September 20, 2012

SUPERHERO BUREAUCRACY

[DAY 15 IN AMSTERDAM] 

In an attempt to save the world, our common superhero usually catches a few scratches. I slipped off my bike pedal today, but no one saw it when I rolled off the bike path into a creek of duckweed. The ducks were too terrified of my human size to start nibbling at me, so they quacked for a bit and drifted into other directions. I was slightly wet. But to get registered in a new country you need to overcome these kind of obstacles. Nothing is easy and you do need to eat shit sometimes, because it is all that they give you, otherwise you would starve. But enough with the metaphors, the truth is that I am a stranger in a strange new land. What are my options?
I am a European citizen, that is something you know about me now. I enjoy the advantages my Europeanity Europeness Europeism Europpp  EU citizenship entails. I was an enemy of the state when I went to the United States a few years back. Not in a dangerous criminal kind of way. But if you go to the US as anything other than a tourist, you become THE ENEMY.

Compared to the duckweed incident earlier today, my first few weeks in New York City were an utter solitary nightmare. You are dependent on the system, yet the system is not dependent on you. It worked fine before you got there, and then when you leave it moves on as well. Your existence is a web of counterrevolutionary nonentities. You have no power. It's not the fact that I got mugged by a gang of underage crack addicts right in front of my house (where on other occasions I witnessed gang violence at its finest when somebody threw a bicycle at another person). It's also not the fact that I once got blackmailed by a flamboyant, unsuccessful actor with a bartending job who stole my identity. The citizens I encountered on my journey through New York are a different story. What kept me from becoming an accepted human being in the USA is the endless inane paperwork one needs to fill out and provide just to even walk one step on US soil. And I think that customer service employees yelling at me and connecting me to infinite loops of Old McDonald Had a Farm played their parts... There is a presumptuous emptiness to the bureaucratic hubris that this pseudo-democratic country exhibits to foreigners. I don't understand how I managed to survive those three years without ever biting the grass.

I walked into the tax office in Amsterdam today. I waited for about four minutes until I was called to the counter window, where I had to show my passport and fill out one (!) simple form. I had to wait three more minutes until my name was called to pick up my tax number. It took me 8 minutes total of being physically present in the building and it didn't cost me a penny. Now I can get a bank account, a gym membership, a phone contract, everything I need to start my life in the Netherlands. I never had any of those things in New York. I surely could have had those things, but to get there I would have had to jump through a bunch of burning hoops, and I am not that athletic. To have all these things, you must be rich, and a risk taker, and you must not care about being screwed over by government employees who speak worse English than you. One must think they do this for their own personal pleasure. There is no sense in it. US bureaucracy is the true enemy. Foolish games.


I fell of my bike today,because it is wet in Amsterdam, especially in September. My ass got some duckweed stains, that's fine. I managed to take my first successful steps into becoming an accepted person in this country, as somebody who can't be fooled, somebody who takes bureaucracy for what it is... assumed the bureaucracy I am fighting does have its intended purpose...




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