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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.

cartoons,Entertainment,Heartsongs,Humor,Personal Notes,US Army,US Army,Veterans,Vietnam

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Stone Pillow: New and Selected Poems “Fishing for the Moon”

Poet Li Young-Lee has often spoken of certain works as “quarrels” with his father. Many of mine, like Fishing… fall into the same category. Studies have been done that imply that the post-death emotional impact of a family member’s passing is far greater for those who had a strained relationship with the deceased.

My father was, at various times in his life someone easy to quarrel with because we were nothing alike. It was a long time in coming that I really believed, and not as an apologetic attempt at self-delusion, he did as best he could with what nature and nurture had given him. Life was not easy: He spent his teen years in a Masonic sanatorium recovering from tuberculosis during the Great Depression before joining a traveling carnival where he worked as a roustabout before heading off to WWII in the infantry.

When he died ironically there was only one person, other than me and my mother, who viewed his body at the funeral home. Ironically, it was his fishing partner, a black man several years my father’s senior. The two of them would sit for hours without saying a word to each other. It is only now that I am awed by the quiet simplicity in both of them and I often lament being cursed with far too much formal education. How wonderful it would be to spend a day with my only ambition being to carry home a creel of fish to a faithful wife who valued food and survival skills far more than money or talk.

This poem was written while I was studying for my MFA. My daughter loved the early drafts as much as she loved my father.  She hated the deconstructed versions that academic critique groups foisted me, an insecure writer.  I have since tried to give it back some of its original emotional charge while not handing it over to sentimentality or subjective shorthand.

bk10

Fishing for the Moon
On the lake’s granite surface

The moon’s blind eye kept watch

As small stars, silver lights, fell.

Lures cast by my father that would raise

My sleepy head  and I would listen

For fish that would wound the calm,

Flare into the enormous night air,

and fight him reeling them toward shore.

One night, in my late teens,

An indecisive breeze touched us both:

I remember the familiar odor of age,

Cigar ashes rubbed into overalls,

And Lucky Tiger hair balm on a black

Forever military scalp.

At thirty-five or so, I tried to quit my ascensions

Away from tobacco farmer beginnings:

Theology, the military (but as an officer of course)

And accepted I was no match for the tattooed arms

And yielded to the strength of experience,

His eighth-grade smugness, and the once embarrassing

Southern vowels and long lines that could coax

Fishing tackle to scribble success across a lake.

I walked the reservoir’s circumference

The night he died and listened to icy respirations

Give in to winter. Drowning in his own fluid,

He sometimes smiled: a delirious toothless smile,

Like he had just landed a keeper.

I remember promising, no lying, in the nursing home

To him that I would take him fishing again.

But, he died before I knew how bad I would feel.

His eyes went white: turned inside, toward the water,

While his naked fingers would query the deep, dry pocket

Left from the injury: the Vietnam head wound.

It was a year after the seizures

That his arms fell limp at his sides

And the man who could not read anything

Except inland tides and solunar tables

Lay helpless in a hard bed.

They say it was pneumonia.

I say it was the lake claiming him

Where I returned his ashes: reticent,

Swirling near the bank they ebbed

Toward the center, where I cast

Lure after lure, fishing for the moon.

Personal Notes,Poetry,Stone Pillow,Uncategorized,Vietnam,War

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And let the real games begin…

Beijing Olympics

Four years ago I befriended a Vietnam veteran who was clean and sober after years of Cocaine addiction. He was one of the hardest working and congenial men I’d met at the VA hospital. He was employed in a minimum wage rehab program where he pushed wheelchair bound patients to and from appointments.

He had his own apartment in a declining and dangerous section of Chicago and custody of twin boys. It was like a sad scene from a predictable Hollywood tragedy when two young gang members approached one of the twins at his home. One of the gang members shot the young man, an top African-American student with college ambitions, in the head. They had intended to murder the other sibling who was who was less inclined to social conformity.

When my friend went to the police with information on the possible killers he was turned away in an angry exchange that ended when the white policeman told him that he would lock him up. When asked for what reason the officer replied, “I don’t need a fucking reason, boy. Since 9-11 it has been one long year of the cop.” He was right: Law enforcement was, overnight, accorded special privileges and many did not do well with the responsibility and instead used it as a personal weapon in their own private wars. My buddy finally found someone who would take him seriously and the killer was jailed when a plea bargain let the accomplice go free in exchange for his testimony. The veteran, demoralized by the struggle and grieving, relapsed into depression and drug use.

The same is happening here in China. A friend came to me after being detained and beaten by local police. Local constables now have the right to ask for your passport and visa on the spot. Those that have not carried their papers up to now, have started…The police have used it as a way to intimidate local Africans (blacks have an especially tough time maintaining work and cultural relationships here due to rampant racism) and Muslims. Some area police are extracting protection monies from Africans and calling it an immigration fee assessment.

