Joseph Heller’s ‘unfilmable’ novel, Catch-22, is being serialised on television at the moment. As you will probably know, it is a war story about the absurdities imposed on airmen by deranged commanders. The catch-22 is the cruel inverted logic that deems airmen fit to fly exactly because they understand the insanity of doing so: to continue flying is insanity, but to declare oneself unfit is to prove fitness. Sane or crazy, there is no escape.
Everyone has heard of the story, even if not everyone has read the book. What fewer people know is that Heller wrote a subsequent novel, Something Happened, about the same irrationality found in peacetime autocratic corporations. Kingston employees will recognise this corporate derangement in the behaviour and proclamations of management over the last few years. The particularly mad ideas — forcing grade 10s to reapply for their jobs, an HR director believing he understands teaching better than academic staff, amongst others — may not be a threat to life but they are a threat to livelihoods.
What perhaps is different is that some of these managers have gone, most recently Colin Rhodes for alleged turpitudinous misconduct, and further back that financial miscreant McQuillan. The original Kingston autocrat, Weasel Weinberg, was eventually rumbled. What doesn’t change is that all these corporate despots are replaced by someone equally tyrannical who exercises equally demented logic. Katch-22 shifts from one perverse position to another but is always crazy. K is for Kingston, also for Kafka.