Monday, December 17, 2007

Nanny state saves worms from emotional trauma

Bureaucrats the world over are a special class unto themselves. They tend to be petty, obsessed with their own importance, and always looking for ways to expand their powers over others. Everywhere they are a plague.

Now consider the actions of one such bureaucrat who is not being named by the media. Here is the story.

Coll Bell invented a new kind of septic system which he called the “wormorator”. It was a composting toilet that used worms. But the bureaucrats in the Auckland, New Zealand, city government have never dealt with this form of septic system before. And bureaucracy is inherently conservative and clings to the past and the antiquated.

For three years Bell was fighting to use his system. One of the final straws that forced him into selling was this last encounter with a government employee. A staff member of the Regional Council told Bell that she wanted an expert’s report concerning the psychological impact on the worms.

Bell said: “She felt that the worms were being unfairly treated, being expected to deal with human feces, and that it could affect them in a psychological way.”

We wouldn’t want worms with emotional trauma. Such things could turn them into serial killers. And consider the costs to the health system if worms start putting in claims for emotional disabilities! It could be astronomical. My issue is that I have no idea how to analyze the emotional state of a worm. Of course since some con artists pretend to be animal psychics I see no reason other con artists couldn’t offer psychological counseling to worms.

I would wonder, however, what the differences are between the Jungians, Freudians and Szaszians would be on the worm question. It boggles the imagination. I can see little worm couches for use during the evaluation sessions.

The bureaucrat told Bell he would “have to have someone with the necessary qualifications to say the worms are happy.” Now I had a major in psychology and journalism at university (it was a combined major under a special mentoring program) and never once did I come across something on treating the emotional state of worms. And I sincerely doubt that anyone could do this.

Bell had had Patricia Naidu, a consultant on vermiculture which uses worms for composting, attest that the worms were in good health and breeding. And that seemed to satisfy the stickler for paperwork.

When the media contacted the officials regarding this absurd escapade the official who made the demand was unavailable but her superior, Robyn Floyd did speak on the record. She said the worm concern was a valid one since the worms would be used in septic system at a campground where sewage was heavy during the summer and less during the rest of the year. She argued that they had a “valid concern with stress on a proposed worm population from huge fluctuations in flows and thus feed for the worms.”

I can see her point. The worms are chomping away at a pile of shit quite happy and boom -- they are suddenly unemployed. Do they qualify for unemployment? What about the emotional counseling they might need from the sudden stress of being unemployed? Will the worms take to drink? Perhaps turn to crime? And what about the little worms? Will the children’s services department help little worm babies during the lean times?

It is nice to know that the welfare state is always on the lookout for new clients to help.