Thursday, February 1, 2007

Completing Government Forms

We all have had the experience of having to complete some institution's form. None can be more vexing than those of governments, the Peace Corps being no exception. But, have you ever stopped to think what you are doing, or why? Has the notion "This is really stupid and confusing" popped into your mind? If you want my answers to these questions, read on; otherwise wait for the next blog posting.

Some where at some time there is a person whose job it is to fill out a form for some one else. Let us call it "Form A". In order to complete Form A, information needs to be gathered from which it can be transposed to Form A. The best way to do this, says our person, is create a form which asks the questions I need in order to complete Form A. So Form B is created.

Our Form B creator realizes that simply asking the questions on Form B, needed for Form A, negates the reason for creating Form B and our person being there in the first place. So as any person with a brain in their head would do, some of the questions asked on Form A are rephrased just slightly on Form B. Our Form B creator also realizes that some one at some possible time in the future might ask a question that Form A doesn't ask; so a few more new questions are added just to be on the safe side. This also provides our Form B creator with information not available to the requester of Form A.

Now the possibility exits where the person completing Form B might misinterpret what information is needed for Form A; so a cover sheet of instructions is created to simplify what is needed and how to complete Form B so our person can complete Form A.

When Form B is completed by some one else and returned, the most important thing of our Form B creator is that all the questions be answered, so they can be transposed to Form A. Just what the answers say is not important. All the blanks must be filled.

Repeat this process ad infinitum and you have our modern informational world. No one knows why or who asks the questions, but we think they must be important because it is on a form. We all feel good about completing and creating forms. It is job security, whole technologies are developed, entire economies revolve around forms and the answers they contain.

So as I FedEx (government prepaid) our passport and Samoan visa applications to the Peace Corps, I pause a moment to ponder: "Why do I need a second, "No Fee Passport" if I already have a passport?", "Why am I told, visa applications are not accepted if the forms are not original, when the forms I need to complete are copies?", et cetera. But I feel good, because I have filled in all the blanks and signed all the requested forms. I accomplish my task.

Maybe all of human activity is in response to Adam's first question in the Garden of Eden. Of course, we really don't know what that question is. We do know the result of it and that is who we are today, people mindlessly filling in the blanks, asking stupid "Why" questions, and trying to move on to the next form. C'est la vie!

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