23. Appeal to a Higher Authority

On weekdays nobody gave a thought to the arrangement of society. You watercombed your hair, turned your personal conditions inside out, went up to the bank. Either you got your loan, or you didn't. The bank went bankrupt, watercombed its hair, turned its conditions inside out, went up to the minister of finance. Either it got its loan, or it didn't. And so on and so forth.
When things went awry you appealed to a Higher Authority.
And existence was arranged that way: there was a Higher Authority, or man himself had arranged existence that way, so that there was a Higher Authority.
When clients went up to the bank, it was understood that existence had levels like that. No one ever went down to the bank. For the same reason the bank went up to the finance minister. Language in turn was familiar with these arrangements; that Higher Authhorities housed above their clients.
Of course, if there was a choice, you avoided the Canossa Walk to a Higher Authority. Some sort of crisis was always part of it, and things were never arranged just for your own benefit. There was a saying: when the patrons pull each other's hair, the clients lose their forelocks. (And: the best way to get something done is to do it yourself).
This pecking order, older than the Flood, had been overturned when the Party introduced a new Higher Authority. The clients were the same, but the old patrons were done with. Instead there was the Higher Authority of state, or society, and a municipal councillor was at most a deputy patron, with state or society behind him.
A revolution as big as that needs some time to take effect, and it must be said at once: all clients hadn't adapted to the new order. A few still approached Harry as if he were a patron of the old school. (And a few still believed that bank loans were covered by a substantial gold reserve).
In return clients were expected to behave: pay their taxes, refrain from speeding on public roads.
The whole system was very complicated, and some minor adjustments might still be necessary, to make it function the way it was supposed to. A certain amount of supervision was still needed, and those who didn't behave were likely to lose their forelocks.

Throw ten balls on a clay court - and they automatically arrange into a pyramide! I am not siding with those who say at all times of the day: things have been like that since Adam and Eve, things will be like that till the world comes to an end, said the municipal councillor. But the question is if we will ever be able to rid ourselves of this client-patron pattern. To the Party it would mean an outright catastrophe: clients telling themselves that the best way to get something done is to do it yourself could never be politically correct. Fortunately the nation has at its command a reliable cadre of clients, always in need of a little patronage; we are comfortably off for a while yet.
This wasn't as bad as it sounded, Harry knew well that the client was a relict from clannish organisation, and if something was inherent to him, it was a stubborn ambition to reduce the pyramids of existence, bringing all components down to one and the same level. He knew that this levelling in turn was illusory, nothing but retouch of true and deep-seated conditions, a mere fraud, but sometimes you had to live with fraud for a couple of centuries, till the clients got what it was all about.

Foothold published 4.12.08.

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