My oh my, what a tangled web! I mentioned a little while ago that some of our population here in the Bustling Burg were smoking mad and at each others’ throats – pretty much par for the course in most small towns – and now they’ve proceeded from talkin’ the talk to walkin’ the walk. Attorneys have been retained. Rumor has it we have a pit bull on the one side and a lion on the other, and the rest of us have ring-side seats! The Mayor (King Jong Bill), in the opinion of those represented by the Lion, overstepped his authority by hiring himself to perform work on behalf of the Town, and the Council failed to exercise due vigilance by not pointing out to him that you just can’t DO that. It isn’t Mayoral. Or legal, but let’s not get snippy.
I’m not terribly interested in the details, and I don’t imagine you are either. If you are, you are cordially invited to pass the time edifying yourself at the Town Council meetings; an activity I find as illuminating and diverting as a colonoscopy. What interests me is that in a small town, with a volunteer Council who have, by and large, no background or training in how to run a small town, its so easy to fall prey to mission creep and mutating memes.
Memes, of course are units of cultural information that are transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another. A meme is to culture what a gene is to evolution. Some examples of memes are catch-phrases, beliefs, clothing fashions and the technology of building arches. So in a small town council, if one member thinks that it really isn’t important to have a Town Clerk, and it isn’t required by the charter, and it will be cheaper to not have one, and he says so, and perhaps says that someone else agrees with him, and that gee whiz, not all towns have town clerks, so doing without is just fine. The hearer of that passes it on, and by the third or fourth hearing, its fact. (And facts are , of course, simply the agreed-upon observations of qualified observers. Before Columbus it was a fact that the world was flat.) What’s missing is the input of an opinion from outside the cultural milieu of the Town Council (perhaps a citizen of the town…but they’re all out having elective colonoscopies rather than attending the council meetings…), to inject a little common sense: you can’t just DO that because it disrupts the checks and balances that prevent corruption, nepotism and conflicts of interests. The Mayor shouldn’t be writing checks to himself.
I’m intimately familiar with this process insofar as I’m a Postmaster working all by myself in this little town at the end of the line, who is supposed to follow all the procedures that every other Postmaster in the nation follows, but sometimes I just forget. I skip one little procedure – perhaps filling out a certain form every quarter and filing it in the appropriate place – and then I forget that I was ever instructed to do that little thing, and pretty soon its as though I never, ever even heard of such a procedure. I’m a culture of one, and my memes are pesky as mosquitoes.