Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Humor in Uniform – “False Consensus” and “Abilene Paradox”

A few days ago – I received a copy-paste forward on a WhatsApp Veterans Group – a rather contrived attempt to explain the “Abilene Paradox” – and – I remembered this memoir” from my Navy days  which I had posted on my blog more then one year ago in June 2016. 

Dear Reader: 

I am posting the story once more for your perusal and comments... 

Humor in Uniform 

FALSE CONSENSUS – ABILENE PARADOX
Musings of a Navy Veteran
A Fictional Spoof
By
VIKRAM KARVE

SHIP’S ANNIVERSARY PARTY – An Apocryphal Story by Vikram Karve

FALSE CONSENSUS

“The Ship’s Anniversary is next month – any ideas how we should celebrate it…?” the newly appointed Captain asked his Heads of Department (HsOD) at the end of his first HsOD Meeting.

The ship was going to be 2 years old – so it was the ship’s second anniversary after commissioning.

The Captain was new – but all the Heads of Department (HsOD) – and all the other officers and sailors – they were all from the commissioning crew.

There was silence – each HOD was waiting for someone else to speak first.

Observing that the HsOD were silent – the Captain asked the Executive Officer (XO): 

“Okay – Number 1 – you tell me – how was it celebrated last year…?”

“Sir – last year was the first anniversary – so – we had a Grand Party on board – the C-in-C, Fleet Commander, Admiral Superintendent, all Commanding Officers and XOs, Headquarters’ Staff Officers and Senior Officers of shore establishments – Captains and above – and – various officers connected with the ship were invited…” the XO said.

In his mind – the XO recalled the nightmare getting the ship “shipshape” for the Anniversary Party – the “cleanship” – the painting – the “spit and polish” – the enormous physical effort put in by the sailors just for that one party.

And worse – this time – there was a long sailing – and – the ship would return to harbour just 3 days before the anniversary.

He would have to cancel the “liberty” (shore leave) and get all the sailors working on “cleanship” – the moment they got back to harbour.

The XO was a sensitive officer who cared for his men – and – he felt pity for the plight of his sailors who – despite being tired after a long sailing – instead of going ashore on liberty – would be deployed on the laborious job getting the ship ready for the grand anniversary party.

Postponing an “anniversary” party was out of the question – since – a ship’s anniversary is a sacrosanct day.

As far as the XO was concerned – in his mind – his frank opinion was – that instead of “punishing” the sailors by making them slog for the party immediately after returning from sailing – it would be best to scrap the grand anniversary party.

But – the XO kept his mouth shut – because – he was afraid that if he expressed his opinion about scrapping the anniversary party – he may look like a fool in front of the Captain and his fellow HsOD.

The Captain looked at the XO and said: 

“So – you feel that we should have a grand anniversary party like last year…?”

The XO nodded – and – he said to the CO: 

“Yes, Sir…”

The Captain looked at the other Heads of Department.

In their minds – the “Technical Heads of Department” (Technical HsOD) felt that their sailors would be tired after the long sailing – and – they would have to be immediately deployed for getting the ship ready for the party – “illuminate ship” – running of Machinery and Gensets to ensure there was no glitch during the party. 


Like the XO had felt in his mind – both the Technical HsOD – the Engineer Officer (EO) and Electrical Officer (LO) also felt that it would be best to scrap the grand anniversary party. 

But – the Technical HsOD could not read what was going on inside the XO’s mind – especially because the XO had wholeheartedly agreed with the CO that they should have a grand anniversary party.

They thought about it.

The XO had said that he wanted a grand party – and – it seemed that the Captain too wanted an ostentatious anniversary party – since he was enquiring about the previous year’s party.

The Technical Heads of Department did not want to be seen as “dissenters” – so – they said to the Captain: 

“Yes, Sir – it would be a good idea to have a grand anniversary party like last year…”

The Captain looked at the Supply Officer (“Supply Officers” were later renamed as “Logistics Officers”).

The Supply Officer (SO) was also the Wardroom PMC (President Mess Committee) by virtue of being the senior-most officer in the Wardroom.

For the “Supply Officer” – it was a “double whammy” – since he was both SO and also the PMC. 

