Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On Bureaucracy in Eastern Europe

I've written about this before, and I'm sure I will again, but one of the things most difficult to get used to in Croatia is bureaucracy.  Apparently, the situation was similar in Russia when Leo Tolstoy wrote Anna Kerenina.  His (autobiographical?) character Levin describes it perfectly:
...All this bustling, going about from place to place, talking to very kind, good people, who well understood the unpleasantness of the petitioner's position but were unable to help him - all this tension, while producing no results, gave Levin a painful feeling similar to that vexing impotence one experiences in dreams when one tries to use physical force.  He felt it often, speaking with his good-natured attorney.  This attorney did everything possible, it seemed, and strained all his mental powers to get Levin out of the quandry. 'Try this', he said more than once, 'go to this place and that place,'and the attorney would make a whole plan for getting round the fatal principle that was hindering everything.  Then he would add at once, 'They'll hold it up anyway, but try it.' And Levin tried, visited, went.  Everybody was kind and courteous, but it always turned out that what had been got round re-emerged in the end and again barred the way.  In particular it was offensive that Levin simply could not understand with whom he was struggling, who profited from the fact that his case never came to an end.  This no one seemed to know; the attorney did not know either.  If Levin could have understood it, as he understood why he could not get to the ticket window at the station otherwise than by waiting in line, he would not have felt offended and vexed; but no one could explain to him why the obstacles he encountered in his case existed.


Lea Coppage said...

I'm finally back in Internet-land (for us, that means Hungary) and can read blogs. Yay. Tolstoy's comment reminded me of what Doug wrote about four years ago in one of our newsletters:

"'Red tape' doesn't begin to describe the situation. It's more like trying to make friends with a huge, seven-headed, 50-tentacled giant squid with bad eyesight, delusions of grandeur, and partial dementia."

Grace and Peace to you all -- Lea

Jeremy said...

Well said!