O thin men of Haddam,
why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women around you?
Wallace Stevens, 13 ways of looking at a blackbird
Bureaucrats do not figure much in political utopias. Lawmakers do. Political leaders with marvellous abilities – vision and will – do. But bureaucrats? They appear in utopias if at all only as exiles from the dreamt republic.
Utopias though are dangerous things. Golden illusions that lead us astray. The beautiful clean lines that insist on being etched in blood on human skin. Utopias, dreams of progress, pining for the restoration of a former time, ideals, grand visions of a better world and a purer democracy. or merely the reforms pursued by the thin men of Haddam – they are all temptations to straighten the crooked timber of humanity. They are all manias to make order out of chaos at least in our minds. They are all failures of looking at a bureaucrat.
To see the bureaucrat in the political world, we must be comfortable with a messier, more mundane interpretation of the real. We must see the blackbirds feeding at the feet of the women of Haddam.