Carvajal: Soul-less

Break Point

FOUR vans containing millions of dollars worth of aid for Yolanda victims had to be burned because nobody in the previous administration, not then president Noynoy Aquino, not Mar Roxas, not the Customs Commissioner, had the soul to cut the bureaucratic red tape that blocked the way of the vans’ most necessary and urgent release.

Just how soul-less was it to ask the donor to comply with the required paperwork when the intended beneficiaries were in dire straits? If this was given to a person, he/she would have been so overjoyed as to tell the donor “Thank you and don’t sweat the paperwork. The least I can do is spare you the trouble.”

Unfortunately, the four vans were not given to a person but to a government bureaucracy that unlike persons but like other entrenched bureaucracies often have their hardly-there soul buried in tons of red tape.

But this is beyond soul-less, beyond heartless. This is criminal insensitivity that cries to heaven for justice. How many survivors died of hunger in evacuation centers for lack of food and of exposure for lack of shelter and clothing? How many would have lived if somebody had the soul/heart to order: “The hell with rules, people are dying, release the vans.”

Yet, as outrageous as this bureaucratic faux pas was, it is even more outrageous that we are not outraged enough to call out those concerned for an idiocy that cost the country so many lives. Where is the outrage of righteous media and of devout “saints” of the Church? Where’s the “probe” by credit-grabbers in Congress?

Are we saying burning vans of food, clothing and shelter materials for calamity survivors is okay? Are we silently saying we are as soul-less as the bureaucracy that allowed needed food to rot and finally be burned for lack of the required papers for its release?

German sociologist Max Weber once argued that bureaucracy is the most efficient and rational way of organizing human activity to maximize its results. Offhand this is a sound theory because it is simply unimaginable how organizations can accomplish their mission without divvying up the prescribed activities among personnel organized for the purpose.

In practice, however, bureaucracy easily leads to inefficiency. After some time rules become more important than the efficiency they were meant to produce. When this happens, as it happened with the burned vans, bureaucracy loses its soul and becomes impersonal, dehumanizing and corrupt. Like we still have to learn how much corruption got in the way of the vans’ expeditious release.

In any case, bureaucracies should be continually evaluated and reformed. Above all somebody with soul should always be on top because in the country bureaucracies tend to be frighteningly soul-less.


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