Humor in Uniform — The Law of Triviality

“COSMETIC” CHANGES

More than 3 years ago — sometime in January 2015 to be precise — I was invited to deliver a “guest lecture” at IAT Pune — a prestigious inter-service training institution — now renamed DIAT/MILIT.

I was delighted to meet a Commodore — who I had served with earlier in the Navy.

In fact — this Commodore had been a student of mine at this very same institution more than 30 years ago — in the mid 1980’s — when I was his instructor for a Post-Graduate Course he was undergoing.

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

This was quite strange — since — IAT Pune was an Academic Training Institution — which was far removed from combat.

Probably — the only “Combat” happening in IAT — were the internecine “Turf Wars” between the 3 Wings of the Defence Services — and the “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 — so I was surprised to see 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 (MCPOs) 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 most garish and 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 1st of January 2015 (01 Jan 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 Navy — the Navy “Top Brass” were busy focusing on “Fashion Design”.

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 — a few years ago — you must have seen news reports of a similar obsession with “stars” in the Army — with Generals displaying their “stars” at the most imaginative places — and it seems — this “star virus” has affected the Navy too).

Since Independence — if anything has changed the most in the Defence Services — it is Military Uniforms.

Yes — Uniforms of all the 3 Services — Army, Navy and Air Force — these have been changed/modified many times since Independence.

Yes — the “ornamental” and showy uniforms the Armed Forces 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 — all this bears testimony to the fact that — “The Law of Triviality” — is thriving and proliferating in the Armed Forces.

THE LAW OF TRIVIALITY

A Fictional Spoof By Vikram Karve

Links to my source post in my Writing Blog: https://karve.wordpress.com/2017/07/03/military-humor-the-law-of-triviality/ and 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

LAW OF TRIVIALITY

Dear Reader: I am sure you have read a book called PARKINSON’S LAW — and you 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 (Royal Navy)

Most of us have seen Parkinson’s First 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 of the book — 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 immediately without much discussion — because most of the committee members are totally “clueless” about the intricacies and complexities of an Atomic Reactor.

A proposal for a Bicycle Shed costing 350 pounds is hotly debated for more than one hour — and finally — the proposal is “Not Approved” — as most members feel the estimate is too costly.

This is because — everyone can visualize a bicycle shed.

Everybody on the committee has some idea about construction costs of a simple bicycle shed — and the paltry sum of 350 pounds is within everyone’s comprehension.

On the other hand — most of the committee members are totally “clueless” about the intricacies and complexities of an Atomic Reactor — and also — the amount of 10 Million Pounds is beyond their 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 — these are 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 — these are 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 proposals.

Dear Reader — Have you seen some recent examples where some allowances/grants have been reduced — though the financial impact on the exchequer appears miniscule/trivial — as compared to the overall defence budget/expenditure…?

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.

This is because most military officers are quite clueless about financial matters.

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

He was curtly told to shut up and sit down by the PMC (President Mess Committee).

The PMC admonished the junior officer:

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

You are a piddly Lieutenant and that too — you 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.

I have observed the same pattern in many Officers Mess General Body Meetings.

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 a Mess Meeting where 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 — without due diligence.

We impulsively purchase expensive jewellery and electronic items costing lakhs of rupees.

We 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:

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

Do tell us about your hilarious experiences.

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 1. If you share this post, please give due credit to the author Vikram Karve 2. Please DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. Please DO NOT Cut/Copy/Paste this post

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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)

Links to my source post in my Writing Blog: https://karve.wordpress.com/2017/07/03/military-humor-the-law-of-triviality/ and 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

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

Originally published at karve.wordpress.com on February 7, 2018.

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A creative person with a zest for life, alumnus IIT Delhi, Lawrence School Lovedale, Vikram Karve is a retired Navy Officer turned full time Writer and Blogger

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Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, alumnus IIT Delhi, Lawrence School Lovedale, Vikram Karve is a retired Navy Officer turned full time Writer and Blogger