Kafka loves Zoning and FEMA

This topic is locked from further discussion.

#1 Posted by MrPraline (21331 posts) -
"Sandy wrecked our house, but bureaucrats are keeping it broken." Stumbled upon this article. Read and weep. Shows how f*cked up our system is. This isn't just America. I could identify with plenty of the things this guy is complaining, beautifully, about.

"What sort of people were these? What were they talking about? What office did they belong to? K. was living in a free country, after all, everywhere was at peace, all laws were decent and were upheld, who was it who dared accost him in his own home?" Franz Kafka, "The Trial" Like many people whose houses were badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy, my family and I have been living in a rented house since the storm. Unlike some whose houses were totalled, we could have repaired things and been home toasting our tootsies by our own fireplace by now. What happened? Two things: zoning (as in "Twilight Zone") and FEMA. Our first exposure to the town zoning authorities came a couple of weeks after Sandy. We'd met with insurance adjusters, contractors and "remediation experts." We'd had about a foot of Long Island Sound sloshing around the ground floor of our house in Connecticut, and everyone had the same advice: Rip up the floors and subfloors, and tear out anything wiring, plumbing, insulation, drywall, kitchen cabinets, bookcases touched by salt water. All of it had to go, and pronto, too, lest mold set in. Yet it wasn't until the workmen we hired had ripped apart most of the first floor that the phrase "building permit" first wafted past us. Turns out we needed one. "What, to repair our own house we need a building permit?" Of course. Before you could get a building permit, however, you had to be approved by the Zoning Authority. And Zoning citing FEMA regulations would force you to bring the house "up to code," which in many cases meant elevating the house by several feet. Now, elevating your house is very expensive and time consuming not because of the actual raising, which takes just a day or two, but because of the required permits. Kafka would have liked the zoning folks. There also is a limit on how high in the sky your house can be. That calculation seems to be a state secret, but it can easily happen that raising your house violates the height requirement. Which means that you can't raise the house that you must raise if you want to repair it. Got that? There were other surprises. A woman in our neighborhood has two adjoining properties, with a house and a cottage. She rents the house and lives in the cottage. For 29 years she has paid taxes on both. The cottage was severely damaged but she can't tear it down and rebuild because Zoning says the plots are not zoned for two structures, never mind that for 29 years two property-tax payments were gladly accepted. Kafka would have liked FEMA, too. We've met plenty of its agents. Every one we've encountered has been polite and oozing with sympathy. Even the lady who reduced my wife to tears was nice. The issue was my wife's proof of income. We sent our tax return to FEMA, but that wasn't good enough. They wanted pay stubs. My wife works as a freelance writer and editor. She doesn't get a pay stub. Which apparently makes her a nonperson to this government agency. In "The Road to Serfdom," Friedrich Hayek noted that "the power which a multiple millionaire, who may be my neighbor and perhaps my employer, has over me is very much less than that which the smallest functionnaire possesses who wields the coercive power of the state on whose discretion it depends whether and how I am to be allowed to live or to work." And how. But what makes the phenomenon so insidious is that many of the functionaries are as friendly as can be. It's just that they're cogs in a machine whose overriding purpose is not service but self-perpetuation and control. It is, as Alexis de Tocqueville saw, a recipe for a form of despotism peculiar to modern democracies. It does this, wrote Tocqueville, by enforcing "a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules" that reduces citizens "to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd." The sobering thought is that we're all complicit in that infantilization. After all, we keep voting for the politicians who put this leviathan in place. Just before Christmas, our 5-year-old daughter had an encounter with Santa. What did she want for Christmas? "My house back." It's not only us, of course. Thousands upon thousands have been displaced, but the bullying pedantry of the zoning establishment never wavers. While our house stands empty, the city authorities even showed a sense of humor by sending us a bill for property taxes. For a house they won't let us repair. We've spent a few thousand dollars on a lawyer to appeal to Zoning, many thousands in rent, and hundreds getting a fresh appraisal of our house. The latest from our lawyer: Because of our new appraisal, we may be able to "apply for a zoning permit." "Apply," mind you. I used to think that our house was, you know, our house. The bureaucrats have taught me otherwise. But then I also used to think that Franz Kafka wrote a species of dark fantasy. I know now that he was turning out nonfiction.

