Reply to Whitney

Rebecca Joseph (josephr@IIA.ORG)
Wed, 14 Dec 1994 11:21:47 -0500

On Tue, 13 Dec 1994, Sandy Whitney wrote:

> Just a word about the USGS and the Republican's proposed cuts... yes the
> USGS has done some excellent work, and a few departments still do, but
> have you weighed the "dead wood" at the higher GS levels? Very little
> published in the more theoretical work, lots of people "biding their
> time" 'til their civil service guaranteed job and guaranteed retirement
> run their course. And as most of us know, almost no way to "can" a civil
> servant, no matter how unproductive or incompetent, it's worse than
> tenure! You can't even give a less than average raise to someone who's
> just taking up space. Short of demolishing the USGS maybe we need a
> drastic overhaul of the Civil Service gravy train.
This must be my day for posting to anthro-l. I am not going address the
current circumstances of restructuring of Federal agencies here, although I
do have first-hand knowledge of such and would suggest that there is a
good analogy between government and university bureaucracies.

I am going to point out an important connection between this post and the
on-going applied anthropology thread. One recurring aspect of academic
training in anthropology is learning that the government is bad. It does
harmful things to "our peoples" either by design or neglect. This does
not have to be formally taught, but few graduate students would be
willing to suggest otherwise - not entirely by coincidence. Hostility
toward government agencies is pervasive among anthropologists.

My point here is that we who are so often congratulating ourselves on our
(relative) objectivity and ability to understand cultural systems on
their own terms, have an enormous blind spot when it comes to government
actions and intentions, real and perceived.

>From my experience overseeing a contract research program within the
National Park Service, the most successful projects - in terms of impact
on park planning and operations - are those that illuminate the
intersection between distinctive cultures (NPS and park-associated groups)
without unduly judging either.

Becky Joseph