1/10/2008 19:41

Independent and not Isolated

I've been telling this near-dream the past few nights, a story told to myself in the twilight of wakefulness, The lord of a castle is in the field, looking for his enemy, when a messenger from the castle arrives to tell of an flying attack which was repulsed. The lord and his second interrogate the young man extensively about the battle and about the actions of the chamberlain, who had been left in charge.

A key point of the dream (for purposes of this essay) is that the chamberlain is an administrator, not a fighting man, and the warrior lord and his second are interested in the chamberlain's performance under fire.

Cornell, the messenger, is required to recite in detail how the defense of the castle was managed. In short, his story is this: The chamberlain, being advised that the enemy was advancing on the castle, first appointed one Gregor as his second. He does this both to insure an orderly succession, should the need arise, and to provide himself with expertise in tactics and military operations. Gregor is an experienced warrior, so the choice was a wise one (as the lord's second points out).

The chamberlain's next decision was to position the fighting teams around the perimeter (that is, on the castle walls) and to give their captains authority to command their own teams throughout the battle. Gregor, the warrior second, was assigned to coordinate their actions. The chamberlain himself did not abdicate responsibility for defending the castle but, trusting that the military judgement of Gregor and the captains exceeded his own, busied himself with overseeing administrative tasks in which he had the greater expertise. In this way, the defenders on the walls had continuing supplies of food, blankets, and repair services.

The lord and his second demanded to know how Cornell's own team had been placed, since they were experts not in fighting but rather in communications. The answer was that this special team had been dispersed among the captains, where they facilitated the flow of information from castle wall to castle wall. Cornell's own captain had attached himself to Gregor's side throughout the battle. Thus if the enemy detached from the south wall to round eastward, Gregor and the captains on the east wall knew instantly by signal to expect renewed opposition.

Such is the near dream.

Now, in actual reality there is no castle and no battle, but there is a lesson to be learned.

FIRST, each group left at the castle was assigned work consistent with their skills. The commander took the administrative tasks, the smiths performed repairs and the cooks cooked, and the captains led the warriors.

SECOND, each leader was permitted to exercise his own authority. The captains were not usurped or undermined by the administrative head of the castle, or even by his warrior second.

THIRD, no one was left entirely on his own. The captains were supplied with what they needed to support their warriors. They were also provided with tactical intelligence so that they could adapt their defense in a coordinated manner.

In other words, the captains were allowed to be independent but not isolated.

In actual reality the opposite is often true; people of good will find themselves to be isolated from the larger campaign but yet with no independence of action.

This was a near dream, a story told to myself in the twilight of wakefulness, but the ideal that I imagined is strong enough to stand full consciousness.