)
That was my wakeup call.
I didn’t know the people who lived there. I didn’t need to. It told me that war is about killing and that sometimes innocent people meet this fate too. The Dutch do not live in a war zone, and so they can retain their illusions about what life is all about. Oh, and forget all about death.
They will retain their illusion of immortality. Naturally a few of them find themselves wound around a lamppost. But there are still enough Dutchmen who break the speed limits to tell me that they haven’t learned the lesson the others are trying to teach them.
Mind The Gap.
To the left is a photo of Dean, and he was a soldier.
He had been sent to Afghanistan to make it look like the Dutch were happy in supporting the American insurgency there. The cause of his suffering isn’t mentioned. It might ahve been a roadside bomb that tore his friend’s head off, or a grenade that made him a necktie of his best friend’s intestines.
The point was that something happened to show Dean the truth of what he was doing. After all, soldiers are about killing and the possibility of being killed is what you sign up for. What none of them are trained for is to continue living after their best friend has been torn in two before you could even say goodbye.
It might have been Dean seeing the dead body of the person he’d just murdered.
Either way, Dean was alive and the others weren’t.
How can you train someone for something you’ve never experienced yourself? The Dutch military exists in a little bubble of its own imagination, and like the British in 1916 (2), are fighting the wars they can imagine. Fighting a real war brought the Royal Navy to question how it prepared for war with an enemy, rather than a war without one. Three thousand sailors lost their lives because their Admiral was fighting a war that didn’t take account of an enemy intent on sinking them: that’s not playing fair! (3)
The soldiers, part of a system, are trained to do, not think. They, like any self respecting bureaucrat – the epitome of a system – are not trained to look to the consequences of the things they do.
But that’s not the point.
They aren’t trained to live through a trauma. They arrive home with a mind numbed by shock. A numbing so profound that they can’t lift a teaspoon. They are helped by psychiatrists whose understanding of trauma runs to having read about it in one of their books. They are, after all, part of the system.
Which means that they’re hardly likely to think beyond it – if for the simple reason that they aren’t aware of being in a system in the first place. That is the insidiousness of a system; the psychiatrist is as helpless as his patients. He’s never been trained to empathize, he was too busy trying to pass his exams to think of what the reality of psychiatry actually is. All he can do is ask the standard questions of a person who has suffered something unforgivingly unique.
I was woken up when that jet fighter met its end that evenin in Bangkok. Was it the jet they called a flying coffin? 50% of the aircraft in the Canadian Air Force crashed; 30% of the German ones did. There are no figures for the US Air Force, which probably means they’re higher. People do not like being woken up.
That’s why we have systems: so they don’t have to wake up. The camaraderie of the Dean and his fellow soldier, Fred. A cameraderie built up through mutual trust and a pride in their country, which is there in part to keep both of them asleep. Then Dean holds Fred’s arm in restraint only to find that is all he’s holding, with Fred’s blood dripping from the end of his nose.
That is too harsh a wake-up call.
The problem is as nasty: nothing else would get through.
That is the ‘gap’ that exists in all modern societies, the gap between what people want in their life – their illusions – and the things they need. The truth. Reality.
It’s why we have systems: so reality, the truth can’t get through. Look around you, you will see barriers put up everywhere. And yes, I do it myself. Only I am aware of the consequences where most people are not. Which is why I’m going to sort that wiring for myself.
Then I can rest assured that it is safe. I know what trust is, and how people show that they can be trusted.
I learned it the hard way. I don’t want my neighbour upset when her son’s electrocuted just because he touched the pipework. She’d blame me for not getting the electrician to fix it.
It’s not as if I haven’t tried. He’s just oblivious to the dangers.
The two portraits of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are from the photographic exhibition by Claire Felicie at the Museum de Fundatie in Zwolle until the 15th of January 2017.
(1) The archive at the Bangkok Post does not cover the war years.
(2) Something’s Wrong With Our Bloody Ships Today. Beatty was fighting a war on his own terms, and fighting it as though nobody was going to fight back. Enemies are enemies because they aren’t so compliant as a bullied weakling. Read more here.
(3) That’s Not Fair Play!
The Secret Of Systems, Links To Other Parts In This Series:
Part 1: How Can Lidl Be So Cheap?
Part 3: A Different View Of Karma. (Published Privately).
Part 4: The Value Of Money.
Part 6: Thomas Hardy And Friedrich Nietzsche. (Published Privately).
Part 7: That’s Not Fair Play!
Part 9: When The System Bites Back.
Part 10: I Admit It: I Made A Mistake.
Part 11: Live Wires.
Please note that privately published posts are available to trusted friends without cost. The content is not intended for the general public and is restricted to those who can demonstrate that they understand the nature – and implications of – Rudolf Steiner’s scientific thinking. That is to say, a practical understanding of thinking, feeling and willing; Perry Marshall’s ‘Tactical Triangle’ is one specific application of this general law, and arises out of the economic sphere.
It is not for the unready (see above).
In certain circumstances, pdfs of these posts are available on request; you may do so by leaving a comment. This will tell me if you can grasp the nature of the post you are enquiring about. The comment itself can be left unmoderated or deleted if requested.