Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Civilians (as a nickname)

In the 1980s, I fulfilled my (then-mandatory) military service. I tried to apply at a department that would benefit my skill set. The reply I received spoke volumes: “Why? Do you have a medical deficiency?” It was just the start of living in another world, in which they refer to us as civilians.

Recently, I listened to an interview in which an adult actress refers to us as civilians. Apparently, that reference to civilians is quite common (eg, thepointmag-2011, thrillist-2016, playbill-2023). I suppose that the police and fire department will also use the nickname of civilians for us.

In the corporate world, nicknames are somewhat different. Some departments view themselves as experts or professionals, while interdependent departments are viewed as (error-prone) idiots. Interestingly, that intergroup competition also builds intra-group cooperation (eg, SD-1977).

“Intragroup cooperation was related positively to performance on a high means-interdependent task and was related negatively to performance on a low means-interdependent task. However, this relationship held only when there was intergroup cooperation rather than intergroup competition.”

Excerpt of Abstract of 1977 study in ScienceDirect on Intergroup and intragroup competition and cooperation

I suppose that the complexity of this quote illustrates the complexity of this subject.

In my view, the word civilians is a hybrid of an “insulting” derogative disguised as an “innocent” nickname. It’s an example of Us vs Them, and/or the sociological concept of in-group and out-group:

“In sociology and social psychology, an in-group is a social group to which a person psychologically identifies as being a member. By contrast, an out-group is a social group with which an individual does not identify.” (Wiki)

Throughout my career, there has only been one company that operated as a team. I suppose because its management operated as a team.

Nearly all of the companies that I worked for, had interdepartmental frictions (due to its management). Some of those frictions resembled a war zone.

Once you replace Department #1 by a Government’s civil servants, and substitute Department #2 for civilians then you will immediately recognize the common lack of civility (a.k.a. frictions) between both. Given that assessment, companies – and even governments – tend to have a life cycle, like us.

Some funny quotes by Groucho Marx (1890-1977), an American comedian:

  • “Military intelligence is a contradiction in terms.”
  • “Military justice is to justice what military music is to music.”
  • “A hospital bed is a parked taxi with the meter running.”

Living in Another World (1986) by Talk Talk
band, lyrics, video, Wiki-band, Wiki-song

Help me find a way from this maze
I’m living in another world to you
And I can’t help myself

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless in quotes or stated otherwise.


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