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The Crock Theory

The Elucidation of the Parlous Panjandrum

or

The Crock Theory

by Dr. Dave Garber

One might begin by asking, “What is a Parlous Panjandrum?”  (parlous being synonymous with dangerous and panjandrum being a high muck amuck.  One might describe a person holding high office in a bureaucracy as a Parlous Panjandrum if the person’s behavior fits the definition.

An evolutionary stage of the Parlous Panjandrum is the Sisyphean Wanderoo,  Let me explain the roots of the term “Sisyphean Wanderoo.”   Sisyphean means like Sisyphus, who was a character in Greek mythology.  In Webster’s, Sisyphus is described as follows: “A son of Aeolus and ruler of Corinth, noted for his trickery: he was punished in Tartarus by being compelled to roll a stone to the top of a slope, the stone always escaping him and rolling down again.”  Sisyphean is used to refer to an endless and unavailing labor or task.  A wanderoo is a monkey or langur found in India and Ceylon — most of whom have bright red or purple butts.  The name wanderoo seemed to go well with Sisyphean and conveyed a graphic image of someone who is working very hard and not really accomplishing his/her objectives.  The Parlous Panjandrum generally does not remember being a Sisyphean Wanderoo.  Whence then the Crock Theory?

If one approaches a low level worker in any number of bureaucratic organizations, to include: government, the military, the academy, or business and ask him/her to briefly to describe the nature of the organization a common response will be “It is a crock of ……(fill in the blank)”  (This response will not generally come from the novitiate who, for a period of time, accepts the view of the organization presented in the organization’s indoctrination.)

A prevailing myth in bureaucratic organizations is that as one moves up the hierarchy one becomes increasingly free.  The assumption here is that when one can order others about and control one’s own schedule, that this represents organizational freedom. In fact as one moves up in an organization one becomes increasingly bound by organizational constraints that limit one’s objective view of the organization, to say nothing of freedom of speech.  In fact, organizational freedom is more accurately defined as the ability to see the true characteristics of the organization and to comment there on.  Thus those at the lower levels are free to see the organization for what it is, and to comment about it.  They see that it’s a “Crock” and can say that it’s a “Crock.”  In fact they go about knowing and saying with impunity.

With time and promotion in the organization the previously free individual becomes less and less able to openly say that it’s a Crock.  Frequently these workers become “closet “Crock” sayers.”  That is they go into a closet before work and say: “It’s a “Crock”, It’s a “Crock.”  They then go to work and act and speak as if it is not a “Crock.”

With time and promotion the Closet “Crock” Sayer’s memory fades and he/she forgets that it’s a crock.   This occurs around the time the individual becomes a “middle manager.”  Many individuals become truly dangerous (parlous) at this point because they take the organization very seriously and fail to see the humor that infuses all organizations.

Having forgotten that it’s a Crock, upward mobility subjects the individual to a strange metamorphosis — He/She becomes a “Crock.”  Less you despair, the problem with bureaucratic organizations is not that “Crocks” top them.  There are all types of Crocks: Plain “Crocks”, Fancy “Crocks”, “Crocks” with tops and “Crocks” with handles, to name a few.  The problem is with the “Cracked Crock.”  This problem is related to the contents of “Crocks.”  For it has been axiomatic since Isaac Newton that: “S— runs down hill.”

Dave Garber

—–

My first “real job” was working with a group of developmentally disabled girls. Severely handicapped teens with autism, Downs Syndrome, seizure disorders and more… It remains the toughest job I ever performed. I took the job as I waited to enter the military as a Medic and Social Work Psychology Procedures Specialist. The doctoral students in charge of the program were writing their dissertations in a new an exciting field: Applied Behavioral Analysis or “Behavior Mod” as it was known at the time. I volunteered to help them norm a self-paced course meant to train doctoral students at the University of North Carolina.

Serendipity brought me to the US Academy of Health Sciences after basic training.  The faculty Learning Theory and Behavior Modification instructor, a draftee , was about to leave the service. I was all of 19-yrs old,so my knowledge of Skinnerian principles of behavior stunned the staff and caused not a little doubt about my ability to teach in a Health Sciences School where war hardened vets were returning to be reclassified from combat jobs after tough tours in Vietnam. After two mandatory graduate classes in teaching techniques and examination methods and a trial class examination I was reluctantly brought on to the faculty. I was easily the youngest and least educated staff member and as a result endured more hazing than an Animal House inductee. Even without a degree, our cooperation with Baylor University soon landed me the august title, “assistant instructor” and then later instructor. It was the beginning of a long love affair with academics.

