One day while having a Chat with my friend I was amused when he said he was caught in a Catch- 22 situation. I exclaimed “Whats that?”.
He was referring to a situation in which he had two choices: But both the choices lead to a lost cause. He was caught in a double bind or a no win situation.
I wondered why call it a Catch-22 situation. So, I decided to explore.
On googling I found good amount of info on this. Catch-22 a term coined by satirical novelist Joseph Keller, in his influential novel “Catch-22”. Now question arises as why to call something as Catch-22? So I decided to get hand on the Novel itself.
The novel follows Yossarian, a US air-force bombardier and number of other characters. Most events occur while the airmen of fictional Fighting 256th squadron are based on island of Pinosa, in Mediterranean Sea west of Italy.
The Catch-22 as it occurs in novel can described in words of Heller as “There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr (One of the characters: a fighter pilot) was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more combat missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane (Of sound mind; mentally healthy) if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to.”
Now what to do in such a situation?
Developing further, Catch-22 is a false dilemma in a rule, regulation or procedure where no real choice exists. Consider one more example. In order to get excused from flying combat missions in enemy territory one must submit an official diagnosis from his squadron’s flight surgeon demonstrating that he is unfit to fly because he is Insane. For this he must approach the surgeon to ask for one. However the catch-22 (twenty second of the guidelines) used by military surgeons suggest that “An insane person should not believe or suspect that he is insane. Thus, to be recognized as insane, a person must not ask for an evaluation, because doing so implicitly shows that he suspects him selves to be insane. But, if a person does not ask for an evaluation, he cannot be recognized as insane because the evaluation is the method by which such recognition would occur. Thus, nobody can ever classify themselves as insane (even if they genuinely are), and thus nobody may ever use an insanity diagnosis to escape flying combat missions.
Quite confusing? Read one more time, it is definitely going to interest you.
So have you even been caught in Catch-22? Think…you probably would have been caught.
by Manohar Gadre