Monday, April 29, 2013



A Naval Yarn

Prosophobia is the fear of progress.

I have seen plenty of this during my days in the navy.

Let me tell you a story.

This happened was sometime in the early 1980’s.

A young officer put up a proposal to give residential phones to all naval officers.

Those days residential phones were given only to senior officers of the rank of Commander and above (in fact, even some Commanders did not have residential phones).

On the other hand all civilian officers of the rank of Under Secretary and above had residential phones.

This young Communications Officer had done his homework thoroughly and showed that within the existing budget it was feasible to give residential phones to all Lieutenants and above.

“No,” bellowed the Senior Officer, “there is no need to give phones to Lieutenants. In my days, I did not have a phone even when I was a Commander.”

“Maybe when he was a Lieutenant phones did not exist,” I said tongue-in-cheek.

“The bloody old fogie was probably born before Alexander Graham Bell when the telephone was not even invented,” someone quipped.

This a typical example of prosophobia due to what I call the “Auld Lang Syne Complex”.

I was aghast to see that even 30 years later things had not changed and there was still a reluctance to give land-line telephone connections to junior officers because of prosophobia. 

The mindset had not changed and the services were still living in the “glorious” past.

Of course, with the advent of cell phone technology every officer now had his own personal mobile phone and did not hanker too much after a landline official phone).

Yes, the primary reason for Prosophobia is the Auld Lang Syne complex:

1. In our good old days we did not have it so why do you want it

(we did not have a telephone at home it so why do you want a phone at home?)

2. We did it this way so you also bloody well do it the same way 

(we managed without a telephone so you too bloody well manage without a phone)

These retrograde guys have a feudal mindset want to live in “past glory” – they are not even satisfied with maintaining status quo – they want status quo ante and want to regress into the past.

Yes, “precedence” and “status quo” are sure signs of prosophobia.

The world may have progressed but there is great resistance to change, and there is reluctance to progress and move on, owing to the fixation of “living in the glorious days of the past”.

This results in an irrational obsession with archaic customs and traditions which have outlived their utility and are not in sync with the modern world.  

Another reason for Prosophobia is Technophobia (fear of technology) especially among senior officers who are loath to continual learning and are averse to embracing new technology.

They are not keen on updating themselves and unwilling to learn.

They are afraid of getting out their comfort zones.

Believe it or not, but as late as 2006 I came across a senior army officer who was  computer-illiterate.

This “Relic of the Raj” believed that it was below his dignity to “type” and he thought Personal Computers (PCs) were glorified typewriters.

As an officer his job was to “dictate” and it was the job of the lowly stenographers and clerks to type out his dictations.

Another Pongo – a typical Colonel Blimp type old-fashioned “officer of the old-mould” prosophobic officer wanted his secretary to take printouts of all emails and put them up in the “dak folder” every evening for his “perusal”.

He would then dictate replies to these emails to his secretary or write them out in longhand. 

The secretary would then “type” out these replies, take printouts on paper, put up these drafts for approval.

Then the secretary would meticulously “type” the emails and send them and then take a hard-copy printout of sent mails for his perusal and to file for record.. 

All “papers” were carefully filed and preserved.

Instead of using Information Technology to achieve a paperless office, the paperwork had actually increased.

In many places, especially in accounts offices, I have seen that there is great emphasis of paper-work and a marked reluctance to embrace Information Technology (IT) and make administration paperless, transparent and speedy.

A manifestation of prosophobia is the presence of an anti-intellectual culture in the organisation.

If you observe an undue obsession with maintaining “status quo” and a celebration of “anti-intellectualism” you can be sure of the existence of prosophobia in that organisation, especially at the top level.

Feudal culture, red tape, rank consciousness, steep hierarchical pyramid and inordinate emphasis on seniority and obsession with preserving the hierarchy are indicators of prosophobia.

Hopefully things are changing for the better, but you still see signs of prosophobia (and technophobia) all around.

Recently I visited a Military Hospital and they were still using paper chits and people were lugging around voluminous paper medical reports despite the easy availability of hospital management software which could make hospitals paperless.

Do look around you – do you see prosophobia?

Before I end, on a lighter note, let me tell you about one more interesting phobia.

This phobia is called Venustraphobia.

Do you know what Venustraphobia means?

Believe it or not – Venustraphobia is the fear of beautiful women.

I wonder who is afraid of beautiful women – men or women or both?

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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