Saturday, April 10, 2010

Blue on Blue: Part 23

Fairy Tales

My young niece, Sarah, has reached the age when she can appreciate and demand stories, so it's time for Uncle David to trawl out a stash of yarns for little Sarah.

One of the first fairy tales I will share with Sarah is called the Emperor's New Clothes. It's a story by Hans Christian Anderson that has been handed down for generations, possibly because adult story tellers realise that life can sometimes imitate art.

Most of us would heard the story of how scoundrels prey on an Emperor's vanity and his court officials' obsequiousness to con a fortune from the Emperor.

The story makes a delightful tale for kids. And like most children's stories, it carries a message that alerts young minds of pitfalls they might face in adulthood.

The Emperor's New Clothes tells children that when they grow up, they must be careful whom they surround themselves with. The quality of the advice, timeliness and soundness of the counsel they receive will only be as good as the intentions of the person(s) who shared them.

As in the evergreen story, there are some officials in real life who knowingly withhold information from higher ups.

Some of these officials may indeed rank highly in the Table of Precedence (TOP), which makes it even more baffling why they choose to censor news from their bosses' eyes. Okay, maybe not "some". Shall we say a handful? Or at least one official? But don't let facts get in the way of a good story.

If his objective is to deceive, then the intent is nefarious.

If the practice is deliberate, then it has also been futile.

If his actions have been widespread, then it is alarming for someone entrusted with a position so high up the TOP.

Children love fairy tales because just as the plot teethers on the brink of disaster (Big Bad Wolf appears, Evil Witch, scheming officials etc), the plot steers towards a happy ending.

Sarah can take comfort from the fact that in modern times, people in positions of authority also grew up hearing the same fairy tales.

This accounts for the multiple tiers of redundancy that a well-grounded bureaucracy can rely on. Multiple sources of information help circumvent any attempt by less-than-well-meaning court officials to hide the truth from their bosses' eyes.

My niece will be relieved to hear that it is not so easy to hoodwink your boss these days. Yup.

Say for example: when daily summaries leave out certain bits of gossip which has set tongues wagging, the big bosses will - I repeat for emphasis, "will" - eventually find out. People will soon come to realise that the daily summary isn't worth the paper it is printed on because the so-called analysis and situation reports are self-serving. Some staff officers might argue, even deceptive.

Then questions will be asked on the character and temperament of the court official under the spotlight.

Had Hans Christian Anderson lived in this day and age, I can tell you he would have a heap of tales to spin from the shenanigans of a certain toxic, morale damaged directorate.

Will he give these modern-day fairy tales a happy ending?

I believe he will... because the system isn't stupid.

5 comments:

Mike Y said...

You can fool most people some of the time, and you can fool some people most of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.

Or as the Chinese say, you can't contain a fire with paper.

bdique said...

but there's something I don't understand. In my opinion, the S-70B thing was handled pretty well, as if devoid of the machinations of you-know-who. Is this the first signs of him losing control in spite of all that is done, or is this the fabled system's checks and balances mechinism working?

Anonymous said...

Is that how it is in your former job as reporter?

FIVE-TWO said...

Mike, our hokkien peng saying is even more colourful: "shit will always leak out."

Anonymous said...

I certainly hope you are right. :)