Thursday, 22 January 2015

Dehumanisation? Aye, Robot

Here is a copy of an email I sent to Fife Council (Council of the Year 2014 - no, really) last year.

Dear Sir/Madam/Robot,

I am writing to confirm receipt of your recent letter entitled 'Notification of Summary
Warrant' dated 10 September 2014 which appears to have no reference number but
does include the following identification codes: Involvement ID 794946,
Account Number: 152207071, Holder ID 520643.

This, I received from your FARS (Finance & Procurement Service) of an office.
I notice your latest threat to me notes that due to being unable to pay regular payments
of say, ten or twenty pounds you now want me to cough up the full £129.55 in one go.
Interestingly, and somewhat bewilderingly, but due to some bureaucratic goobledygook
(which obviously has the full backing of the Law via various 'Finance' Acts, Legalese,
and the Sheriff Court etcetera, blah, blah) you have added a 'Statutory Penalty' of £12.96
to the total of the bill which I have been struggling but attempting to pay. 

Obviously, this is 'just the way it is' or 'that's the rules Guv' and you can't do anything about
that; robots have not the power of empathy which makes it all the easier to threaten people.

This added bonus fine constitutes more than I have available weekly for food being
unemployed but I guess that serves me right for being such a lazy, scrounging, parasite
(Copyright - Daily Mail).
You will notice I made a midnightesque-type payment as soon as my Unemployment Benefit
money was paid into my Platinum American Express Millionaires Club Bank Account as the
full moon waned on Sunday night/Monday morning.

You will no doubt tell by the early time (well 11am is early for us doleys isn't it?)
of this email that your letter not only informed me of the oncoming financial doom
and possibility of Sheriff's Officers kicking my door in but has succeeded now in
giving me sleepless nights.

Once I have clicked 'send' on this email I shall Google 'Organ Prices' and get back to you
as soon as possible assuming my phone and internet don't get cut off in the meantime.
I would post a letter to you but often the new front door you installed doesn't unlock
from the inside and I'm not sure I'll catch the post on time if I can't get out.
Mind you, I could always jump out the window which I have considered before;
however that is not such a good idea as I would probably go missing in the jungle
of a 'lawn' outside. My Council Tax doesn't cover the council mowing the lawn like
other properties because, as I'm told by your 'Canny Be Ersed Givin A Decent
Explanation Department' 'We just dinnae do that'.

I was thinking that I could perhaps get around £142.51 for a kidney which would
cover this bill. My liver should be pretty good as I no longer drink although as you
will appreciate I can't guarantee that given I have to deal with Fife Council.
That would be next year's bill covered at the same time.

I hope this email covers the section (Section 5: What will happen if I ignore this notice?)
which details the following: Bank Arrestment (good idea - throw some of those bankers
in the clink), Benefit Deduction (Hello? Blood/Stone), Earnings Arrestment (does this
include my organs if sold?), Inhibition (the pyschological definition is apt isn't it?
Try a dictionary), Sequestration (sorry I don't compete in any horsey sports),
Four Horseman (already being visited by Famine thank you very much;
they're not as bad as they're made out really. Bad press and all that), and Sticks & Stones.

Please be assured that now you have changed the online payment system from a bank
to Fife Council's own vaults I shall make another payment as soon as able to (as explained
before). However, full payment is unlikely at the moment as I'm getting a little old to
sell my body sexually and organ sales sound like they could be a 'long' process
(obviously not in the 'Fife Council' sense of the word) and a bit painful.

In the meantime, I shall keep an eye out for the bruisers you are sending round (tell them
to bring their own coffee and milk, oh... and perhaps a few quid for the electricity meter).

Yours in humble deference,

Number *********

PS: My friends call me Geoff

PPS: I'm told I should be on Tax Band A (not Band B) for a 1 bedroom flat
(do I get any Brownie points for that?)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I received an automated response (albeit, this was a courtesey one; the real one came about a week later).

The serious point to all this is that 'society' has reduced (customers, clients, tenants, the unemployed, disabled, etc) people to be 'numbers'; inconveniences that can be easily 'dealt with' by using answer machines dictating 'press one for...', 'press two for', or automated email responses.

 I even get phone calls from robots now. I mean, some organisations value my custom or potential custom so much that they have a computer phone me. And, when I don't get the message (because I refuse to listen to automated telephone calls) and eventually speak to a human they will say 'but we called you'.

 Of course, once you have reduced a human being to a number (the Nazis gave Jews an I.D. number as part of the dehumanising process remember) it becomes far easier to apply a sanction (if on benefits) that will stop a family from being able to buy food, gas or electricity, to threaten with a Court Order (if in debt) or make any negative decision that would perhaps not be made if face-to-face contact were in place or dehumanisation had not taken place. 

It is hard to empathise with a 'number'; even harder if you are a robot..