Major Dave Garber was my first and only boss at Ft. Sam Houston. He had a doctorate in Social Work and was a benevolent patriarchal figure to a rag-tag bunch of belligerent and far too intelligent enlisted draftees. We made the cast of M.A.S.H. look like a spit-and-polish outfit. Professor Potter, uh, Garber, who went on to become a full Colonel and the Army’s Chief Social Work Consultant was likely the only man alive with patience and humor enough to guide our department through the last days Vietnam and a fast changing and demoralized cast of military misfits. With better equipment and facilities than colleges have even today, we not only trained the military’s counselors, doctors, nurses and allied health care professionals, we literally wrote the book on Behavioral Science for the military, conducted POW family adjustment research, supervised interns in the Army’s burn center, authored computer assisted instruction material, made training videos used by service schools, and supervised interns in child guidance/abuse clinics and drug and alcohol centers. Dave often said, in years that followed that we “could do it all” and I am guessing we could have.

My peers went on to careers as Teachers, Career Military Officers, College Academics, Psychologists, Dentists Social Workers and more. It was a talented group….

This 19-year old would never have made it through without Dr. Garber. He never raised his voice to me when he found his name tag one day switched to read “Garbage,” and only once had to gently inform me that my signing out of the school for hours at a time for “PT”  was meant to be Physical Training, not Personal Time. And I was admonished, not demoted, for rewiring the non-commissioned chief’s phone to operate upside down and for filing lunch in his desk under the names of its parts: “Banana, Tuna Sandwich and so on…

He consoled me when I couldn’t handle working with trauma cases as I was not far removed from my own troubled teen years: a father lost to Vietnam and a mother claimed by grief. He encouraged my involvement in theater and turned a blind eye to my participation in professional stage productions in San Antonio even when it cost me the honor graduate position in my own class.  In return for his sage wisdom and generosity he received world-class teaching, serious and lasting research and healing clinical returns from all of us on his team.

The original Crock Theory was written by Dave and another faculty member while I was there. It reflects the wisdom, sobriety and keen, acerbic wit of the man who tamed and a group that otherwise would have surely landed in some stockade. The Army was rife with cracked crocks, but Dave wasn’t one of them.

Thank you Dave for allowing me to reprint this here and for staying in touch on Facebook and elsewhere. Thank you Professor for being a role model for all I have positively achieved as a teacher. Thank you Colonel for being a real leader.

A salute, and a warm hug for all you have accomplished yourself and through those of us you led to success.

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Ghost Whispers

death catcher

I learned today that my sister passed away. I learned over the Internet that she died in November of last year. She was much older than me and never in great health, so I had wrongfully assumed she had “crossed over” years ago. Tonight in the still heat of a stifling Guangzhou I smelled the sour scent of some hard traveled memories and heard her whisper to me….

No, we were not close. Marriage came early for her, when I was 5, and before I was developmentally mature enough to crave or mourn losses. My military family was turning corners in or out of countries every three years or so and making the word “home” an abstraction. My sister was never in our family pictures. I saw her only a few times through the years and her face in my mind’s eye is blurred. I can remember her often speaking of pain and that remains palpable.

Until tonight I had almost forgotten I had a sister. She had been adopted by my unmarried mother at birth. She saw herself later in life as a stubborn vine that connected all of us to my mother’s alcoholic ex-husband and his mistress: She was the offspring of an affair, so her past was kept secret by my simple and well-meaning parents until she was a teenager. My mother and father, emotionally unsophisticated and afraid, asked a Catholic priest to substitute for them and tell her that she was adopted. It did not go well.

I have been watching DVDs this week “expat style.” We often buy two or three seasons of a show at a time, ones we cannot watch on regular TV and then air them from beginning to end in only a few days. It is a way to keep current with our abandoned culture and remain bonded to the lexicon, fashions and familiar emotions of our birth home. This week I have been storming through two seasons of Ghost Whisperer. And I have come to love the show for its generally positive outcomes, its promotion of health through acceptance and forgiveness and its desensitization of our collective fear of the unknown.* The protagonist of the show, who can see troubled spirits, helps earthbound souls unpack the heavy emotional baggage that holds them here. She helps them release after-longing and pain from the past so they can peacefully migrate into their future. It is not a story about religion, or eschatology (life after death), but about how to live well and without regret.

