89 - Workyticket

For reasons which remain unclear, some of the agencies I am using to find work require a CRB check within China. This is puzzling.


Why is it puzzling? Because, at the very first sign of any illegality, accusation being sufficient, colleagues have been deported (had their residence permits revoked and therefore required to remove themselves at their own cost). I have seen this twice. The mere suggestion of impropriety is sufficient to be sacked. Therefore one clearly cannot have crossed the authorities for, if one had, one would no longer be in China. So the test is not ‘Can you procure a CRB equivalent?’ it is ‘Have you had any visa or permit revoked?’
Second, and as noticed frequently in Britain, a CRB check presumes to prove a negative. What a CRB check in Britain says is that <name> has no criminal offence recorded on the system in Britain at <date>. Even the Enhanced Disclosure version only says None Recorded or Not Requested, along with a collection of disclaimers. Why is this? Because, simply, a CRB check declares that someone attempted to find a criminal record and did not succeed; it does not say there is no record, nor that no offences have been committed; it says that there were none found when the system was interrogated.

Notwithstanding this apparent nonsense, and in recognition that not only Chinese insist on a piece of paper (so that the existence and possession of that paper becomes more important than the meaningless message it represents), one yesterday attempted to make progress towards possession of said scrap of evidence. Add to this that the negative can only be shown for the province one is inhabiting at the time, as China makes no more attempt to collate records any more than Europe does; add again that it is likely that the records in a city of eight million are probably not correlated; add to this that the repetition of names in China is enough to keep a whole national bureau fully occupied (I myself have met, however briefly, four others with my wife’s Chinese name) and you have the beginnings of a total nonsense. Sure, for a fee, any official at any police office of the right sort (Customs Office, records office, translations vary) will supply a paper that says they can’t find any record of you. For a further fee you can have that in two languages, and notarised. It is still meaningless. Such a paper doesn’t even declare that someone tried to find any evidence.
Completeness (and remember, we’re attempting to prove a negative) would require you to go prove you had not caused records to be created in every recording station for every place you had ever visited. In western terms, that might be (just, only) every country you have ever visited; in China and countries like it, it would mean every distinct police area you had passed through—in my case, that would be a hundred or so. So a complete dossier of evidence that one has no criminal record (none found when seeking evidence) would be a large file and in my own case would be the size one of the books I have written, around 150 pages. Add to that the evidence that says you didn’t go anywhere else—if you can do that—and you have maybe doubled the thickness of the record.
Completeness really demands that here somehow be a continuous record of one’s every moment, for the purposes of the criminal record check (now called DBS not CRB) we also pre-suppose that this continuous record succeeds in crossing borders, becasue any break in the record changes the check result from state 0, “there are no records” to state 1, “there are gaps in the record” – giving instant suspicion that somethign is being hidden and very different from states 2-9 or more, describing the offences collected up to those sufficient for disbarring from a steady more limiting list of activities. That is not going to happen before too many people are simply greyly the same.

Does this make sense?

The problem is to do with the muddled perception of the meaning of a piece of paper that apparently indicates a truth. We reach the situation where the truth is lost and the piece of paper itself is the requirement; what it says becomes irrelevant. I have written before about this and I’ll quote two examples again:

I was going out to eat in Xi’an; unusually the targeted eating place required a booking, which had been done. On arrival, the booking slip—the one that the restaurant held—could not be found. Clearly we had our information and we knew what they had been told; equally, they agreed the table was free (we could all see it)—but, because the paper itself could not be found, we had to wait ten minutes while steadily more waitresses (sexism unusual) became involved in the hunt for the necessary paper. And necessary it was, for there was no way any of these staff was going to sit anyone down without completing the process. If it had not been found, the table would have stayed empty all evening. Even when we simply went to sit down at the (obvious) table while they hunted, they refused to recognise our existence except as a problem. If there had been bouncers, we would have been bounced. What added to the confusion / idiocy was that they saw nothing odd in the situation, they simply could not get past the <we have no paper> issue. I have seen parallel situations many times in China. When it occurs in Britain the form is a little different and the Geordie term for such a person is ‘workyticket’ (pronounced WAR-key ticket)—but that describes anyone who uses process to deliberately irritate a customer (in any sense, customer), where in China what one sees is the process ruling behaviour.

A lesser case happens (again, also elsewhere on this site) at security at the airport. You go through the metal detector and no beep occurs because you took (practised traveller that you are) your watch off, your belt and you emptied your pockets into your bag while in the queue; yet the person with the wand still checks you all over. Of course it could be the gym workout system proving its worth and they’re enjoying themselves feeling you up. I prefer to think of it as a mettle detector for security staff—if they had any sense, they’d still wave the wand at the places the gate ignores (heads and shoes, I reckon). In Europe the trend is that if no beep, no second check. I am prepared to call that sensible. Of course, the point of the check is confused, but that is a different issue. I note that the wand doesn’t seem to detect dental fillings, nor my ring, nor the metal in my shoes. Wrong metal?

I am open to suggestions for a descriptor for this situation, where the paper gains an importance greater than the information it holds. It is some sort of opposite to synergy or gestalt (cases where the sum is greater than its parts). Here we have situations where the result is less than the sum of the parts.¹.  The test for the situation is where the paper acts as a gate ticket but is read not for sense and not even for completeness but barely more than a check on its existence at all. This begs fraud; it makes a nonsense of both the bureaucracy and the underlying problem that the paper is supposed to be addressing. This is no longer sensible.
Antergy¹, working against, then describes the action of the people concerned, when their actions cancel each other out. It does not describe the transfer of importance from the actuality to the paper of record. It does not describe the essential uselessness of the proof of a negative, especially one that must fail through a lack of completeness. What we have here is a range of words needing to be coined.

Over to you.

DJS 20120803

1   https://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/unbound/fugitives/synergy.htm  
One suggested opposite of synergy is “synergy”, in quotes, simply because everyone concerned on the inside thinks the result is somehow better. I like antergy (or antigy), possiblt from anti-energy but meaning 'working against‘ and the implied ant-like action in antergy is a good image. Obsergy is technically good; lessergy is pretty good (and it is close to lethargy, another good image but one less apt). In chemistry, an antagonistic effect is one where chemicals do some cancelling out, but antagonist imlies argument, where that is not what occurs, but instead somethign far more like the inertia that groups collect.

© David Scoins 2017