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The Head Office

The Head Office knows everything better. The Head Office has the overview, the belief in overview, and a filing system. In the Head Office men are busy with never-ending disputes but they slap you on the back and say: “Dear Friend, you can’t judge from your individual position! We at the Head Office . . .”

The Head Office, for the time being, has one main concern: to remain the Head Office. God help the subordinate office that ventures to do something independently! Whether or not it was reasonable, whether or not it was necessary, whether or not something was on fire, first the Head Office has to be consulted. Why else would it be the Head Office? It is because it is—take note of that. All those out there will just have to come to terms with that!

It’s not the clever ones who sit in the Head Office but rather the crafty ones. Whoever does his little job may very well be clever but he certainly isn’t crafty. If he were, then he would manage to dodge it, and for this there is only one solution: the reform proposal. The reform proposal leads to the creation of a new department, which—of course—is incorporated into and controlled by the Head Office. One person chops wood and thirty-three stand around—this is the Head Office.

The Head Office is set up with the purpose of thwarting the energy and initiative of its subordinates. The Head Office has no ideas and expects others to implement them. The Head Office is a little bit less fallible than the Pope but nowhere near as good-looking.

The practical man doesn’t have it easy. He fervently rails against the Head Office, tears all of their directives to small pieces and uses them to wipe his eyes. That done, he marries the boss’s daughter, gets promoted, and ends up in the Head Office, because it is an advancement, after all, to make it to the records room. Having made it this far, he clears his throat, straightens his tie, pulls his shirt cuffs down, and begins to govern, as a part of the god-ordained Head Office, full of deep disdain for the simple, practical man, deep in never-ending dispute with Head Office colleagues. So he sits there, like a spider in a web that others constructed, prevents efficient work, makes irrational demands, and knows everything better.

Translated from the German by Kate McQueen. First published in Die Weltbühne, 1925.