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Monday, February 1, 2010

Sense And Census

Census is people and, having been one since childhood and a bigger one later, I believe any consultation of reference works on the subject would only serve to dilute personal experience. I did read, however, that we are heading into a census year. They happen every decade because nobody knows why but sort of remembers the last one. I sort of remember the last one too and will address it later on, but first a general history is in order.

Confucius advised, "If we're going ahead with this civilization thing it's going to involve people and we really ought to keep track of them." Thus the earliest cogent comment on the subject came from China and they devised a workable system, by which --because it involved math-- I confess myself baffled. But there are other countries.

Other countries have their own peculiarities and problems. The population of Italy underwent confusing fluctuations under the Borgias. The Portuguese --my own ethnic locus-- suffer an overly complex diversity. We were invaded by everybody. Romans got us bathing to where we couldn't recognize each other. Moors set us on a permanent genetic struggle with ulotrichy. Northern countries bred us for our wool and descended periodically to shear us. Even now, unshorn Portuguese are oft mistaken for bears or large moths and impounded --there are lawyers who subsist entirely upon such cases.

North has its own problems, as we shall see, but it is there, toward Germany, that I will direct this history. Renaissance Germans were a fairly untroubled population but we must begin somewhere. They were mainly stable agrarians whose number was only disturbed by boys wandering away after Rhine maidens and by guileless girls exported to sinister cabarets. Census began in a small town composed entirely of people named Geiger.

The census-taker hiked up its single, linden-lined, thoroughfare registering each person in sight on an ingenious device called a Geiger-counter. The whole process consumed, according to public record, about fifteen minutes. The method was so successful, in fact, the neighboring town of Roentgen --named after its most prominent and prolific family-- purchased all the tabulating machines soon as the Geigers were done. Recalibration was so complete and reliable that, to this day, Geiger counters will only detect and respond to Roentgens.

So, we are heading into another census year. I remember the last one being somewhat personal in its inquiries, and some people resent the government gathering overmuch information. There are laws and punishments attached to citizens who withhold it. I was able to regulate this presumption by demonstrating an astonishing degree of ignorance. I got very vague about who lived in my house and what their incomes might be if they existed. No question was simple enough for me and finally the census-taker marked a special form, under all the others on her clipboard, indicating the resident is an idiot best left undisturbed.

It is my sincere hope that this essay will allay any fears the reader might have regarding census --allay them or confound them into insignificance.

1 comment:

  1. Ha, I vaguely remember the last one. Not really anything specific though!

    Thanks for taking time to comment on my post, I love musicals and ol man river is a wonderful song! Thanks,
    Heidi

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