Catch 23 – an Antidote for Our Times

When soundbites rule , a Reality TV star is in the White House, judgements are made on instincts , and the country has had enough of experts  we need an antidote to reaffirm a more rational view of the world . Catch 23 is that antidote.

The normal rules appear to have been  suspended . It is as if we are all caught up in cosmic flux  of Shakespearian proportions . At a time when the Natural Order appears to have been set aside Catch 23 attempts  to tip the world a little back towards equilibrium .

The Absurd Becomes the New Reality

As the absurd becomes the new reality increasingly there are instances of life imitating art .  Joseph Heller’s satirical depiction of the Nixon White House in ‘Good as Gold’ captured an absurdly instrumental political vacuity where little mattered other than the advancement of the interests of the occupants of the White House

Experts and Experience Don’t Count

In a passage which anticipates Gove’s view of experts by nearly 50 years Heller writes about a prospective adviser’s (Bruce Gold ) conversation with a member of the White House ‘Inner Circle’ (Ralph):“Wouldn’t I have to know anything?”

“Absolutely not,” Ralph answered, and appeared astounded that Gold should even ask. “In government, Bruce, experience doesn’t count and knowledge isn’t important.’…

At the time Heller was writing this he was satirically capturing the behaviour and morality of the Nixon era . 

Nixon Then – Trump Now

Now it could almost be a straight lift from Michael Wolff’s ‘Fire and Fury’ based on his observations from a sofa in the West Wing .

Wolff writes about a culture where orthodoxy is rejected on principle because it must be broken , everything is transacted on a win/lose analysis , and gut instinct is the way to go.

The rational is discarded in favour of the irrational almost systemically. It is reminiscent of another time when the world  seemed to have taken leave of its senses  as depicted in Heller’s masterpiece ‘Catch 22’.

Milo’s Business Sense


Everybody Has a Share

Catch 22’s satirical depiction of the tragic insanity of war encapsulated truth through absurdity . Milo Minderbender stands out as a tireless exploiter of commercial opportunity – as he explains to Yossarian why the Squadron’s planes are bombing their own runway . It makes sense he says because he has done a deal with the Germans for the cost of the operation plus 6% . Everyone has a share – in M&M Enterprises  – everyone benefits. Who is the other partner in M&M Enterprises asks Yossarian ?

It’s Milo & Minderbender – I put in the ampersand so it looked like more than me is the reply.

Enfranchising the Disenfranchised

But right now  evidently many people do not feel they have a share any more than Yossarian did as his squadron bombed their own runway .

A popular analysis of our times is that what is happening is about a need to enfranchise the disenfranchised – those who feel left behind by change and fear the ‘other’ – whatever form that takes .

Broadly the way the world works is not serving their interests but someone else’s . Voting for Trump and Brexit , on this analysis , flows from this wellspring .

The fact that the champions of the ‘left behind’ take the form of Trump , a billionaire property developing Reality TV star , Farage , a commodities dealing public schoolboy and Johnson , son of a Eurocrat , brought up in Brussels and educated at Eton and Oxford  is further confirmation of the way the irrational has taken hold over our lives .

Milo Would Be at Home Right Now

Minderbender seems a less absurd figure now in the light of how Bush’s Neocons saw the role of companies like Blackwater in Iraq and more recently the extraordinary turn world events have taken including the advent of Troll Farms , cyber warfare and Russia breaking even the rules it followed in the Cold War .

Heller in Catch 22 , Something Happened and Good As Gold chronicled with satire and wit huge events and the comedy of manners which accompanied them in the war , 70’s Corporate America and the Nixon White House .

A World of Soundbites and Magical Thinking

Those times seem increasingly  to resonate with our own . The incoherent thinking of the Brexiteers who preordain an outcome which contains inherent contradictions , assert that the end can be achieved by magical thinking with a complete absence of specificity and condemn anyone who has the temerity to point this out as thwarting the will of the people , would be a lot easier to cope with if they were only characters in a Heller novel . Sadly the reality is they are in Westminster  and able to complete an unprecedented act of national self harm .

Which Belong in a Novel -Not Westminster and the White House

Similarly the forming and implementation of policy through tweeting by a President (with an attention deficit so severe that his policy advisers despair of ever retaining his concentration long enough for a coherent decision to be made ) should be inhabiting the pages of a satirical novel not the Oval Office.

So Catch 22 resonates with our times and is the inspiration for this blog .

Putting Inconvenient Facts in the Way

In a country , and maybe world , that allegedly has had enough of experts ,there is a need for a place which puts the inconvenient facts in the way as we try , against all the best efforts of Trump and the Brexiteers to make sense of current events .

Catch 22 helped us do that the last century .

Catch 23 , guided by the wisdom and acumen of Milo Minderbender , in its own modest way seeks to shine a light on this century.