Military Humor – The Law of Triviality

HUMOR IN UNIFORM 

THE LAW OF TRIVIALITY

Musings of a Navy Veteran

A Spoof By Vikram Karve

Link to my original post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve:  http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2015/11/humor-in-uniform-law-of-triviality.html

“COSMETIC” CHANGES

A few years ago – sometime in January 2015 to be precise – I was invited to deliver a “guest lecture” at a prestigious inter-service training institution.

I was delighted to meet a Commodore – who I had served with earlier in the Navy – and who was once a student of mine at this very same institution more than 30 years ago in the mid 1980’s.

He was wearing blue combat uniform (No. 10) – instead of the customary navy whites (Uniform No. 8/8A) – which we normally wore at this institution.

This was quite strange – since the place was an academic training institution –which was far removed from combat.

Probably – the only “combat” out there were the internecine “turf wars” between the 3 wings of the defence services and “ego battles” between senior officers.

What was even more startling – was the jarring golden star on the Commodore’s collar.

I had never seen commissioned Naval Officers wear insignia on their collars like the gaudy collar tabs (or “collar dogs”) the Commodore was wearing on his shirt collar.

(Earlier – till the late 1970’s – Master Chief Petty Officers wore collar insignia which were subsequently changed to shoulder tabs)

I was – therefore – quite surprised to see a most flashy oversized golden collar tab which looked totally incongruous on Navy Uniform.

In fact – this ostentatious golden collar star looked most ridiculous and gaudy on blue combat uniform.

When I asked the Commodore about this new piece of jazzy collar accoutrement – he said that golden collar stars for Commodores and Admirals had been recently introduced on the First of January 2015.

I was happy to note that the LAW OF TRIVIALITY was still very much in action in the Defence Services.

Instead of tackling the Urgent and Important Complex Operational Problems, Equipment Obsolescence and Human Resource Issues faced by the Defence Services – the Military “Top Brass” focusing on “Fashion Design” – and they were devoting their energies to Trivial Issues – like Embellishing, Decorating and adding “Colour” to Military Uniforms – with all types of decorative “insignia” “stars” “badges” “tabs” “emblems” – and gaudy colourful accoutrements to show off their ranks – just like “peacocks” show off their plumage.

(If you have been following the news – you will know that there is a great obsession with “stars” in the Army – with Generals displaying their “stars” at the most imaginative places – and it looks like this “star virus” has affected the Navy too).

Since independence – if anything has changed the maximum in the defence services – it is military uniforms.

Yes – the “ornamental” and showy uniforms the Armed Forces and Police wear today bear little resemblance to the simple Soldierly Military Uniforms of the 1950’s.

This increasing penchant for frequently changing uniforms and enhancing ornamentation of military regalia (by introducing new badges/accoutrements/adornments etc) bears testimony to the fact that “The Law of Triviality” is proliferating in the Armed Forces.

LAW OF TRIVIALITY

I am sure you have read a book called  PARKINSON’S LAW  and are familiar with Parkinson’s First Law:

“Work expands to fill the time available for its completion”

This law had its genesis in an analytical study of the Admiralty and most of us have seen this law in operation in the military and civilian bureaucracy.

Parkinson’s First Law comprises Chapter 1 of this book.

As you read on, in Chapter 6 titled HIGH FINANCE – you will find another interesting law:  THE LAW OF TRIVIALITY

The author describes the goings on in a finance committee meeting.

An atomic reactor costing 10 million pounds is cleared without much discussion because most of the committee members are clueless about the intricacies of an atomic reactor.

A proposal for a bicycle shed costing 350 pounds is hotly debated for more than an hour and finally not approved as members feel the estimate is too costly.

This is because everyone can visualize a bicycle shed – everyone has some idea about construction costs of a simple bicycle shed – and the paltry sum of 350 pounds is within everybody’s comprehension.

LAW OF TRIVIALITY IN UNIFORM

Haven’t we seen similar things happening in uniform – both at the macro and at the micro levels?

A sophisticated expensive weapon system or an extravagant technology project costing hundreds of crores of rupees is sanctioned quickly without much debate because the “powers-that-be” comprising politicians, bureaucrats and “non-technical” generalist senior officers are quite clueless about state-of-the-art technologies.

On the other hand  a comparatively trivial expenditure like a small monetary allowance to soldiers or granting of “one rank one pension” (OROP) to ex-servicemen is acrimoniously debated and discussed ad nauseum  and in all probability  the “generalists” and “powers-that-be” are reluctant to sanction this comparatively trivial expenditure because they can clearly understand and comprehend the simple proposal.

In the first section above – I gave you the example of frequent trivial cosmetic changes in military uniforms and ceremonials which are totally unnecessary  since these cosmetic changes in uniforms and ceremonials do not enhance operational capability or improve combat efficiency in any way.

In the Armed Forces – this “law of triviality” can be observed at the micro level too.

Take the example of Officers Mess General Body Meetings.

The all-important financial balance sheet is passed without much discussion.

I remember an instance where a junior officer asked some uncomfortable questions about large expenditures shown in the balance sheet.

He was curtly told to shut up and sit down by the PMC – who admonished the junior officer:

“The Balance Sheet has been audited by a Chartered Accountant (CA).

You are a piddly Lieutenant – and that too from from NDA (National Defence Academy).

Do you know more about accounting and finance than a bloody CA…?” 

The junior officer was forced to shut up.

Important issues are disposed off quickly without any discussion – since most senior officers are quite clueless on these subjects.

On the other hand – trivial items of expenditure like increasing daily messing charges – enhancing party shares – purchase of crockery, glassware and flowerpots – which newspapers and magazines to buy for the library – nominal increase in honorarium to mess employees – these are hotly debated issues – since everyone is a “know-it-all” on these matters.

I remember once that many hours were spent in heated debate on which flower-pots to buy for the officers mess – but items worth lakhs of rupees were approved without a murmur.

If you have served in the armed forces or civil services – I am sure you have seen the Law of Triviality operating everywhere.

In personal life too – we gullibly buy a house costing crores of rupees – or purchase expensive jewellery and electronic items costing lakhs of rupees without due diligence – spend huge amounts of money on ostentatious events like weddings and give lavish parties without a second thought – but we haggle with the vegetable vendor for a few rupees.

Dear Reader – do tell us:

Have you observed the LAW OF TRIVIALITY in action in your organisation…?

Do tell us about your hilarious experiences.

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve
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Disclaimer:

  1. This article is a spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
  2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Copyright Notice:

No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.

Copyright © Vikram Karve (All Rights Reserved)

Link to my original post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve:  http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2015/11/humor-in-uniform-law-of-triviality.html

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

This article is a revised version of my blog post LAW OF TRIVIALITY Posted by me Vikram Karve at 6/12/2014 12:49:00 PM at url: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2014/06/law-of-triviality.html  and revised and reposted at url: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2015/03/humor-in-uniform-law-of-triviality.html

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