Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Catch-22


From Wikipedia:

Catch-22 is a critique of bureaucracy in general. The phrase "catch-22" has come into common use to mean a cyclical conundrum, or "no-win situation" based on its meaning in the book as described below. A catch-22 situation is also inherently self-defeating: the very act of performing it prevents it from happening.

Within the book, "catch-22" is a military rule, the circular logic of which most notably prevents anyone from avoiding combat missions:

One may only be excused from flying bombing missions on the grounds of insanity;
One must assert one's insanity to be excused on this basis;

One who requests to be excused is presumably in fear for his life. This is taken to be proof of his sanity, and he is therefore obliged to continue flying missions;

One who is truly insane presumably would not make the request. He therefore would continue flying missions, even though as an insane person he could of course be excused from them simply by asking.

As in the above example, much of Heller's prose in Catch-22 is circular and repetitive, exemplifying in its form the structure of a catch-22. Heller revels in the use of paradox.


As with Joseph Heller's book and title phrase, which has now entered into the mainstream of the English language, I too feel as if I am caught up in a Catch-22 situation. A class in which I was to register this semester, considered semi-"required" as part of my current program, was dropped due to lack of enrollment. So, I asked those in charge what my options might be, as this class will not be offered again for about another 1-2 years, which would mean that it would take me an additional 1-2 years to graduate if I wait to take it in the future, than if I had just been able to take it now. No advice was immediately forthcoming on the matter, although I did receive some empathy and sympathy regarding my predicament.

Now, the semester has started, and I still have not been given any advice or direction as to what my options might be, and so I registered for several possible "replacement" classes, which might take the place of the cancelled one. As I was getting no direction whatsoever, I decided to get things going by taking the initiative and registering for a few "possibilities" in terms of classes. Then, though, I hear later through the grapevine that the classes which I had selected as "possibilities" probably would not fulfill departmental requirements. Yet, still no one has advised me on what my options might be, despite my attempts to gain such advice, and including attempts to make the proper contacts with the proper persons to gain such advice. Meanwhile, time begins to run out, as it gets ever closer to the end of class registration.

One golden rule is to never mess with the bureaucracy; let it just do its own thing, or it might well roll over on you. What does one do though when it has gone all deaf, dumb and blind; just spinning and spinning and spinning, all circular motion without purpose; at least with regard to my needing to get the required "official stamps of approval", yet without any apparent recourse to officials, stamps, or "approvals"? Instead of reading Kafka novels, somehow I've now fallen into one.

5 Comments:

Blogger willowtree said...

Hmm, that's so unfair. It's like no one would even care, unless they were in the same predicament.
Maybe you'll have to put your foot on someone's neck and say empathy and sympathy can't put that diploma in my hand, and it is now your job to find out what will.

No guarantee that will work, but something must be done. Is there any higher up you can see or something? Hmm, Im sure if there was you would have already done that though. How could they just leave you in a lurch like that?

11:04 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

You're right it's one of those things where its just not at the top of anyone's priority list right now (except mine), so no action is really taking place. I have considered taking it higher if I have to, to a dean or something; that's a pretty drastic step, in terms of future relations, but I do hold it in reserve. Sometimes though, the 'ol foot on the neck is the only way things get done, unfortunately.

I love the new picture. I have those exact same gag glasses on a shelf in my bedroom. I don't have the little dog/cat(?), though.

9:59 AM  
Blogger willowtree said...

I think it's a little dog Frank, One day a friend of mine Imed me and that was the picture that popped up. I thought it was so funny, and cute. So, I decided to change the cocoa pic to this one. If I werent so terrified of animals, this is what my little dog would look like.

8:42 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

Whatever he is, I'd say he looks pretty smart (actually, he looks like a little chihuahua I think now). I'd be a little intimidated if, now that my classes have started again, this little guy showed up and sat next to me. I'd be like, "Man, that kid looks smart!".

It is cute, and hilarious! Next to your name, it seems like that's you, peering out over the little box with some "interesting" specs on, maybe perhaps taking a little break from some writing. :p

9:39 PM  
Blogger Colleen said...

can you take it as an independent study from the prof. a lot of profs will do that because we understand that enrollment standards are often too strict. hopefully that will be an option.

and how strange that i just emailed you a "catch 22" situation and you have a post here talking about it.

6:36 AM  

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