Thursday, January 29, 2009

Illegitimi non carborundum

Do you remember the TV show Porridge? This BBC production was screened on ABC years ago and featured Ronnie Barker as the hardened but comical felon, Norman Stanley Fletcher, fellow prisoner, Lennie Godber, and two quite different natured prison guards, Mr Mackay and Mr Barraclough, in Pentridge Prison.

One of the signature sequences of this production was the following:

Barrowclough: You're writing a book?
Fletch: Yeah - a sort of inside guide to prison life. But don't worry, I've not overlooked you boys in blue - I will be dealing just as much with your issues as those of our fellow felons.
Barrowclough: Oh, good. And what are you going to call this book?
Fletch: Don't Let The Bastards Grind You Down.

There’s a love/hate relationship here. The show’s characterised by relational friction within the genre of comedy.

But here’s the turn.

Have you ever had one of those days when people are the main problem? The phrase ‘Don’t let the bastards grind you down’ (this is the meaning of the ‘broken latin’ article title, Illegitimi non carborundum) is synonymous with this sentiment, and it’s something to be borne in mind when dealing with people who habitually cause problems.

Folklore has it that General “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell used it as a motto during World War II. It’s also a play on the word for the ‘bastard file’ which removes the rough material before a smooth file is used.

I had one of these days recently. I dealt with complaints ranging from the colour of furniture to the choice of one word over another in a document to seeking some elementary help that was not forthcoming. It was both damning and perplexing.

Yet, then I had the phrase come to mind, and Barker’s voice, ‘Don’t let the bastards grind you down,’ for I am sure this is their general objective--to totally thwart the person who wishes to simply and fairly traverse life. Some are fervently bent toward frustrating the efforts of good people, for they have nothing better to do.

For some, there are only problems--they beset good people and inundate them.

Is this vexatious person to wear the good person out, who, by their nature is simply trying to do a decent job? No. We must resist the problematic person by dodging out of their way or by patiently enduring them. Let the problematic person attract yet another problematic person, and together may they get entirely frustrated--together. May they cause no interruption to real progress.

The good person, by virtue of their acts of doing good work, is to avoid the problematic person wherever conveniently possible; for there’s wisdom in that. Even more critical than this is to remain as patient, tolerant and as calm as possible in the midst of such madness.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

No comments: