(Not an actual issue of letterfounder but I did publish this piece in LF a while ago)
Policy: a plan or course of action, as of a government or business, intended to influence and determine decisions, actions and other matters.
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The people who utilize policy are usually within corporate structures of some sort, profit and non-profit alike. It is used with employees, it is used with clients, it is used with patients. People who are in need of assistance, care, employment. people in need. This is important. The power dynamic starts here. People in need are at a constant disadvantage with policy because they feel it works against them in the moment. Policy may work in the long-term, if it indeed works at all. But short-term, it just puts out fires in a medicated, inhibiting way. The class system starts here, too. If you have had bad experiences with policy, you do not believe in it and you react against it. Policy is hierarchy, chain-of-command, a series of set responses. Policy is a mechanism of safety, a social navigation instruction manual based upon parameters of control. Whenever a policy is used on you, or policy-language, you feel like you’re being talked down to, or victimized, or not truly being listened to. Policy is used, for the most part, when someone feels you have done something wrong, or when you are ‘in crisis,’ when you are experiencing visceral, unedited emotions. The people who use policy are always in positions of power, are always supposed to appear in control (in another class bracket, is usually the feeling).

Policy quickly tends to get dumbed-down, used without critically thinking. You begin the process of putting people into brackets, into social work categories. You start to generalize your caseload, your patients, your employees. You begin to see diagnoses before individuals. You stop giving the reasons as to why, when asked. You start to lose patience, take shortcuts, get callous, paranoid, tired, desperate a little.. Instead of giving, you just cite policy. The citing of policy is ineffective. When people naturally question a policy, the answer is ‘that’s our policy.’ That is deeply impersonal, deeply unreasonable. It is too easy and it is not critically minded or specific enough.

The implementers of policy are usually ones with college degrees, as you need that to travel up in almost any economics-based system. So policy usually affects people who’ve had stumbling blocks in their lives: poverty, a rough family, lack of primary education or role models, trauma.. They are the ones upon whom policies are most often brought to bear. we used money as a surrogate for trust and gratitude, to meet peoples’ needs instead of giving the time. Standards of procedure for basic human caring took over. Were there too many of us? Did the industrial revolution set us on too rigid a grid? It is because basic human trust is so suspect that policy even exists. People broke trust, stopped trusting inside this grid, did not follow through on agreements, did not do their tasks with enough quality, for whatever reason. This is why policy was invented. An order (or in the non-profit sector, a ‘request’) is given, in the end, so that there is a legal avenue of follow-up if that order is not carried out. It’s there to do the dirty work in a way that dispenses with emotionalism. Policy is there to ensure a standard. The problem with standards is that there are no stupendous breakthroughs, no ingenious sparkling, no effusive personality, no hugs, no gut-trusting reciprocal shamanistic associative insight. Insurance is the cousin of policy.

The language of policy is overly neutral. It is one of affective, antiseptic abstractions. It blocks what you can say and share, limits your input, limits your ability to tap into your instincts fully. It forces you to constantly block someone’s freedom of speech in favor of a culturally biased fear of emotion. Neutrality is the language of policy. This blocks compassion, limits creativity, limits inspiration.

 With policy, the intimate portion of communication is usually lost. There is never a bedrock of real trust in communication as policy creates roles within which the policy upholders dare not deviate, even with themselves. The client, consumer,  patient and worker never truly know if they’re being ‘played.’ Being appropriate becomes more successful than being passionate. Policy sucks at your soul.
Policy begs the creation of understaffed resource centers. Do-gooders commit to a policy’d way of doing their charity. Thus, policy plays into the funding game. Grants are given or not given when the appearance of agency control through policy is exhibited successfully. This sort of structure leads to scenarios where you have social workers marking numbers on clipboards when the soup kitchen line starts. This sends a ‘herd’ mentality message to everyone involved, instead of just serving a meal. This message is heartless and unforgivable. Most importantly, policy is never implemented consistently. It is affected by turnover, personality, fear, talking.. It varies. I’ve never seen policy enacted evenly across the board in any job I’ve ever worked. There is always a hypocrisy and it is noted by the consumers and upholders of policy.
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If policies are there to deliver services to our populace then the policy makers, all the people in upper management and boards, would need to spend hours working within the environments where those policies are implemented and enforced. This is only to insure a circular transparency with an eye on working out the invariable kinks and clogs of how policy plays out over time. This would allow for a clarity in understanding emerging discrepancies and problems as well, as the inevitable shades of grey appear, the extraordinary cases, declining quality occurring due to faulty behind-the-scenes communication and personal differences in perspective. This happens all over every agency all the time. We need to be able to tell when the problems are more important than the policy, or when the policy becomes the problem. When basic ethics are not addressed by the policy.
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