The ship would return to harbour just 3 days before the anniversary party. 

And – as Supply Officer and PMC – he would have to organise everything. 

He would have to get the provisions – the food and drink – he would have to plan the menu – and – he would have to motivate the fatigued cooks and stewards who would be weary and exhausted after the long sailing. 

Being an “ethical officer” – the Supply Officer felt that such “grand parties” were unfair to the ship’s officers – who would have to pay huge party shares in their mess bills. 

Also – one small “faux pas” during the party – and his ACR (Annual Confidential Report) would be on the line. 

Last time – a dumb steward had served a prawns “small eat” to the “pure vegetarian” wife of an Admiral – and all hell broke loose – and – the Supply Officer was sure that – the erstwhile Captain had not forgotten this gaffe – when he wrote the Supply Officer’s ACR.

Like the other Heads of Department – in his mind – the Supply Officer was also not too keen on having a grand anniversary party.

(Of course – the Supply Officer did not know what was going in the minds of the others)

He thought about it.

The three other Heads of Department – the XO, EO and LO – all of them had said they wanted to have a grand anniversary party.

The Captain also seemed in favour of an ostentatious anniversary party.

The Supply Officer did not want to be the “lone dissenter” and appear to be a cynical naysayer “Killjoy”.

So – the Supply Officer said: 

“Yes, Sir – we should have a grand anniversary party like last year – even more impressive and grandiose than last year’s party.”

The Captain was happy that there was a “consensus” among all the Heads of Department.

(The Captain had spent most of his Navy career in “Staff Jobs” – pushing files in the landlocked “Northern Naval Command” – and – he was a great believer in “participative decision-making”)

And so – a grand anniversary party was planned.

The hapless sailors were deployed on “clean-ship” and “paint-ship” immediately on arrival in harbour.

Of course – there was a symbolic perfunctory “cake cutting ceremony” where the Captain and Youngest Sailor cut the “Anniversary Cake” – but – this was just “tokenism” – and – all efforts were focused on the “Grand Anniversary Party” to be hosted by the Ship’s Officers for the Navy “Big Wigs”. 

With their “liberty” cancelled – the sailors cursed the “Ship’s Anniversary” while they physically slogged getting things “ship-shape” after the grueling sailing which had exhausted them.

While working alongside their demoralized sailors – the Ship’s Officers dreaded the huge “party share” for the anniversary party that would almost wipe out their next month’s earnings.

The Captain may score “Brownie Points” by having a grandiose anniversary party – but it was the ship’s officers who would be footing the bill as the “hosts”.

An occasion like Ship’s Anniversary is supposed to raise morale.

Instead – morale had plummeted.

What an irony…?

And – to make matters worse – the “Grand” Ship’s Anniversary Party was an unmitigated disaster.

Yes – the Ship’s Anniversary Party was a total disaster.

Everything had gone wrong.

There was a “goof up” in protocol due to confusion in the inter-se seniority of two Rear Admirals – and the “senior” of the two – who had a bloated ego – claimed that he had been intentionally accorded “shabby treatment” because he was an Admiral from the Technical Branch – and – he had privately made it known to the XO – that he would take his “revenge” and “fix” the Captain and the XO.

To add the woes – the Electric Power Supply tripped thrice during the Party causing chaos.

As if that was not enough – in a repeat performance of last year’s incompetence – the dumb steward served “Fish Tikka” small eats to a “pure vegetarian” Commodore and his wife – who almost threw up when they realized they were eating Fish.

(The steward had told them it was “Paneer Tikka” – from the outside it looked like paneer tikka – and – it was only when the guests took a bite – that they realized they were eating fish).

The Engineer Officer got gloriously drunk – and – he made a spectacle of himself – swaying from side to side and cracking indecent jokes in a loud voice – and then – when restrained by the Doctor – he smashed his fist into the face of the Doctor and knocked him out cold.

A rival Captain from the Fleet – after enjoying the best of Scotch Whisky and stuffing himself with Food – he wondered why this ship was observing the Ship’s Anniversary on such a “grand scale” when “austerity measures” were in place – and – he even “boasted” that – to observe austerity – he had cancelled his ship’s anniversary party and had just a small cake-cutting ceremony.