And bam. That final sentence.
#2 Posted by THE_DRUGGIE (24976 posts) -

What do Kafa and FEMA have in common?

[spoiler] They never finish what they start. [/spoiler]

#3 Posted by spike6958 (5053 posts) -
LOL, I read that as Kefka and got very confused as to why an FFVI character would be involved in this. That's what I get for drinking a lot of Vodka over the last 6 hours.
#4 Posted by t3hrubikscube (20416 posts) -
raging hard
#5 Posted by sonicare (53607 posts) -

What do Kafa and FEMA have in common?

[spoiler] They never finish what they start. [/spoiler]

THE_DRUGGIE
You mean what does Kafka and Bioware's Mass Effect division have in common.
#6 Posted by THE_DRUGGIE (24976 posts) -

[QUOTE="THE_DRUGGIE"]

What do Kafa and FEMA have in common?

[spoiler] They never finish what they start. [/spoiler]

sonicare

You mean what does Kafka and Bioware's Mass Effect division have in common.

Ehhh, I was thinking of The Tower when I wrote that.

#7 Posted by DaBrainz (7721 posts) -
Never heard of Kafka but yeah the bureaucracy around building codes is annoying. Mostly put there to keep the overpaid trades in business and preventing you from doing it yourself.
#8 Posted by -Sun_Tzu- (17384 posts) -
Never heard of KafkaDaBrainz
#9 Posted by sonicare (53607 posts) -
Never heard of Kafka but yeah the bureaucracy around building codes is annoying. Mostly put there to keep the overpaid trades in business and preventing you from doing it yourself.DaBrainz
Never heard of Kafka? You probably had to read him in high school. Metamorphosis was one of his most popular works. The one where a guy suddenly wakes up and discovers he has turned into a bug.
#10 Posted by MrPraline (21331 posts) -
[QUOTE="DaBrainz"]Never heard of Kafka but yeah the bureaucracy around building codes is annoying. Mostly put there to keep the overpaid trades in business and preventing you from doing it yourself.sonicare
Never heard of Kafka? You probably had to read him in high school. Metamorphosis was one of his most popular works. The one where a guy suddenly wakes up and discovers he has turned into a bug.

Kafkaesque. Beautiful word. And best way to describe our current governments and bureaucracies.
#11 Posted by DaBrainz (7721 posts) -
[QUOTE="DaBrainz"]Never heard of Kafka but yeah the bureaucracy around building codes is annoying. Mostly put there to keep the overpaid trades in business and preventing you from doing it yourself.sonicare
Never heard of Kafka? You probably had to read him in high school. Metamorphosis was one of his most popular works. The one where a guy suddenly wakes up and discovers he has turned into a bug.

Nope, I thought I never heard of him so I googled him. Now I'm sure I never heard of him. Come to think of it, I don't think any of my required reading ventured outside of English literature.
#12 Posted by THE_DRUGGIE (24976 posts) -

[QUOTE="sonicare"][QUOTE="DaBrainz"]Never heard of Kafka but yeah the bureaucracy around building codes is annoying. Mostly put there to keep the overpaid trades in business and preventing you from doing it yourself.MrPraline
Never heard of Kafka? You probably had to read him in high school. Metamorphosis was one of his most popular works. The one where a guy suddenly wakes up and discovers he has turned into a bug.

Kafkaesque. Beautiful word. And best way to describe our current governments and bureaucracies.

Eh, the American government was set up to be kafkaesque anyway.

Intentionally setting up stipulations to slow the process of governing tends to instill multiple hurdles due to mounting caution is nothing new.

#13 Posted by MrPraline (21331 posts) -

[QUOTE="MrPraline"][QUOTE="sonicare"] Never heard of Kafka? You probably had to read him in high school. Metamorphosis was one of his most popular works. The one where a guy suddenly wakes up and discovers he has turned into a bug.THE_DRUGGIE

Kafkaesque. Beautiful word. And best way to describe our current governments and bureaucracies.

Eh, the American government was set up to be kafkaesque anyway.

Intentionally setting up stipulations to slow the process of governing tends to instill multiple hurdles due to mounting caution is nothing new.

That's true.