Monday, December 17, 2007
I read somewhere recently – I remember, it was in one of those answers-to-impossible-questions books that are piled up near the door in Waterstones; the sort that people buy for friends when they have run out of ideas – that the basic colour of the universe is brown. Examine all the colour spectra of everything that exists in space and time and brown dominates. Just like when you were a child and you painted something really pretty but couldn’t leave it alone and you kept adding and adding more colour until what you had left was a soggy brown rectangle of sugar paper. Not only that, but your paintbox had also been transformed into a uniform khaki. So when God or Nature made the universe’s infinite vastness, He/It, too, must have ended up over-egging the colour aspect.
Sludge brown is probably the pigment of bureaucracy rather than its usual association with grey. The reason is this. The more bureaucracy is vested with responsibility for aspects of social life, the more layers of it become implicated. And layers mean lots of individuals at different levels of the hierarchy. And the more they confer via their emails, memos, conferences and break-out sessions, the more the clarity of an original, possibly appropriate decision becomes an opaque, unworkable sludge. Brown, in fact.
In some ways it is even worse than this. Brown may be the least liked colour in all the tins on the shelf. I am sure research would prove my hypothesis to be true. Colourful people are creative, active, go-getting, interesting, risky and sometimes difficult to take. Put the ones who are, let us say, brownish or, at least suffering a dearth of vibrant colour, into any organisation and they accelerate the dunning of its bureaucracy. The non-doers, the risk-less, the organisationally dependent for their very identity, once they become social administrators, in their varying shades of drab, develop the curricula for schools, the by-laws for the council, health and safety regulations, laws to close loopholes in laws, multicultural niceties, obscenity criteria, prevention of humour that might cause offence….. and on and on. Put in another, even more graphic way, they are like a multi-hued, if muted, kaleidoscope of food on a dinner plate when they begin their careers. What is the uniform colour that they share when their organisations eliminate them from their bowels into the outer world?
The reason so much of British society is dull and lacking, is that the brown have inherited the earth.
Kerouac was right. Bureaucrats steal our time and our choices through legislation. They mess up our paintbox.