Saturday, November 12, 2016

“Reverse Osmosis” in Human Behaviour – “Bad” Prevails Over the “Good”


Musings of a Retired Veteran



Each individual has some good points and some bad points.

Yes  every person has some positive attributes and some negative attributes.

When two individuals interact  and they become friends or colleagues  we expect that each one will imbibe the good aspects of the other one.

But on many occasions exactly the opposite happens  and each one picks up the bad habits of the other one.

In most cases  the “bad” tends to influence the “good”

In fact – “bad” prevails over the “good”

It is very rare that the “good” wins over the “bad”.

This phenomenon of “reverse osmosis” is more predominant in youngsters who are of an impressionable age where peer pressure influences you and dominates your actions.

Let us take a scenario of youngsters who join the Defence Services  Army, Navy or Air Force.

Suppose a young man who is a non-drinker in civilian life joins the Navy.

He has shipmates, friends and course-mates who drink Alcohol.

Tell me  which is more likely:

1. Will the shipmates who are drinkers pick up the positive virtue of temperance from the non-drinker  and  will they all quit drinking alcohol and become teetotallers...?


2. Will the non-drinker “emulate” his friends and start drinking alcohol...? 

Experience shows that the second option is more likely.

Most of us picked up our smoking and drinking habits emulating our smoker and drinker friends  did we not...?

Yes  if you are a non-smoker – and  you have smoker friends  you are more likely to become a smoker.

It is unlikely that all your smoker friends will emulate you and become non-smokers  will they give up their smoking habit  and become a non-smoker like you

It is the same with drinking and other addictions too.

Think of your school and college days – and – think about all the habits you picked up in your youth.

It may be due to peer pressure or other reasons  but – we tend to pick up bad habits more easily from those we interact with  instead of imbibing their good points.

It is the same with other bad habits like drinking, gambling and harmful addictions and undesirable activities.

It is more common to see good persons “falling” into bad company and ruining their lives.

On the contrary  it is quite rare to see a “bad” person being reformed by “good” company.

You must have seen many persons falling in bad company.

But have you seen any person rising in good company...?

It is easier to slide down the slippery slope of vices. 

It is difficult to climb up the steep gradient of virtue.

REVERSE OSMOSIS in and out of Uniform


This phenomenon of “reverse osmosis” happens at the group level and organizational level too.

When two organizations interact we expect that each organization will imbibe the positive aspects of the other’s organizational culture.

However  sometimes exactly the opposite happens.

Let me give you an example from my own experience.

When I was in the Navy  I was once posted to an institution called IAT Pune.

IAT was an inter-service training and research organization.

There were officers of two different cadres posted in IAT:

1. Uniformed Defence Officers of the Army Navy and Air Force


2. Civilian Research Scientists

It was expected that when these two different types of cadres interacted with each other  each cadre would inculcate the positive aspects of the other.

I thought that the “laid back” scientists would imbibe the good habits of punctuality and discipline from the defence service officers.

I also expected that the “do-as-you-are-told” regimented “soldiers” would cultivate a right-brain “out of the box” thinking approach and imbibe a “scientific temper” from the scientists.

To my amusement  I observed exactly the opposite.

The “Soldiers” were quick to embrace the slack discipline and the laid-back “chalta hai” attitude of the Scientists.

In contrast  the Scientists were quick to adopt the rigid thinking and hierarchical rank-consciousness prevalent among uniformed Military Officers.

In fact  some scientists became so rank conscious and were so sensitive about their “status” – that they were obsessed with things like inter-se seniority and rank equivalence  of Scientists – especially vis-a-vis military officers and civilian bureaucrats  and  this rank consciousness often resulted in strained relations, ego clashes and turf wars between Uniformed Service Officers and Civilian Scientists.

Despite the fact that they called themselves “Scientists”  these Boffins were extremely hypersensitive about their place in the “pecking order”.

It was amusing to see these “boffins” wasting most of their energy in arguments debating on this contentious issue of inter-se seniority vis-a-vis military officers and getting agitated over disputes as to who was senior and who was junior  instead of getting on with their scientific research work.

Research Scientists had imbibed Military Hierarchy Concepts which are totally alien to a “scientific temper”.

Some civilians were afflicted by military “rankomania” to such an extent  that one senior scientist even demanded that he be saluted by uniformed troops.

The upshot of all this was that most “research scientists” became more interested in “administering” and “managing” instead of devoting themselves to conducting scientific research.

The end result of this soldier-civilian interaction was that you got exactly the opposite of what you had envisaged.

Thanks to reverse osmosis”  the mutual interaction between servicemen and scientists ended up producing “civilians in uniform and “soldiers in civil dress.

I have seen this phenomenon of “reverse osmosis” happening in other quasi-military organisations like DGQA, DRDO, MES, NCC and in Delhi Centric Defence Headquarters and Offices as well  where there are a large number of civilians interacting with uniformed service officers and personnel.  

Such are the ironies, paradoxes, incongruities and absurdities of life which you can observe all around you.

This phenomenon of reverse osmosis can be seen during jointmanship and in many tri-service units and inter-service institutions.

You bring together two different sets of individuals hoping that each will imbibe the good aspects of the other – but exactly the opposite happens.

You want “osmosis” – but – you end up getting “reverse osmosis”.

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1. This story is a spoof, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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