The Man

He’s everywhere, but you never see him – physically non-existent, but effectively a brick wall. We’ll never know what he looks like, but you can bet he wears a name badge. He is the obsession in following protocol. He is bureaucracy, neuroses and the oppressive inanity of power. Bristling against The Man is not big, clever or even new, it’s just nowadays he seems to be getting away with more than he used to.

He constantly thwarts our right to a hassle-free, logical life and this in, in part, is because of his large family. Streaking his way into the limelight of ridiculousness is The Man’s Great Uncle Health and Safety. From children having to wear goggles when using Blu-Tack, to being banned from wearing plastic hair bands in case they ‘bump into a classmate’, the cotton wool we’re being wrapped in is starting to smother us. We’re allowed to do less and less. Except worry: worry more. Uncle H.A.S loves it when we’re anxious because fear stops us from coming up with solutions. H.A.S thrives on us living in fear of litigation, and although there are cracks in the foundations of litigious idiocy, alas they cannot collapse the building. One such crack comes, surprisingly, in the form of David Cameron who has apparently vowed to stop this nonsense, and another in the form of Judith Hackitt, chair of the Health and Safety Executive (and presumed distant cousin of The Man) who referred to this sorry state of affairs as “frankly ridiculous”, although she was immediately reprimanded as her words were too sharp and could have hurt someone. They don’t stand a chance! Both Judith and David are relatively a mere flash in The Man pan.

Ms. Political Correctness, The Man’s first lady should get a mention – her tireless work knows no bounds. In business meetings employees are no longer allowed to “brain storm” as this is deemed offensive to people with brain disorders. The list is woefully extensive but the star contender in the ridiculous PC Awards goes to the local council who informed employees that using the term “Politically Incorrect” was indeed politically incorrect. It’s actually swallow-your-own-head-backwards stupid.

A little known fact about The Man – he loves signs, in fact signs and notes are two of his easiest paths into our every day life. One of his favourites is putting “May contain nuts” on a packet of nuts and then “Serving suggestion” because they’re pictured out of the packet. He’s also particularly fond of “Best enjoyed with or without food‟ on the back of wine bottles. Predictably, The Man only likes what he writes himself, so he rubbed the graffiti off the fence by the M40 that read “Why do I do this every day?” Someone re-painted it, this time saying “Why do I still do this every day?” but The Man doesn’t have a sense of humour and so he got rid of that too.

The Man also loves the word ‘legislation’, it makes him all warm inside. When it comes to legislation he has a very real impact on our lives, which is why we throw tonnes of edible food away every day instead of giving them to the homeless. And look what happened to Ashton Court – the demise of our much-loved festival hoons of The Man, who convinced the authorities that bureaucracy and red tape were much more important than celebrating our culturally rich community. After nearly thirty years, the organisers had to surrender, and The Man did an invisible victory dance in the Aston Court Estate.

It’s hard to know how to deal with him. There is of course, the option to “Stick it to The Man”, which is empowering in a completely unhelpful way, given that “It” is an obscure concept, as is The Man. What we need to do is out smug him – he thinks he has won. He hasn’t. Keep graffing the fence by the M40, brainstorm arbitrary use of Blu-Tak, start a campaign to give food to the homeless, take a guitar to Ashton Court and start your own festival. Fight the system. After all, what else is it there for? Although The Man has an extensive family network, in essence there’s only one of him, and there are so many more of us.

Published in Venue (a now defunct magazine) yonks ago, so no link.