He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
Wallace Stevens, 13 ways of looking at a blackbird
At first, the image of travel in a glass coach, magically through the harbour towns and rural havens of Connecticut, might seem an image of bureaucratic isolation. Don’t they live in a bubble, a fragile bubble, sealed off from the more robust world of rule-breakers, creators and destroyers? Do they not live in a privilege of immunity from the crush and hungry treading of the world and its markets?
But in way, we all live today, those of us who live in the affluent degraded democracies of the once liberal world order, as if we were travelling in a glass coach across the soothing countryside of New Haven. Our worlds are inundated with wealth, images and information, and anyone of us can summon to our palaces our very own glass coach from which we explore in transparent isolation our soothing yet troubled world.
Of course this coach casts a shadow, even if faintly through its frames and joins. Even the simplest of our abundant pleasures have side-effects and preconditions. Every trip in isolation down the country road already assumes the we who made the road, who set out the signs, who explained the rules of driving (even in magical vehicles, safety rules keep more people safe), who plotted the countryside and kept the titles by which its dwellers claim it as their own. So much organisation, so much responsibility, so much bureaucracy for every freedom ride.
But we suppose ourselves born free, unchained from tradition, loosed from all institutions and unaccountable in our splendid glass coaches to the we who created our ride. We travel in Romantic splendour in a glass coach of change, of innovation, of the latest, and do not want to be reminded of the mundane work of stability, without which our glass cage of freedom would shatter.
So, we shriek in fear. So we see the ominous blackbird of bureaucracy staining our lives. Dull, lifeless, not at all a friend to man. What does the fearful shadow tell us?
That we are all bureaucrats?