My mother developed Alzheimer’s disease and never was able to finally confront the trauma of being abandoned by her impoverished mother during the Great Depression. Too, she rarely spoke about the man who had deepened her emotional wounds later in life. She did so to protect herself and to maintain some illusion of normalcy for my sister and me. There was no malice in her deception, though my sister never forgave her or my father and never found emotional nourishment that would sate the pain. Where my mother insulated herself with delusions ( and maybe her disease), my sister did so with anger and distrust. After my mother died, I read in another Internet article that my sister had embarked on a public journey to discover more about her origins. I hope to learn one day that she was successful.

I wonder if other expats learn about their vacated lives past and present as I do? I view time compressed, via boxed sets of information that arrive in emails, letters, DVD’s and Internet entries. It was almost five years ago to the day that I leaned my sister’s husband had died an improbable death: an avid outdoorsman, he had contracted Bubonic plague from an insect bite while hunting. He was the first man in America known to have succumbed to the disease in decades. He was the most gifted craftsman I have ever known, but held back from his dream of being a woodcarver and gunsmith by the needy gravity of my sister’s suffering. So, I grieved my loss and his because his short fame was only in the peculiarity of his demise. We wandering expats may seem not to care about what happens to you, but we do. I do. And I, like others, frequent the few paths we can find along time’s rivers looking for signs of you. But can be a lonely and overwhelming journey when information flows so fast from so far away.

I laugh, mourn, celebrate and educate in absentia. Memory also presents to me as a frightened bird that requires patience to keep it nearby long enough that I can study, appreciate and accept both its beauty and its flaws.

I pray that both my sister and my mother are finally at peace. I long ago forgave them for simply being human. I hope they forgave this homeless child for the manifestations of his confusion .

I am the earthbound spirit now: I am on the banks of the river, coaxing the birds and vigilantly listening for whispers….

————————————————

* In another coincidence, I was surprised to see that the crystal ball mind reader on the GW website was created by my old friend and British doppelganger Andy Naughton .

American Poet in China,American Professor in China,Asia,China Editorials,China Expat,China Expats,Confucius Slept Here,Expats,Heartsongs,Intercultural Issues,past posts,Personal Notes,Teaching in China,The Internet,Uncategorized,Veterans,Violence,Weird China,中国,中文

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Memorial Day

memorial day

As part of his therapy while trying to recover from a head wound suffered in Vietnam my father used to make the poppies that the American Legion sells on Memorial day.

Here is the poem that was written three years after the famous In Flanders Fields that most of us know….

We Shall Keep the Faith
by Moina Michael, November 1918

Oh! you who sleep
in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet – to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead
.Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.

Retrieved from an earlier post:

I had the chance to mountain climb with an aging PRC Army Veteran of Tibet and Tiananmen Square. He had that “thousand yard stare” soldiers who have been amidst senseless death can see in the eyes of another.

Years ago, as a corpsman at the Army’s Academy of Health Sciences, I was almost detailed to collect bodies in the Jonestown Massacre. Many of my friends went and are forever changed. I know medics, who went to Vietnam as conscientious objectors, and came back morphine addicted. It was one way, albeit not a good one, to cope.

Soldiers and Paramedics in New York, Iraq and New Orleans have acknowledged that there was a self before the tragedies and a different human, with a different world-view, that emerged from the devastation.

When most of the school children of a Chinese rural village, dozens, drowned in their classrooms, and left these hand prints on the windows trying to escape, it was the army who first saw the prints and then had to search through the mud for their bodies….

HANDS

When I traveled, during Vietnam, in uniform I was vilified by many as part of the Military Industrial Complex. I did not get too many salutes.

As the war becomes more unpopular in Iraq, as the world increasingly calls us a police state, remember this: Governments declare war. Officials deploy troops. Hurricanes and earthquakes obey no warnings. And it is the soldier, and the victim, who carry with them, forever, the stench of death. It is like a house fire: you can never seem to rid yourself of the smell of smoke.

Love the soldier. They all write poetry and letters of longing home to their loved ones.

Hate the war, hate the floods, hate the notion that we are not close to getting it right, socially or environmentally, just yet.

Pray for the men, like my father, and soldiers of all nations who gave up sleepless nights and often, like my father, their lives, before and after battles, for you and the missions that they were asked to fulfill.

Salute them all with words and deeds today.

With special good wishes to the Wed. Heroes crew/blogroll. Most of you are not accessible from China, so I cannot get to you and often cannot receive mail or link out to you properly. Keep up the good work.

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From an American Soldier in China….

Peace to Australian Veterans on ANZAC Day:

ANZAC

ANZAC Day – 25 April – is probably Australia’s most important national occasion. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers in those forces quickly became known as ANZACs, and the pride they soon took in that name endures to this day.

Australia,In the news,Veterans,War,中国

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