This rival Captain sarcastically commented that this ship’s Captain who was now celebrating his ship’s anniversary with full gusto in an ostentatious manner on such a grand scale – this same Captain – when in Naval Head Quarters (NHQ) – this same Captain had issued a letter advising “austerity” in ceremonials and celebrations – thereby implying that the host Captain was a hypocrite. 

(Of course – the rival Captain made these nasty comments in full hearing of the “powers-that-be”).

When things start going wrong – there is a snowballing effect – and – there was a series of blunders and “foul ups” – even the food was terrible – and the dessert turned out to be a disaster.

Not only was the Anniversary Party an unmitigated disaster – but it had caused all-round demoralization and cynicism – a totally wasted effort and counterproductive enterprise.

In a nutshell – to put it euphemistically in “Catch-22 Style” – instead of being a glorious “feather in his cap” – the grand anniversary party had turned out to be a terrible “black eye” for the Captain.


ABILENE PARADOX

Next morning – the Captain held a “post mortem” meeting with his Heads of Department in his cabin.

The Captain said: 

“It would have been better if we had not had such a grand anniversary party. In fact – it would have been best if we did not have a party at all.”

The XO said: 

“Exactly Sir – those were my thoughts too – but I thought that you very much desired to have a grand extravagant party so – as XO – I did not want to let you down – by dissenting with you. But now – I agree with you that it would have been best  if we had scrapped the party.”

The EO said: 

“Yes, Sir – I also was against have a party – I too thought that there was no point wasting so much effort. But – I thought that since you and the XO were so enthusiastic to have a grand anniversary party – I didn’t want to be a “killjoy” – so – I too went along with you.

The LO said: 

“Sir, I was apprehensive about the ship’s generators – and – I too did not want to have a grand anniversary party – but – I did not want appear as a negative “spoilsport” – when I saw that all of you were so eager to have a grand party.”  

The SO said: 

“Sir, I was totally against having a grand party – I was apprehensive that it would turn out to be flop show. But – when I saw that everyone was so keen to have a grand party – I did not want to be the sole “naysayer” – so – I too went along with popular opinion.”

All of them – the Captain and the Heads of Department – they were all perplexed.

In their mind – none of them wanted to have a grand anniversary party 

But – no one had voiced his frank opinion – because each person mistakenly thought that the others wanted to have the grand anniversary party – and each person wanted to “please” the others and did not want to be the “odd man out”.

Thus – they developed a “false consensus”.

The “actual consensus” (in the minds of everyone) was not to have a party – no one wanted to have a grand anniversary party.

But – due to the “Abilene Paradox” – a “false consensus” emanated to have a grand anniversary party – whereas  in actual fact  not even a single officer wanted to have a party.

I saw plenty of examples of the “Abilene Paradox” in the Navy – and – in personal relationships too – where such “false consensus” develops because everyone wants to go along with what they mistakenly believe is “popular opinion” – and – no one wants to “rock the boat” – or appear as the “odd man out” – by expressing his frank opinion.

How do you steer clear of the “Abilene Paradox” and avoid “False Consensus”…?

It is very simple – and – obvious.

Each one of us must frankly express our opinions – you must speak out what is in your mind – without bothering about what others will think.

Of course – for everyone to be able to express his frank opinion – you must have conducive environment for encouraging free speech – which may not exist in many organizations – especially – in the military – where dissent and contrarian views are frowned upon – and there exists a traditional culture of conformance and “forced unanimity”.

In the Military – individuals are reluctant to publicly say what they privately believe in – especially if the feel that their own views are contrary to the prevailing opinion.

The phenomenon of “False Consensus” thrives in the Military  thanks to the “Abilene Paradox”.

Dear Reader: 

Do you know why this Paradox is called the “Abilene Paradox…?

I will tell you that – and much more – about the “Abilene Paradox” – in subsequent Blog Posts.

Till then – do think of situations in your own life – at work – in inter-personal relationships – and in social occasions  where you observed the “Abilene Paradox”. 

