Wednesday, December 9, 2020

the SNAFU principle


Now that the dust has settled a little bit on the recent Political Election Cycle... here in the good ole U S of A… certain new realities begin to come into focus. First: The evolving voting infrastructure, being (like blockchain technology) essentially a de-centralized system, proved to be fairly resilient. As you know, the voting method used in the U S, is known as the secret ballot (aka: the Australian ballot or Massachusetts ballot), where a voter's choices in an election or a referendum are anonymous. This forestalls attempts to influence the voter by intimidation, blackmailing, and potential vote buying. This system was adopted as a means of achieving political privacy.

I make no claims as to the veracity of the outcome, only that the system fared well, against political chicanery, foreign and domestic. The County-run election system demonstrated the wisdom of a de-centralized vote gathering, counting and certifying process. Recounts appeared to verify consistency in outcomes.

A second, long understood reality to emerge from the political dust-cloud, is that a particularly pernicious form of infrastructure… known as: Bureaucracy… continues to be problematic to the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
On paper, structured systems make perfect sense. Protocols, policies and procedures outline a flow of work and a methodology to achieve the desired outcome in the most efficient way. In practice, structure, especially bureaucratic structure… begins to weigh down and impede the flow process. The following 6 minute clip, illustrates the nature of bureaucratic obstruction. Watch the clip in it’s entirety, as the true civic lesson comes at the end of the clip.

The best remedy for Bureaucracy is the people who operate the on-the-ground aspects of the system. This may sound counter-intuitive, but it is the every-day operator who finds the work-around and/or fix, that “keeps the wheels” on whatever system is being mucked up. It is the every-day Jack or Jill who keeps our various socio-political systems operating. This includes the volunteer poll-workers who persevered, even when political hacks were calling fraud in an increasingly threatening manner.

There is a name for any bureaucratic structure that gets mired or bogged down under its own weight. The name, as you have guessed, is SNAFU. An acronym, SNAFU stands for… "Situation Normal, All Fucked Up." Most often used as a noun, SNAFU most often refers to an unfortunate and possibly urgent situation. Importantly, it means that the situation is bad, but that this is a normal state of affairs.

SNAFU is said to have originated among American G.I.s during World War II, where the orders coming down from the “top brass” often did not make sense. This acronym has evolved in modern vernacular to describe running into an error or problem that is large and unexpected. However, in our recent Political Election Cycle, SNAFU was expected, and predicted, if not accurately.

In keeping with the spirit of recent posts, I would remind readers that none-other than Robert Anton Wilson weighed in on what he called the SNAFU principle. The following is from an interview with Michael Helm…

Secrecy and the SNAFU Principle

Michael Helm: What techniques, what political theory do you have for dealing with the fact that information is controlled?

Robert Anton Wilson: It’s a complex question. I could say, across the board, that I’m opposed to secrecy. I don’t approve of the government having secrets from the people. As Bertholt Brecht said; “If the government doesn’t trust the people, why don’t they dissolve them and elect a new people?” The idea of a democratic government keeping secrets is a contradiction.

Michael Helm: What about in the case of private groups, where secrecy is justified on the grounds that if you eschew secrecy you open yourself up to being prosecuted?

Robert Anton Wilson: I think that’s a risk we’ve got to take. It’s like the risk of allowing free speech to the Nazis. As a libertarian I say, yes, let those lunatics parade and march and distribute their literature. If you believe in an open society, you take the risks that go with an open society. Let everything out in the open. I think secrecy is the main cause of neuroses and maybe of psychoses as well. We’ve got to learn to be much more up front with one another.
I think one of the great moments of the 20th Century came back about 1958 or so, when an interviewer asked Alan Ginsberg, “Why are there so many references to homosexuality in your poetry?” and Ginsberg said, “Well, that’s because I’m queer, you see.” And I jumped up and said “Hurray for you!” That took a lot more guts in ’57 than it does today (It still takes guts, of course). 

A society based on secrecy is a society based on stupidity. One where people are hiding from one another, and, ergo, everybody has inaccurate ideas about everybody else. Every minute we’re making maps of our reality, and to the extent that we practice secrecy, we cause each other to make inaccurate maps. Of course, you can‘ be perfectly open and up front and some people are so paranoid that they’ll still go away with the wrong idea. In that case it’s not your fault. We ought to be as open, honest, and brave as possible. Of course, as W.C. Fields would say, “There’s no sense in being a damn fool about it.”

Michael Helm: One of the Discordian Laws is that communication is possible only between equals…

Robert Anton Wilson: That’s the SNAFU Principle. I also call it Wilson’s Law. I hope that eventually it will get incorporated into sociology books. I really believe it. This came to me when I was working for Playboy, and realized that everything that was wrong with Playboy was due to the hierarchy there. I’d like to say that I predicted the decline and fall of the Hefner Empire, but I didn’t. I could see that communication was all screwed up because of the hierarchy, and then I thought of every other corporation I ever worked for, and armies and governments, and I realized that this is the situation in the authoritarian family, too. This is what women’s liberation is all about.

Other fun acronyms that pertain to the situation at hand are...

FUBAR - Fucked Up Beyond All Repair

TARFU - Totally and Royally Fucked Up (alt: things are really fucked up)

Addendum: The above does not address pathology, megalomania, or refusal to accept emerging realities (ie: the conditions on the ground). In our current bureaucratic, socio-pathologic-political structure… non-acceptance of political outcomes demonstrates that bureaucracy is inextricably entwined with hierarchy and narcissism. In his interview, Wilson continues… 

Robert Anton Wilson: Another big influence on the SNAFU Principle was Faulkner’s Go Down, Moses. There’s a great sentence in there that goes roughly... "To the sheriff, Lucas was just another nigger and both the sheriff and Lucas knew it; but only one of them knew that to Lucas the sheriff was a redneck without any reason for pride in his forbears nor hope for it in his descendants." And that’s what hierarchy does: it creates a situation where the person on the top doesn’t know what the person on the bottom thinks.

Michael Helm: But there are some people who don’t care.

Robert Anton Wilson: You’re talking about sociopathic personalities. Where they can have a pretty accurate idea of the other person’s condition and still go ahead and trample all over them. What can I say? I don’t claim to have a solution to all the problems of the Universe.

So it is that we must re-learn the pitfalls of bureaucracy. The obstructive nature of bureaucracy has plagued us for ages. The Alt-Right fever dreams of some Deep State is nothing new. The Left-leaning  Counsel on Foreign Relations is no more malicious than the shenanigans of the Counsel for National Policy, on the Right. These bureaucratic entities may be real... they may be bad... but the power of SNAFU will insure that these bureaucracies flounder under their own weight. Rest assured, the Power of the People will find the work-around that leaves tyranny wallowing in its own muck. And so it goes... so don't fret... as crazy as our current conditions seem... the situation is normal...


Garmr said...

I suppose the situation is normal no matter how bad things get. This is the power of the great creeping normal which swallows everything.

Jack Heart said...

Just like "the nothing" in Never Ending Story...

Garmr said...

Jack, I thought of that when writing the post, but more than this it is like Back to The Future. The normal not only changes the future but must reach back into the past and change it so what is normal now was also normal then.