Stafford Beer.

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Stafford Beer.

Post by Stanley » 30 Oct 2015, 04:29

Stafford Beer. Extract from SG memoirs.
[The complete memoir is to be found on Also published in four volumes on }

In 1983 I was at a fairly loose end when I got a call from David Moore. “How would you like a weeks paid holiday in Chelt?” My response was where the hell’s Chelt? “In Manchester at the Business School!” It turned out that Chelt was an exercise in educational management which Squee Gordon and David had put together. It was run under the auspices of the Manchester Business School and the formula was that a group of high powered educationalists were divided into different provinces of the mythical country Chelt and the object was for the teams to compete with each other for educational resources. They were short of a couple of bodies so Nancy Reid from the college and myself were roped in to make the numbers up. I was never quite sure of what we were doing and my team soon found out that my forte was black propaganda. I set up a news agency and issued press releases which dictated the course of events. I gave all one province’s sheep scab and had the leader of one of the teams accused of having carnal relations with a sheep. I soon found out that the more hilarious the press release the more chance there was of the referees validating it! We had a wonderful time.

While I was at Chelt I met a Filipino called Amado Carandang, we got on well together and he gave me some of his clothes on the grounds he had too much luggage. Actually I think he just felt sorry for me because I hadn’t got what he saw as a proper job and a good wage! 15 years later Amado and I met in Perth, Western Australia and he had become a priest in the interim. He hadn’t changed a bit and we spent a happy afternoon on the side of the Indian Ocean reminiscing about Chelt and the men behind it. I asked him what the chances were of the College of Cardinals electing a black woman as Pope? I knew the answer of course but it lead to an interesting conversation. He told me one thing that I didn’t know and that is that the bishop is, in law, the owner of the assets of the diocese . The consequence of this is that if any of his priests are sued for damages for any reason, the bishop has to pay. In view of the embarrassing cases being brought against many priests at the time, this was a matter of considerable concern to the church.

I met another man at Chelt, I found myself one evening having a quiet drink with Stafford Beer, the man who wrote ‘Brain of the Firm’ amongst other books. He was a wonderful bloke, an academic, guru, poet, socialist and one of the worlds leading authorities on cybernetics. At about three in the morning I asked him if he could encapsulate all he knew about communication in one aphorism and he said yes! I think I realised how drunk he was at that point but this is what he said; “It isn’t what is communicated, or how it’s communicated or how it’s received, it is what is understood.” His example was Chinese Whispers, the party game where you whisper a message to the person next to you and they pass it on, “Send reinforcements, we are about to advance.” Becomes “Send three and fourpence, we are going to a dance.” The other classic is “Have captured Rommel!” becoming “Have ruptured camel!” He also told me a good story and if a memoir isn’t the place for a good story I don’t know what is!

The west coast of North America was seen as vulnerable to attack by the Japanese at the start of WWII and the American and Mexican governments decided to intern all inhabitants who were Japanese. When this edict was announced there was a storm of protest. There was at that time in Mexico City an ice cream manufacturer who was born in Japan and employed Japanese workers. He, and many of his workers had been resident in Mexico for years. This man was well connected and protested to a high government official of his acquaintance that the edict was grossly unfair to long term residents who had proved their commitment to the country over the years and that there was a case for some discretion. The official consulted with his colleagues and eventually it was agreed that the man had a point and he and his long serving employees were exempted from the edict.

In 1946 the owner of the ice cream company gave a banquet in honour of the official who had obtained the exemption for them, he was by then in an even higher government post. The owner rose to his feet after the meal and made a speech in which he said that the banquet was the company’s way of saying thank you for the good treatment they had received all through the war, there was also a surprise and a gift. At this point a door opened at the back of the hall and three men wheeled trolleys into the room piled high with manila folders and documents. The owner of the firm said, “You were quite right in the first instance when you decided to intern us, we were all Japanese spies! Our job was to prepare for the invasion by identifying all the water resources in Mexico and producing a plan whereby they could be used most effectively when Japan invaded and conquered Mexico. That is the surprise, the gift is on these trolleys, it is the results of all our work over the years!” Stafford said that three years later Mexico got a large international loan to re-organise the country’s water resources and put many of the recommendations of the Japanese ice cream firm into effect!

989 words.
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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