Freedom or reign? Or the cleaning lady’s syndrome as a result of exceptional freedom

On one of my jobs, there was a unique woman. She was terrorizing even the director, she knew everything about everyone, plus a little more. With only one glance, she could fix all working processes at once, increase effectiveness and rush us to the result.

You might think she was a director, but you’re wrong. She was an ordinary cleaning lady. 30 years ago, somebody told her: “Ms. Maria, all this is yours, so keep everything in order here.” So she was keeping it, as she knew, as she could, but because of the lack of intelligence, she could do it all with the aplomb of the Empress. Each office, she entered with the mop as if she wasn’t holding a mop, but a scepter in her hands. Even the most important talks, her majesty could interrupt just with a few words “Stand up and get out of here”.

Recently one thing happened to me. I’m scared because at every step I have a déjà vu and Ms. Maria with a mop. I can almost hear her voice, “Come on, move your feet up, quickly! And… What happened to the wires? You’ve spoiled them, you’ll fix them.” For a long time I couldn’t understand why are there so many people with the syndrome of Ms. Maria, more precisely the one of the cleaning lady, and then I got it.

It turned out that decentralization had occurred in the country, and it was this decentralization that gave authority and real power, to all those who were recently Ms. Maria, that is, a cog of one great machine. And then, BANG, and you’re no longer a cog, you’re the whole machine yourself. After that, it begins: “Move up your feet!” Only with different sounds and interpretations.

It is difficult for these people to explain where their place is and how their competency is limited because they’ve never heard of their competency in their lifetime. So now we have another Ms. Maria, moreover, she’s the headmaster of a school. And then, BANG! She is told, or she finds out herself that the state restricts its regulatory pressure on educational institutions. Now the state is issuing mostly not orders, but recommendations. For her, it means – let the reign begin. And it starts.

You can bully the boy for a haircut. You can mock the girl’s hair color. You can tell parents that the old uniform is awful and they urgently need to buy a new one, with that pearl buttons. And if the parents are from the cogs, then they will buy it, punish a daughter for her pink braids at home, and make their son cut his hair. They will do everything as a headmaster says. Although, the headmaster is hiding behind the charter of a school, which she has never even seen with her own eyes. Although, there is no word about haircuts, or about the color, except for the uniform, and even it is not so substantial. Such people as Ms. Maria don’t know the laws that regulate their activities at all. They freely control people-cogs, who also hadn’t seen the laws with their eyes. Oh, yes, once I’ve heard: “I don’t care what’s written in your Constitution”.

Or it may be a teacher, not each of them of course, but there’s a plenty of them. They were also told about certain autonomy, but they are already screaming “your ministries have no authority over us.” Or they are nodding at the courses on the new methods of teaching, agreeing, but then… In secret they take out a primer with young Lenin, shed a tear and burst with a cry, “I don’t care what they’ve invented there, I was teaching for 40 years and I will go on the same way. And you sit down and do not even dare to make a sound.”

Or let’s look at the hospitals. Oh, there they got freedom as well. And now the Empresses tell that they don’t give a damn about everything they’ve created there, on the top, they would work as they used to. The hospital buildings are thrown into the whirlwind of business scams. If suddenly somebody starts sniffing around, then they would say that the ministry has imagined all this up, bastards. Almost everyone who complained about the reform hadn’t seen any of its theses. They only heard the summaries of the cleaning ladies based on the summaries from the TV. The leitmotif turns out to be: “we’re going to die, but for today we’re going to feed ourselves to the heart’s content.”

About local administrations in small towns and villages – everything is the same. One day, I’ve tried to talk with one administrative clerk. I was quoting the laws to her, citing the norms; I was almost dancing around her. In response, I got only: “you know, girl, go back to your Kyiv, and read laws there. For 50 years we requested 4 papers per paper, and it will continue the same way.”

Of course, I depict the dark cases, because there are many of those who were able to understand correctly the given freedom and the power that followed it. They’ve realized that any power is also a responsibility. The responsibility is so great that not every cleaning lady’s shoulders can handle it. This is the responsibility for decisions, for actions, for words, for every breath, because you are responsible not only for yourself, but for thousands, and maybe millions of people.

In other areas and places, stubborn people-machines that not get used to being cogs, teach that the power is not a scepter and robes. It is the ability to be at least responsible for what you say. These awkward people-machines are asking a lot of awkward questions that also treat the patient with a syndrome of the cleaning lady. Since no cleaning lady will change her mop for the responsibility you have to accept when you get that power. There is only one thing the cleaning ladies forget – free people don’t need the emperor. And cogs, cogs are easily set up for any mechanism, and eventually, they choose the one that works, and not the one that breaks.

Tatusya Bo

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