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September 2005

 

The Return of the Colonel

- Alan

For our 200th issue, we were delighted to receive this letter from a faithful subscriber who is one of the most acute observers of the Auroville scene


April 1st, 2005 The Athenaeum,
Pall Mall , London SW1

Sir,
I was enjoying a postprandial nap at my club when Carstairs brought me the latest issue of ‘Auroville Today'. Damn good little rag. Only thing I like to be woken up for these days. Well done, chaps.
Anyway, while perusing the latest issue I was reminded that I'd been meaning for some time to share a few thoughts on organization. Now, I know you chappies have a hard enough time of it out there in darkest Africa [wrong continent, eds.] without having to listen to some silly old buffer chuntering on from his armchair, but I'd like to share the one or two nuggets that this old soldier has wrested from life's ore (rather good that, what?). For me, organization can be summed up in three words: discipline, discipline, discipline. Without discipline, as my old C.O. used to say, you can't even put the dog out at night. With discipline, you can conquer the world.
Now, far be it for me to suggest that you chappies are a wee bit lacking in the aforementioned article, but one or two of your scribes do suggest that Aurovilians could do with a certain stiffening of the sinews. So here are my suggestions. Discipline requires a clear chain of command, so the first thing you chaps need to know is who's in charge. Now I know you all want to be number one – damn good thing, ambition and all that – but stands to reason you can't stand on top of the pole at the same time. If it's all chiefs and no injuns, who's going to do the legwork, who's going to dig the latrines? So first thing you need to do is create your officer corps, the chappies who will lead the cavalry charge, the ones who will fling their lives in the faces of the enemy, like socks at a goat. [don't ask, eds.]

But in the midst of battle how will you know them? How will you know each other? Answer: uniform. Ergo, it's time you chappies got into uniform. Now I know what you'll say. That where you live it's a touch on the warm side and nobody wants to spend the day sweltering in khaki woollens. But that's where discipline comes in. We couldn't have won the War wearing what Nurse Hackett calls strainers [‘trainers'? eds.] We couldn't have won wearing loincloths. Fact, we only won because we were wearing uniforms. And damn good ones, too. So get your designer chappies on the job. Get them to run up the Auroville uniform that you'll be proud to wear any time, anywhere. Mark my words. Once you're turned out properly, with your webbing blancoed, your boots dubbined and your brass buckles gleaming, the natives will look at you quite differently.

Caption: One of the possible Auroville uniforms as proposed by Emanuele
But uniforms are no good if you don't know how to wear them, if you don't know how to wear them together. So next thing you need is a parade-ground. Nothing too grand – just take your machetes and hack out a clearing in the jungle where everybody can practise drill twice a day. Drill? I hear you ask, why the baden-powell should Aurovilians drill? But dammit, if you're warriors of a new dawn you have to learn to march in step, to wheel, to present arms, even if all you're presenting are banana leaves.

Finally, gongs. Some of you chappies have been out there a damnably long time, beyond the call of duty and all that, so it's only right you get some kind of recognition. I propose an annual ceremony where the C.O. raises the spirits of the troops by awarding medals for long-service, good conduct, bravery in the face of enemy fire etc. Nothing too elaborate, mind, just something to show your grandchildren as you dandle them on your knee and regale them with tales of derring-do in the city of the dawn.

I see she-who-must-be-obeyed, Nurse Hackett, approaching, so it's time for this old buffer to sign off. Just remember, chaps, you can't go far wrong if you live simple, shoot straight and keep your leggings dry.

I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,

Alastair Henry Lucius Buckfast-Smytthe (Lieutenant-Colonel retd.)

 

[Alert readers will have recognized that the Colonel has spelt his name in different ways over the years. We also wonder how Nurse Hackett gained admission to the indubitably masculine preserve that is the Athenaeum Club. We put these inconsistencies down to the effects of his medication. And the port.
We also enclose a glossary for those readers who find the Colonel's epistolary style a trifle opaque. eds.]

postprandial – after lunch or dinner
injuns – native Americans
webbing – belt
blancoed – a white substance for whitening belts
dubbined – a grease for softening and waterproofing leather
baden-powell – British general who founded the Boy Scout Association.
gongs – awards
derring-do – heroic courage


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