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Author of this essay:

Ven. Ming Zhen Shakya
April 23, 2011

The Peter Principle In Government And Religion
By Ming Zhen Shakya

We knew we were headed for an exotic destination. Seeding Mars. Colonizing Titan. Little did we know that our destiny was somewhere in the vicinity of "a small town in France."

Ok. Ok. Space hungry Futurists can relax. "A small town in France" is really located on the planet Remulak. Our State Department is preparing us for the transition.

State has decreed that when we Coneheads apply for a passport to go to, or come home from, Remulak or, for that matter, a small town in France, and we want to take the kids with us, we are neither "mother" or "father" of those kids. We are Parent #1 or Parent #2. , i.e., "Parental Units." Our offspring must, by definition, be "Young ones" of no specified gender.

The State Department neutered us in deference to a complaint from homosexual couples who felt uncomfortable when they filled out passport applications and could not decide which one of them should claim to be (1) Mother or (2) Father of the child or children they had adopted.

Instead of flipping a coin in the time-honored way that the rest of us would decide this, they complained to Washington.

To the State Department it seemed perfectly logical to make straight couples wonder which of them is #1 or #2 in their child's life rather than force homosexual couples to make the decision. (They do not call State "Foggy Bottom" for nothing.)

Not to be outdone in Politically Correct idiocy are the Americans With Disabilities Act's enforcers who recently found fault with Nevada's main prison for not accommodating the disabled sufficiently. They declared that the state's death chamber did not meet their requirements and could not be used until an outside elevator was installed and also until stairs and handrails to the execution chamber were brought up to code.

The last execution carried out in Nevada occurred five years ago. The state Prison Board explained that the state does not have the necessary drugs to execute anyone. No effort seems to have been made to obtain the drugs since nobody was scheduled to be executed. Nevertheless, the needs of the disabled to access the death chamber must be met. Many persons have attempted to formulate a rational response to this notice; but no one has succeeded. It is simply beyond intelligent consideration.

The law that requires businesses to reserve the best parking places for the friends and families of the disabled continues to expand the privilege. After our last essay on the misuse of the disabled parking privilege (found here) one man contacted me to tell me that his Aunt had a Handicapped Parking permit because she was sensitive to sunlight. I said, "Why doesn't she just wear sun glasses?" And he said that he, too, suggested that, but she said "No" since she preferred to shop in the evening. What can a person say to this? If a returning Vet who really is disabled tries but cannot find an open space among the "reserved for the handicapped" oasis because it is filled with drivers who are related to persons who have such driving "disabilities" as blindness (yes, you can get a permit to park there if you have trouble seeing where you are going), or cannot walk without an oxygen tank, etc., what would we say to him?

Last month the Edgewater Elementary School in Florida yielded to the Americans for Disabilities Act's enforcers when they made it clear that a girl of six, whose nut allergy was so severe that someone with peanut breath who got too close "could kill her," had to be accommodated. School authorities required all other children to cease eating deadly PB&J sandwiches, candy, and snacks that contained killer nuts or oil on school property. Fearing that some murderous classmate would eat peanuts at home before leaving for school, all children had to rinse their mouths out so that their breath would not give her an attack (which could kill her.) They also had to wash their hands several times a day lest they touch her when their fingers contained lethal nut residue (which could kill her), and wipe their desks with Clorox lest she should touch their desk (which could kill her). A peanut-sniffing dog has been employed to root out contraband peanuts. What are we to do if a six year old (who cannot read the ingredients of a candy bar) with no malice aforethought happens to dip into his Halloween treat bag or Easter basket and puts a lethal snack in his pocket and then, during recess, munches on it and says "Hi" to the girl (which could kill her) and actually does. Is this negligent homicide? Is it reasonable to importune an entire class of six year-old kids, worrying them with inadvertent felonies and depriving them of an American staple for lunch - not to mention tofu?

Each year we learn of more bizarre allergies and disabilities that are suddenly qualifying people for disability payments. I recall reading about a bank teller who developed an allergy to the ink on our currency. In the Adirondack mountains of New York State, I visited the home of a family that had a plastic Christmas tree because a member of the family was allergic to live Christmas trees. I saw fir, spruce, and pine trees on their lawn... and everybody else's lawn. There are zillions of Christmas tree-type trees in the Adirondack mountains. The family member didn't have any problem with those other trees. Let's make an ad hoc diagnosis and suppose that the allergy was to the tree's holiday purpose, not to any taxonomic rank. I didn't know what to say to the family. Dr. Robert Adler would have said, "psycho-neuroimmunology."

Sometimes disabilities are diagnosed by zip code. Nine out of the ten highest recipients of federal disability payments are located in Puerto Rican zip codes. Why, we may wonder, are so many Puerto Ricans disabled? One fifty-four year old nurse who was laid off from her hospital job in 2008 got depressed and applied for disability payments. Her claim was denied for lack of information. She obtained an x-ray that a doctor said indicated "incipient arthritis." Well, now... that's a disability! In November 2009 she was granted nearly $1100. a month disability payment, retroactive to her 2008 application. Any person who is on disability for two years automatically qualifies for an additional Medicare card.

There are lawyers who hire people in wheel chairs to go from small business to small business to look for the slightest infringement of the Americans With Disabilities Act so that they can litigate. The finder gets a finder's fee. The business owner gets a law suit. If a cafeteria has a buffet counter that is an inch higher than the Act specifies, the owner must pay to have the buffet counter lowered or he will enter a legal world of pain and/or close his restaurant.

