Catch-22 Redux

Joseph Heller you left us too soon.  In case you don’t know who Joseph Heller is, he wrote the greatest management text of the 20th Century.  It is called Catch-22.  Those of you that have read it are saying wait a minute, Catch-22 is a novel set at a United States Army Air Force (USAAF) base in Italy during WW II.  It is that and so much more.  Read it again from the standpoint of management and I think you will agree with me.

The student protesters at Missouri are demanding that reporters who want access to the protesters must first sign a loyalty oath.  This seems reasonable to me, it’s not like the media is unbiased.  Let’s get it out where everybody can see. The media would prefer to maintain the pretense that they are unbiased. You can find the Loyalty Oath story at the link.

Joseph Heller anticipated the “Great Loyalty Oath Crusade” over 50 years ago when he wrote Catch-22. It starts when Captain Black engineers revenge on another officer, Major Major, by making everybody sign loyalty oaths.  Everybody that is, but Major Major.

Almost overnight the Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade was in full flower, and Captain Black was enraptured to discover himself spearheading it. He had really hit on something. All the enlisted men and officers on combat duty had to sign a loyalty oath to get their map cases from the intelligence tent, a second loyalty oath to receive their flak suits and parachutes from the parachute tent, a third loyalty oath for Lieutenant Balkington, the motor vehicle officer, to be allowed to ride from the squadron to the airfield in one of the trucks. Every time they turned around there was another loyalty oath to be signed. They signed a loyalty oath to get their pay from the finance officer, to obtain their PX supplies, to have their hair cut by the Italian barbers. To Captain Black, every officer who supported his Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade was a competitor, and he planned and plotted twenty-four hours a day to keep one step ahead. He would stand second to none in his devotion to country. When other officers had followed his urging and introduced loyalty oaths of their own, he went them one better by making every son of a bitch who came to his intelligence tent sign two loyalty oaths, then three, then four; then he introduced the pledge of allegiance, and after that “The Star-Spangled Banner,” one chorus, two choruses, three choruses, four choruses. Each time Captain Black forged ahead of his competitors, he swung upon them scornfully for their failure to follow his example. Each time they followed his example, he retreated with concern and racked his brain for some new stratagem that would enable him to turn upon them scornfully again.

Without realizing how it had come about, the combat men in the squadron discovered themselves dominated by the administrators appointed to serve them. They were bullied, insulted, harassed and shoved about all day long by one after the other. When they voiced objection, Captain Black replied that people who were loyal would not mind signing all the loyalty oaths they had to. To anyone who questioned the effectiveness of the loyalty oaths, he replied that people who really did owe allegiance to their country would be proud to pledge it as often as he forced them to. And to anyone who questioned the morality, he replied that “The Star-Spangled Banner” was the greatest piece of music ever composed. The more loyalty oaths a person signed, the more loyal he was; to Captain Black it was as simple as that, and he had Corporal Kolodny sign hundreds with his name each day so that he could always prove he was more loyal than anyone else.

“The important thing is to keep them pledging,” he explained to his cohorts. “It doesn’t matter whether they mean it or not. That’s why they make little kids pledge allegiance even before they know what ‘pledge’ and ‘allegiance’ means….”

“What makes you so sure Major Major is a Communist?”

“You never heard him denying it until we began accusing him, did you? And you don’t see him signing any of our loyalty oaths.”

“You aren’t letting him sign any.”

“Of course not,” Captain Black explained. “That would defeat the whole purpose of our crusade.

The student movement has brought us politically correct rhetoric, outrageous demands, loyalty oaths, probably t-shirts and banners.  There is only one thing missing to put this whole thing over the top. Quaaludes Rorer 714’s, maybe Mandrax.  Add those party favors to the mix, along with cheap wine and what ensues even Fellini couldn’t anticipate or duplicate.