The Tyranny of the Committee

“Are the Seven Commandments the same as they used to be, Benjamin?’ For once Benjamin consented to break his rule, and he read out to her what was written on the wall. There was nothing there now except a single Commandment. It ran:

ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL

BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS”

George Orwell – Animal Farm

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

George Orwell – 1984

We have all been there. Sat through a long and badly chaired committee meeting, fled at the end of the meeting to the bar, and soon forgot the whole ghastly thing. That is until some weeks later the minutes arrive.

Poorly written and clearly bearing little relation to the meeting you attended, you wonder if it is you that is at fault. Your memory playing tricks on you.

Of course in most cases it is not.

The minutes have been ‘put’ together by the Cabal that actually run the committee. Sometimes they have their own agenda, though often it is just for the pleasure of having a little power, a little influence. Just enough so that they do not have to kick the cat to take out their frustration at their own inadequacy. As part of the Cabal they can bask in a little bit of reflected glory.

So what can you do?

Well you can sigh, and chuck the wretched things in the bin and forget the whole bally matter.

At the next committee meeting item 2 on the agenda usually refers to the minutes of the previous meeting and asks if they are a true and fair view. You shuffle your papers, look at the floor to avoid eye contact with anyone. They are about as true and fair as Robert Maxwell’s tax return, but you say nothing. It’s not worth rocking the boat.

At least large sums of money are not involved. At least not that you are aware of.

When the next set of minutes arrive, you glance at them, and then press delete.

Or you can draw a line in the sand and demand that they are corrected. This inevitably attracts the collective wraith of the Cabal. Caught out, shocked that someone has dared question the minutes, question their authority, they ignore your request. They hope you will go away.

You do not go away.

You demand an answer.

They reply questioning your version of the minutes, perhaps pointing out that none of the other Sheep, I mean committee members, have queried them.

You refuse to back down and repeat your request that the minutes are amended to reflect what actually was discussed.

You are ignored.

At the next committee meeting, the Chair skips over items 1 and 2 to move onto the more ‘important business.’ You take a deep breath. And interrupt.

You interrupt, are ignored, so interrupt the chair, but this time a little more firmly, or as will later be alleged, aggressively.

And so the saga goes on.

Until irritated by the requests for clarification and corrections, the Cabal decides to get rid of you. They can do this because the rest of the committee will follow, they are Sheep after all.

All over the country there are voluntary organisations doing fantastic work, helping their community, protecting the environment, looking out for animals,raising money for good causes, the list is endless.

The engine room, the driving force is the committee. When it works, it is efficient, effective and seemingly effortless.

When it fails?

When it fails it becomes a tyranny in microcosm. One gets a little glimpse of what it must be like to live in Putin’s Russia, or any other autocratic state where decisions are decided and then rubber stamped by a gutless, white faced, cowardly bunch of individuals, that masquerade as ‘the committee’. If you dare to disagree, to be awkward by wanting things to be right, then when the committee is a tyranny, its the Gulag for you.

To all the well run committees out there, well done, keep it up. To the rest? Resign and spend more time with your allotments or what ever it is you do when you are not shuffling important papers and rewriting the past.

If you have got this far, thanks for reading.

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