Posted by jlubans on November 11, 2020


Caption: Ellie Oryan – “Ivan Krylov Krylov's Fables Vodka Portrait
”, collage, no date. Perhaps produced under the influence of vodka Ellie Oryan (Ellie O’Ryan?) borrows Goya’s celebrated oil painting of Aesop in the Prado and renames it Krylov!

A CERTAIN Merchant built a magazine (warehouse), in which he stored away his stock of edibles; and, in order that the mice should not damage them, he instituted a police of cats.
And now the Merchant lives in peace. His stores are patrolled day and night, and all goes well. Unfortunately, an unexpected contingency occurs.
One of the guardians proves himself a thief. Among cats, as with us (who knows it not?), the police are not faultless.
But then, instead of detecting and punishing the thief, and sparing the honest servant, our landlord orders all his cats to be whipped.
As soon as they hear this ingenious sentence, honest and guilty alike, they all run out of the house as quickly as possible: our landlord remains catless.
This is just what the mice have been hoping and longing for.
They enter the stores as soon as the cats have left, and in two or three weeks they contrive to
eat up the whole of their contents.

The proverb – which I just made up – “Blame Everyone, Blame Yourself” seems to fit. The merchant punishes all the cats, not just the perp and loses his “stock of edibles”. He has only himself to blame.
According to the translator, Krylov’s fable, dated 1811, may allude to the cashiering of all of the officials of Russia’s Commissariat and Victualling Departments during a war with France.
“They were disgraced in a body, and their uniforms taken from them.
The result was that numbers of them retired from the service rather than put up with such a slight.”
Even if you are “sending a message” – to other goof-offs - dismissing a whole unit is foolhardy. Who knows how to do the work? Who knows much of anything about the unit?
While it might gratify the landlord to sweep away the old regime, doing so results in far more of a loss than that from one bad cat.
On the other side, if you truly want to start over, then a whole sale “firing” is one way to do it. Just be prepared to re-design and staff-up for a brand-new way of working. Otherwise, you’ll earn the enmity of all the clients of that now dissolved unit.
In Latvia, once independent in 1991, not all the old communist bureaucrats were dismissed. The place had to keep running and they were the only ones who knew how to do it. However, they brought with them all the old Soviet habits. Yes, bureaucrats are bureaucrats regardless but communist bureaucrats are among the worst – red tape experts extraordinaire.

*Source: Krilof and his fables, by Krylov, Ivan Andreevich, 1768-1844; Ralston, William Ralston Shedden, 1828-1889. Tr. London, 1869

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© Copyright all text John Lubans 2020

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