Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Whose feet are being dragged by whom?

I love thinking about the illogic of set expressions in the English language. I talked the Animus's ear off today about things like "couldn't like less than." Does it mean there is no higher? Or no lesser?

Anyway. That was getting him back for when I said "the water lapping at the bridge" and he asked if water has a tongue.

Here's another gem from yesterday's New York Times reportage of the possible US deal with Sudan: "...persistent reports of foot-dragging by the Sudanese authorities..."

Let's think about this foot-dragging. What Mark Lander is implying is that at the macro level, the Sudanese government isn't outputting everything it should be. The way he says it is by - apparently - giving agency to individual bureaucrats.

Yet consider the mental-state of a bureaucrat. Might a bureaucrat flex his or her respective muscles in order to feel powerful? Certainly.

Could such a state employee really drag his or her feet in such a way as to jeopardize the national status? I don't think so.

Which leads to an impasse. If bureaucrats are taking unnecessary amounts of time on filling out those paperworks they need to, it's either because someone higher up directs them to do so -- or because of extenuating circumstances. There's no way for us to tell which, but either abnegates the entire purpose for using the "foot-dragging" metaphor in the first place -- we no longer have any appreciation of individuals participating in Sudanese governmental policies. We just have one monolithic structure.

That's ok. Later we can talk about the English propensity to mask agency. "This paper argues that..." or "The committee decided that..." or "Mistakes were made..."

No comments: