First appeared in The Renascent, Volume 2 Writing, 2005
Turns out, government is actually a cult. All this time I thought it was some complex back-up system for those of us who couldn’t figure out how to grow a money tree. Turns out it’s a divine stream of another form of paper to worship. Instead of people’s value being measured by its proximity to six figures, in the cult of government four digits measure ones worth. One’s classification. There are 1433s, and 0992s and 2940s and 2917’s. I’m a 2917. It’s a generic class, not quite management, but not quite like the rest of the staff. I get to be in a union, but the union really wants me out. Fortunately for me the cult tentacles go beyond the union, and secure me to its grip. I am intoxicated by my paycheck and the promise of health care for the rest of my life. I am asked to give more of my soul and spirit everyday, and being the kind soul I am, I never expect any reward for working harder. The ideal is the mean. All things are pulled toward an equal level of mediocrity. In the cult, I mean in civil service, there is no incentive to do an excellent job, when an average job will do. Why make someone look bad by working harder or smarter. In the cult there can only be one smart person. We must all praise him and listen to his teachings. When we get our monthly staff meeting sermons we drink in the philosophy and our eyes soften from the charisma. We follow his words. We move the paper according to the leaders determined flow. We aim our thoughts in the direction of what has been deemed best by he who knows.
What do we know about he who knows in government? How do we measure what information pools are filled with and how much they weigh in the minds of constituents? Does it matter? Is government really anything more than a cult that we rally around and throw money at? We expect it to take care of us, and for those of us who are civil servants we are grateful for the opportunity to serve. We give thanks each day. Thank you for tying me to the endless pursuit of your vision. I love typing. I love filing. I love meeting with you and your colleagues. I love smiling all day every day.
If the word “cult” comes from the word “culture,” wait….it doesn’t. Too bad for “cult.” Cult is defined as a particular system of religious worship with reference to its rites and ceremonies. And “Culture” is defined as the quality in a person or society that arises from an interest in and acquaintance with what is generally regarded as excellence in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc. The sixth definition is the raising of plants or animals. The rites and ceremonies associated with the government cult can involve public humiliation, intimidation, condescension, acceptance, laughter, sharing, kindness and friendship. It’s a broad range, really. Has it pros and cons, as we often like to say in our cult slang. We are not interested in excellence. It is not a value in the government system of religious worship.