by Joseph Heller
Catch-22 Power Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"I suppose you just don't care if you lose your leg, do you?"
"It's my leg."
"It certainly is not your leg!" Nurse Cramer retorted. "That leg belongs to the U.S. government. It's no different than a gear or a bedpan. The Army has invested a lot of money to make you an airplane pilot, and you've no right to disobey the doctor's orders." (26.55-57)
Nurse Cramer sees Yossarian as a product of the bureaucracy: not as a human being, but as a piece of property owned by the army. By extension, Yossarian has no right to break any government regulations.
General Peckem laid great, fastidious stress on small matters of taste and style. He was always augmenting things. Approaching events were never coming, but always upcoming. It was not true that he wrote memorandums praising himself and recommending that his authority be enhanced to include all combat operations; he wrote memoranda. And the prose in the memoranda of other officers was always turgid, stilted, or ambiguous. The errors of others were inevitably deplorable. Regulations were stringent, and his data never was obtained from a reliable source, but always were obtained. General Peckem was frequently constrained. Things were often incumbent upon him, and he frequently acted with greatest reluctance. It never escaped his memory that neither black nor white was a color, and he never used verbal when he meant oral. (29.6)
This passage demonstrates how needlessly complex bureaucratic language can be. This kind of language makes official documents difficult to understand for the common man. This rather stilted style of language makes the government sound exclusive and professional at the expense of being efficient and actually getting things done.
[General Peckem:] "Just pass the work I assign you along to somebody else and trust to luck. We call that delegation of responsibility. Somewhere down near the lowest level of this coordinated organization I run are people who do get the work done when it reaches them, and everything manages to run along smoothly without too much effort on my part. I suppose that's because I am a good executive." (29.12)
This laziness of the top officials and the willingness to let work slide to the bottom rungs is a characteristic flaw of the bureaucracy that Heller mocks. Notice that Peckem is still using one of his beloved terms – "delegation of responsibility" (a.k.a. "laziness").