Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Modern Graeco-Roman Apocryphon

Anyone who has served in the military (Army, Navy, or Airforce) will know of this famous quotation:

"We trained hard ... but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form into teams, we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing, and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization." (Gaius Petronius Arbiter, 210 BC).

Unfortunately this famous quotation is apocryphal as it is unknown prior to the post-WWII era. In good form-critical fashion, I think it is certain that the Sitz im Leben behind this saying is that it emerged in the mid 1950s on the wall of the office of some disgruntled British sub-lieutenant with a degree in classics from Oxbridge, who was forcibly conscripted into the post-war Army and posted to Germany, there he was evidently cheesed off that for the third time his unit was changing its name from 6th Brigade to 7th Task Force, he couldn't remember which division his Brigade belonged to anymore because it had changed so many blinking times anyway, and even worse, all of his NCO's had been transferred to the newly formed 5th Independent Rifle Battalion which meant that the poor Lieutenant's platoon was undermanned to the point that he would now have to polish his own boots and make his own coffee.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Having spent 20 years in the United States "Air Force" (I forgive the typo, my friend ;->), I've seen not a little sub-optimization and similar siloed affects (a.k.a "vertical cylinders of excellence") where a great deal is going but next to nothing is getting accomplished!