Big Brother is watching you…
When you work for a big employer, you’ll get these forms from personnel asking about your background, religion, disabilities, and so on. My wife recently received one from hers. I’m sure I’ve had them from mine. Hell, we’ve had them from the Primary School asking about our kids! The most recent one came with a well-meaning (but incredibly patronising) booklet giving 10 good reasons why we should provide the answers. It’s a booklet by Stonewall and it’s available here.
Bollocks (pardon my French. Not that I am French, that wasn’t an option we could tick). The reasons we should give this information all revolve around very noble concepts – provision of services, meeting the needs of the community, that sort of thing. They go to great lengths to ensure you that They (very deliberate capital there) do not associate any personal information with these answers – in the same breath as asking to verify that the emergency contact information they hold is correct.
Who are they to decide where I can come from? I could chose whether I’m British (Scottish), British (Welsh), British (Irish), British (Pakistani) or British (Other). I couldn’t just be British or, if I’m going to be picky, British (Yorkshire)? Fortunately this section had the get-out option: Declined to provide information. That one. Tick.
Disability. Yes or No. Cold, hard options. Either you’re disabled or you’re not. I consider my crushing inability to let go and enjoy myself at parties a disability but I’m not going to tick “Yes”. No option to decline the information. That one gets left blank.
Religion. Many choices were provided – Church of England not amongst them as this form comes from a Scottish employer and it’s a Scottish form for Scottish people. Anglican? Not there either. Fine. Declined to provide information.
The final question concerned sexual orientation. Again, Declined to provide information. They really, really, really don’t need to know that. What difference would it make? “Oh, I’m sorry, you didn’t tick the box saying you were a transgendered lesbian, so we can’t give you a pay rise. Not that we know you didn’t tick the box! We don’t hold that sort of personal information in a way that can be used to identify individuals!” No offence to transgendered lesbians, each to their own.
The best part about this form was the way the information was coded. Each option had a different set of codes. Let’s say it was 01-12 for Ethnic Origin. My immediate thought is to put “14” in there – or “A” or “Theta” or anything that’s not in the list.
Having carefully ticked these boxes, the form was filed. In the bin. Underneath the cat litter and nappies. It might get buried for 5 years and recycled as firelighters, it might not.
These forms are an annual event so I’ve decided to take a different tack with the next set I get. I’m going to be a disabled divorced black Catholic lesbian (an unlikely combination on Shetland, I’ll grant you). Then the year after that I’ll be something else. Lather, rinse, repeat. Different form, different selection. If we all do this, we might get Them to realise that we don’t want Them having this information, we don’t need Them to have this information and that this information is, essentially, a meaningless box-ticking exercise.
Somewhere, someone is playing a game of Bingo with this stuff and they’re just waiting for a British (Other) Disabled Divorced Church of Scotland to come up before they shout “House!”
As Big Al once said, “Bollocks is the only sensible thing you can say to a System.”