A deputy minister – a career civil servant who had plotted a deliberate path from junior analyst to the heights of the bureaucracy – collapsed suddenly at a interdepartmental committee meeting and died (with his boots on, as it were).
While his colleagues were left to ponder how his departure would affect their advancement prospects, he found himself rapidly descending into the depths of hell. No Satan, Beelzebub or Melchom met him there – he simply slide quickly down a rocky, dark embankment and splashed into a fetid, putrid swamp. Gasping and grasping to find his bearings and remain above water, he was able to find a footing on some slippery rocks where he found he could just reach his mouth above the waterline if he stood on his tip-toes and craned his neck.
After a few minutes, wondering what he would do next, he noticed an old colleague – a senior DM who had mentored him on his way up, but had passed away many years before – to his left. He didn’t recognize the old man at first, but it was certainly him! But the old DM could offer no assistance as he seemed to be in the same position as his younger colleague – just able to keep his mouth above the water by craning his neck. And after a little while, he noticed that the older DM was repeating slowly – and with as little movement as possible – some familiar advice: “Don’t make waves …. Don’t make waves”.
The recently arrived DM, still pondering his predicament, did realize why he didn’t recognize his old mentor at first: it was the only time he had ever seen his senior colleague stick his neck out.
– originally told to me by my senior colleague Rod Dobell