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 story is a fictional 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)
 

This is a revised repost of my story FALSE CONSENSUS – ABILENE PARADOX posted online by me Vikram Karve earlier in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal Blog on June 6. 2016 at url: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2016/06/false-consensus-abilene-paradox.html  and  http://karvediat.blogspot.com/2016/07/humor-in-uniform-grand-ships.html

Monday, July 24, 2017

Migrant Tales – The “Kiwi Indian” Taxi Driver

MIGRANT TALES

THE “KIWI INDIAN” TAXI DRIVER
A Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE

In the Lobby of a Hotel in Auckland – New Zealand
Circa 2016

“Good Morning, Uncle…” the young man said.

I recognized him at once.

He was my friend’s son.

“Oh – Hello...” I said, “it’s so nice to see you here…”

“Yes, Uncle…”

“What are you doing out here…? Holidaying in New Zealand…?” I asked him.

“I live here…” he said.

“You live here…? In Auckland…?”

“Yes, Uncle – and you’ve come on a holiday…?”

“Yes – I reached Auckland 3 days ago – I saw the sights here – now I am going on a week’s tour of South Island – in fact – I am flying to Christchurch by the morning flight – the hotel has called a taxi to take me to the airport – I am waiting for the taxi to arrive…” I said.

“Oh – I think I am the taxi…” he said.

“You…?”

“Yes, Uncle – I will just check at the reception…” he said – and he went to talk to the receptionist.

He returned soon – and said to me:

“Come, Uncle – I’ll drop you at the airport…”

He picked up my bag and we walked to the taxi which was parked outside.

Soon – we were travelling to the airport – which was half-an-hour’s drive away.

“Uncle – I hope you are spending a few days in North Island too – there is a lot to see here too…” he said.

“Yes – after I return from South Island – I am spending a week here…”

“That’s great – I’ll give you my number – you must have dinner with me – and – of course – I will drive you around whenever you want to hire a taxi…”

I was curious as to why he – such a well-qualified boy – was driving a taxi – but – I did not want to embarrass him – so – I asked him:

“When we met last – you were doing your MBA – weren’t you…?”

“Yes, Uncle – around 5 years ago – in Mumbai – that’s the last time we met – you had come over to our place – I was finishing my MBA…”

“Yes – it was more than 5 years ago – I lost contact with your Dad after that…” I said.

And then – I asked him:

“When did you come to New Zealand…?”

“3 years ago – I wanted a “Better Life”…” he said.

“Better Life…?”

“Yes, Uncle – I got a job after my MBA – but – I was not happy in India – so – I decided to migrate to New Zealand – and – the best way to migrate to New Zealand was through the “student pathway”…”

“Student Pathway…? What’s that…?” I asked him.

“All of us – we migrate using the “student pathway” – first “student visa” – then “work visa” – then “residency” – and finally – “citizenship” of New Zealand – and – once you get the coveted “New Zealand Passport” – the whole world is open to you…”

“Oh – I thought Indian students come here for higher education…”

“No one comes here for “genuine education” – we do these courses because – the “student pathway” is the easiest route to residency and citizenship…”

“Oh…”

“Here – even as a student – you are allowed to work part-time 20 hours a week and full-time on weekends. And then – you can easily get a “post study work visa” – and you can work full-time on any type of jobs you can manage to get. Compared to India – the minimum wage here is quite good – more than 15 New Zealand Dollars per hour – so you can make a decent amount of money – if are prepared to work long hours – at inconvenient times – and – if you are ready to do anything – any sort of work…”

“And – there seems to be “dignity of labour” here too…”

“That’s only on the surface. The ground reality is that we immigrants have to do those jobs that the locals don’t want to do…”

“Really…?”

“It is simple – we migrants have to do the jobs that “Pakeha” Kiwis don’t want to do…”

“Pakeha…?”

“Pakeha means a “White New Zealander” – a New Zealander who is of “European descent”…”

“Oh…”

“I think they do it purposely – they trick youngsters from developing countries like India to come here for education – by showing them a “rosy picture” – they make money from “international” students – and then – they make these “immigrants” do jobs that New Zealanders don’t want to do – but – we immigrants are ready to do any type of job – just for the sake of getting residency…”

“We used to call these jobs “The 3 D’s” – Dirty Difficult Dangerous Jobs…” I joked.