When my friend pulled out his cell phone to answer a text from his wife, wondering where he was so late at night, the police who had been manhandling his countryman, thought he was snapping pictures of the assault. That is when they gave him a dose of the same treatment. His countryman was detained past his scheduled departure out of the city and missed his plane back to Africa.

With sudden power arbitrarily given to street cops, the heat hanging in the 90s along with similar humidity levels, and increasing paranoia over possible security threats it is tense here.

Below is a Youtube video of a scuffle in Beijing that left police and reporters injured. People hoping to get the last remaining tickets for the games spent two days in the heat and in unruly, close-quarter lines that we who live here can barely tolerate for a short time on a good day.

Some are calling it infringement on freedom of the press and chastising Beijing for not making good on its promise to allow reporters unfettered access to stories in and around the Olympics. I tend to see it as a lack of preparation for the enormous crowds and throngs of media personnel. Defects in crowd and traffic management planning have paralyzed the city more than once in the last few weeks.

The games have already begun, but outside the stadium.

The original story here at the ever vigilant Shanghaiist:

HK reporter and cameraman taken away after Olympic ticketing kerffufle

AJ report on Beijing:

Beijing Olympics,Censorship,China Editorials,China Law,China Olympics,China Sports,Chinese Media,Hong Kong,Human Rights China,In the news,Intercultural Issues,The Great Firewall,Videos,Vietnam,Violence,中国

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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.

cartoons,Holidays,Homeland Security,In the news,Intercultural Issues,Poetry,Tibet,Veterans,Vietnam,Violence,War,中国,中文

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Heartsongs: The Library Project

“Children’s books are a luxury to have in Asia, and a rarity in an orphanage.”

–from The Library Project

Guest Post by David DeGeest

Thomas Stader has a vision to build libraries for children living in orphanages and rural areas around Asia.

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Stader, is one of those rare people who come to China with big plans and a bigger heart. He came to help and began to put his plan into action in 1993. To accompany Stader’s big heart, is a well organized plan rife with several clever ideas. Instead of trying to organize all of the complex processes that would be required to build libraries, Stader uses pre-existing supply chains and forms cooperative agreements with local NGOs and corporationg for funding and logistics. These tactics, combined with the lower overhead costs in Asia, allow him to build libraries for $150-$300 USD each–without comprimising the structural quality or integrity of the libraries. Welcome to an age when quality NGO work combined with smart marketing and good business sense can transform a philanthropic daydream into a sound reality.

building a library in China

The Project has made remarkable progress. In 2006, Stader was able to create two libraries for approximately $300 USD and some help from Aston Education, JinaLive, and the Dalian Charity Federation. In 2007, The Library Project will expand to do work in Xian and Jinan. By the end of the year, the project plans to create 15 new libraries to schools and orphanages with a total project cost under $15,000 USD.

Here’s a list of the typical costs from one of the recent library projects:

Hard cover book, 100 pages: $3
Soft cover book, 100 pages: $2
Harry Potte Series: $15
Color comic book: $1
Black and white comic book: .5
Book shelf: $25
Table and chairs: $50
Plants, posters, mats: $25

children in a newly built chinese library

The Library Project plans to have 80 libraries running in China, Cambodia, and Vietnam by 2009. You can help by clicking here.

Note: all pictures featured here come from The Library Project’s site.

There will be follow-up articles on this worthy endeavor soon…..

Asia,Charity in China,China Business,China Editorials,China Humor,Heartsongs,Human Rights,Humor,In the news,Intercultural Issues,Personal Notes,Photos,Teaching in China,Vietnam,中国

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40 Years Beyond Saigon…

The Wall Between the Names

I don’t know if you have ever noticed, but if you stand
at the base of the wall at the apex when it is quiet you can
feel a warmth ….It’s as if you’re being surrounded by all the
spirits of the wall.

—The Last Firebase

There is a wall between the names

It is the color of residue in driftwood pockets
The shadow in the soft pocket of a head wound
It is their hair and their eyes dark and full of falling
The oil on worthless roads. Factory smoke and ashes
It is charcoaled faces. Shapeshifting under night flares
The toothless smile of a man who no can longer move his legs
A million fragmented hearts pulled below its granite suface
The veils of widowed girls, telegram ink, short bursts of words
It is the color of disappearance and passing

There is a wall between the names.

— On the 40th Anniversary
of the mortar attack near Saigon
that eventually took my father’s life

For those of you who did not go to Vietnam I know that you too, as said by David Lehman, planned your lives around it just the same. And for those of you who know war, or are obliquely affected by it, I hope that you can one day dismantle the worst of weapons: memory…

American Poet in China,Asia,Personal Notes,Poetry,Vietnam,War,中国

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