In Maine a school boy who claimed to be transgender was prevented from using the girls' bathroom. He complained; and the Maine Human Rights Commission ordered schools to cease discriminating against him. He wasn't old enough to get his period - one reason girls like to keep their restroom free of males - but that didn't matter. His right to use the girls' bathroom could not be abrogated.

And finally, last week the Feral Horse Committee of the Nevada Wildlife Commission joined with the thugs of the Bureau of Land Management in their mission to exterminate Nevada's Mustangs. They declared that the wild horses should not be considered wildlife and are therefore not entitled to drink water at any spring, pool, watering hole, or lakeside. The thugs of the BLM, having succeeded in destroying small independent miners and making life as difficult as possible for native Americans (the Piute Tribes), have turned their incomprehensible attention to killing wild horses - often by relentlessly stampeding them by helicopter so that the foals and yearlings, who cannot keep up, run to their deaths. 85% of Nevada is owned by the federal government. What motivates these government imbeciles? They are pals with the ranchers who benefit so handsomely from the Taylor Grazing Act and big commercial mining companies who want the water. Horses and burros thrived in Nevada for centuries before there was a United States. Yet they are not "wildlife" and are denied water?

More administrative incompetence is found with PETA. Whales, dolphins, wolves, wild horses.... Where is PETA when they could be of use? People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals? They are busy at work trying to make San Francisco rename their "Tenderloin" district. Evidently the name offends cattle.

We find this sort of irrationality and incompetence in religious settings, too.

Years ago we used to talk about the The Peter Principle... administrative employees rise to their highest level of incompetence. A person does his job well and gets promoted; but he cannot quite grasp the essentials of the new position. He may be punctual and easy to get along with; so on balance his superiors tolerate his incompetence - which, after all, reflects on their having promoted him in the first place; but they will not promote him again. So there he stays - nice guy, lousy administrator, but treated with due deference by his subordinates. Wherever we find government bureaucracies or religious hierarchies, we find the Peter Principle hard at work.

It is difficult to give advice about something you know nothing about. There are young priests who in their former country lived in rural areas or in monasteries since they were eleven years old. Now at the ripe age of twenty they are fully ordained, know every chant by heart, have the temple protocol down pat, and carry themselves as true Buddhist clerics. But they have never had a job, paid income tax, owned a home or a dog, paid a mortgage or a vet, driven a car, kissed a woman, dealt with a mother-in-law or a next door neighbor, or a teen-age son or daughter. The list of things they know nothing about tends to infinity.

Immigrants from Asia established the first Buddhist temple in our area in the 1970s. It functioned as a meeting place where people could speak their native language and attend familiar services. When the cost of construction plus the expense of maintaining the clerical staff and building proved too much for them, they made a serious effort to attract Americans. They expected that the newcomers would accept the Pali Canon; and this was reasonable. But they also assumed that the Americans would adopt Asian cultural practices and attitudes, and the repercussions of this assumption alienated both the Americans and the Asian kids who were born here. The elders considered female human beings to be lower forms of life than males since the females would have to be reborn as males before they could attain Nirvana. They also believed that smugglers of illicit drugs committed no crime - the guilty persons were the Americans who created the demand. Thus, the proximate cause of trafficking was demand, not supply, a logic that extended to the sexual exploitation of children and women in Asian countries. It was the fault of the foreigners who went to the countries to pay for deviant sex who were to blame, and, of course, previous colonial exploitation that created the poverty that forced the innocent into the supply line.

Especially when religious personnel - of any religion - are actually committing the infractions themselves, they counsel forgiveness and suggest ways in which the victims - usually women and children - might alter their conduct so as not to inspire abuse. They seem never to recommend that a mentally disturbed person seek medical help or a victim of abuse call 9-1-1. The person is simply experiencing bad karma - punishment earned in a previous life, or is possessed by a demon and requires exorcism of some sort. No superstition is too bizarre to discount. Again and again we hear of clerical advice that is usually predicated upon a meretricious motive or absolute ignorance.

Sometimes tragedy follows. We all remember the disaster in a Thai temple in Phoenix to which CSI devoted an episode. The real story was that a woman, who had an amount of gold that had been obtained by questionable means, had talked to priests who advised her to leave the gold with them for several months and they would purify it of its tainted origin. A teen aged boy who attended the Temple with his family heard about the gold. He and a friend decided to steal it. They were discovered during the robbery attempt, and knowing that they had been recognized, they lined up the priests and a temple worker... eight people.. and executed them.

Administrators, clerics, experts, and committee members so easily can become corrupt, arbitrary, and incompetent in the performance of their duty that we must be circumspect when we empower them. And it isn't bad enough that they misuse their power, while we are busy not looking, they get jobs or profitable contracts for friends and relatives. They create a bunker to go with their bunker mentality. We assume that a priest or an agency administrator was chosen for the position because he or she was qualified and competent - and always will be. We accord them respect and never care to look beneath surfaces - which is why we are always so shocked when malfeasance is discovered.

And why people who start out with an honorable mission so quickly succumb to pettiness, greed, and martinet tyranny. We can only wonder whether life on Remulak... or a small town in France, for that matter, is any different.

Humming Bird
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