“Yes, Uncle – those are the jobs most migrants do – especially those from countries like India – but it’s okay – but – as I told you – compared to India – the minimum wage here is quite good – so you can make good money if you work long hours at any time of the day or night and are ready to do anything…”

“Oh – so are all Indian immigrants doing such jobs – even after doing Higher Education courses over here in New Zealand…?”

“Yes, Uncle – most of us…”

“That’s sad…”

“Uncle – this whole “student pathway” migration business is a money-making racket – in which Education Agents back home in India, several Educational Institutions out here in New Zealand and some Kiwi Employers are all involved in exploiting and making money from Indian students…”

“Really…?”

“Back home in India – the so-called “Education Consultants” painted a rosy picture of employment opportunities in New Zealand after doing a course in New Zealand – so – I landed in New Zealand as an international student and completed another Degree in Management. I thought I would be flooded by job offers – but – I didn’t get a job. The employment opportunities here are not as rosy as painted by the “education counsellors” in India – it is very difficult to get a job – especially if you are an immigrant – and that too from India. I experienced racism too…”

“Racism…?”

 “Yes, Uncle – there is plenty of Xenophobia, racism, discrimination over here – but – they don’t do it openly – it is subtle. They prefer to employ “Kiwis” – or people from “developed” countries – someone even advised me to change my Indian first name to a foreign sounding one…”

“Change your name…? Why…?”  

Uncle – a “Kiwi” friend advised me:

“You change your name to an “English” sounding one – then – you will stand a better chance of getting a job…”

“At first – I laughed at him – but later – I realized that he had a point – some of my Indian migrant friends with “English” sounding names were getting more calls for interviews – and jobs too….”

“It’s unbelievable…”

“It is funny – but sad. In India – we give preference to foreign “expats” – but here – they don’t care about Indian migrants. In fact – my Indian degrees and work experience did not count much here in New Zealand. Out here – it was New Zealand educational qualifications and “Kiwi” work experience that mattered. I had a New Zealand Degree – but I didn’t have New Zealand work experience – so I just couldn’t get a good job…”

“That’s sad – you had a double MBA – one from India and one from New Zealand – but still you didn’t get a good job…?”

“Uncle – my father spent 20 Lakh Rupees for sending me to New Zealand for Education. I thought I will get a good job when I completed my course – but – I could not get a job. Though I was well qualified – I found my Indian ethnicity a barrier to getting a good job – and – though not officially stated – it was clear that there was covert racial discrimination – and once in a while – I heard racist slurs as well – though they didn’t say it directly on my face…”

“It must have been terrible…”

“At that point of time – I should have gone back to India – but it would be a big “loss of face” – so – I kept applying for jobs – I was in need of money – I did not want to ask my father for more money – since he had already spent a huge amount of money for sending me to New Zealand and on my education over here – so I was ready to do whatever job was available – at one point I was doing 3 part-time jobs at the same time – as a petrol pump attendant at night – washing taxis and tourist buses in the morning in bone chilling winter – and delivering pizzas during the day. Then – I was lucky – the owner of the taxi company where I washed cars and buses – he offered me a job as a Taxi Driver – and – I am driving taxis ever since…”

I felt sad seeing my friend’s son – such a well-qualified boy – driving taxis – and enduring such a tough life – so I said to him:

“Let me give you some advice. You forget about “loss of face” etc. Why don’t you return to India…? With your management qualifications – I am sure you will get a good job in India. I have some contacts in the industry – I will try and help you out…”

“Thanks, Uncle – but there is no way I am going to return to India…”

“But why…?”

“It is a “Better Life” over here in New Zealand…” he said.

The taxi reached the airport.

The young man – my friend’s son – he took out my bag from the taxi and placed it by my side on the walkway.

He gave me his mobile number – which I stored on my mobile phone.

“Uncle – please call me the moment you return to Auckland from your South Island tour…” he said.

I said “Yes” – and – I paid him the taxi fare.

He took the money – he said “Good Bye” to me – he sat in his taxi – and he drove off.

As I watched him drive away – I thought to myself:

“A highly qualified boy who would be working in a managerial position in India – here – in New Zealand – he was a Taxi Driver – and still – he called it a “Better Life”…” 

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 story is a fictional 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. This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story 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)