Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bit of Class Bias?

So, a few days ago, I was filling out my passport renewal form, when I was hit with a bit of a conundrum.

The main difference between applying for an American passport and a British one is that here, in America, you have to hand over your form in person at a post office so someone can verify your ID and make sure the picture you're submitting is actually of you. In England, you apply for a passport purely through the mail, and you have to have some countersign your form and picture to verify your identity.

Now, technically, I didn't have to get my form countersigned because I was renewing my passport and not applying for my first one. However, the notes say you only have to have your form and picture countersigned if 'your appearance has significantly changed since you last passport or you'd be difficult to recognize from your old passport picture'.

The information talks about if you've had 'facial reconstruction surgery' or anything else that can significantly change your looks, and while I've not changed that much, the picture in my old passport was taken when I was 16. I'm sure I'm recognizable, but I also have a lot more gray hair, a beard I didn't used to have and about an extra 50lbs. My real motivation to go to the extra trouble and getting it countersigned is that renewing my passport costs just under $250, and that's non-refundable. If they decide I look too different to my old picture, they send everything back and I have to pay again.

Given that a change in looks is purely subjective and I couldn't be sure, my attitude was: "I'm sure I could get this approved without getting it countersigned, but why take the risk?"

However, when I read the rules about who could countersign this stuff for me, I couldn't help but feel it was a little ridiculous…and I also couldn't help but feel a little offended as well.

You see, I was figuring I could go visit a notary, or get someone at my bank or go to the local police station. No. Instead it has to be 'a professional person' who's known you personally for at least two years.

I actually laughed out loud when I read the recommended professions. The first two on the list were 'Member of Parliament' (politician) and 'Lawyer'.

Seriously, they want someone trustworthy and the first professions that come to mind are lawyers and politicians? Do these people live in the real world?

Secondly, I honestly did get a little offended because the whole list of 'acceptable professions' were all typically high-paid, middle class professions: Lawyers, Doctors, Politicians, Businessmen…

I couldn't help but think: What is it about having a high-paying job that makes you so much more trustworthy? This is just an independent third party to verify my identity. Why is the assumption that working class people are less trustworthy? Why is a Doctor's word worth more than a construction worker's? Why is an investment banker more trustworthy than a mechanic? (Given recent events, that last person's work I'd accept if a f**king banker's)

To me, at least, it's just a perfect example of the whole class-system (that supposedly doesn't exist in England any more) is still firmly in place. Money + Education = Better, more trustworthy person.

Of course, I could just be reading way too much into this…but to be honest, I don't think so.


Sunny said...

It just amazes me that they seem to think that you should just KNOW that many people in those professions.

Why would a working class person need to know judges, and lawyers, and doctors in a personal context?
Working stiffs don't usually know them unless it's in a professional capacity.


Woman atop her Soapbox said...

I think it is more an issue of accountability. Most of those people in those professions have a professional licence and if they are committing fraud, they can also lose their licence.

But why don't they include people like teachers or hairdressers who need certifications for their professions as well?

Is it a bad sign that I am on a first name basis with my lawyer?


Scratch the hostile fay said...

Welcome to America--where the red tape is longer than the spread arms o'lady liberty.

I'm not sure I'd want to use a banker...unless it was a small local bank.. Them stiffs at BoA get paid WAAAYY too much.

You'd think a notary would suffice--I mean that IS their job, and their livelihood depends on honesty. But that would make WAAAYY too much sense here.


Paulius said...

Sorry, Scratch...this has got nothing to do with America...this was a british form going to the British passport agency.

Britain has its fair share of weird red tape as well.