I had problems as a government functionary. Lurking just beneath the surface was my satirical and absurdist take on things. But unfortunately, these do not necessarily coexist peacefully with the Code of Federal Regulations. What compounded this discontinuity was that I was supposed to be a leader to my staff. They were like butterflies. They were trapped in the spider webs of the government and desiring to be creative, but always bound by regulation.
My job was to thread the needle, pilot the ship between the reefs, and supposedly achieve great things. It is tough to do these things when your fundamental nature wants to pull down Trou and moon the bastards.
In small ways, I rebelled. I’d find conflicting regulations and try to catch the contracting officer on the flypaper of contradictions. I’d write memos that defined our mission in one way at the beginning of the month and then file another at the end, which contradicted it with all the logical reasons why this new interpretation was valid and necessary. If they were to tie me up with regulations, I’d tie them up with tautology and carefully veiled illogical constructs. It was all the basic stuff that I had learned in grad school.
There was the time I wrote a satirical memo from the regional office requiring changes in how memorandums were composed that went viral. It was faxed all over the region within days, causing great joy and amusement among those who got it and much sanctimonious rage among those who did not. I called this “tying knots in the devil’s tail.”
I learned that the old academic trick of insisting that you always carefully defined the terms of an opponent’s argument, and then attacked the definitions, wreaked havoc among the innocents. It was almost too much fun. For example, if someone said yellow, tie them up by carefully composed arguments that it was saffron. Then, you accuse them of being thin-skinned and not collegial when they fly into a rage.
A background in Academia is a terrible thing to waste.