excerpt from the Inner Ring “

There exist in any human organisation;

"two different systems or hierarchies. The one is printed in some little red
book and anyone can easily read it up. It also remains constant. A general is always
superior to a colonel and a colonel to a captain. The other is not printed
anywhere. Nor is it even a formally organized secret society with officers
and rules which you would be told after you had been admitted. You are never
formally and explicitly admitted by anyone. You discover gradually, in
almost indefinable ways, that it exists and that you are outside it; and
then later, perhaps, that you are inside it. There are what correspond to
passwords, but they too are spontaneous and informal. A particular slang,
the use of particular nicknames, an allusive manner of conversation, are the
marks. But it is not constant. It is not easy, even at a given moment, to
say who is inside and who is outside. Some people are obviously in and some
are obviously out, but there are always several on the border-line. And if
you come back to the same Divisional Headquarters, or Brigade Headquarters,
or the same regiment or even the same company, after six weeks' absence, you
may find this second hierarchy quite altered. There are no formal admissions
or expulsions. People think they are in it after they have in fact been
pushed out of it, or before they have been allowed in: this provides great
amusement for those who are really inside. It has no fixed name. The only
certain rule is that the insiders and outsiders call it by different names.
From inside it may be designated, in simple cases, by mere enumeration: it
may be called "You and Tony and me." When it is very secure and
comparatively stable in membership it calls itself "we." When it has to be
suddenly expanded to meet a particular emergency it calls itself "All the
sensible people at this place." From outside, if you have despaired of
getting into it, you call it "That gang" or "They" or "So-and-so and his
set" or "the Caucus" or "the Inner Ring." If you are a candidate for
admission you probably don't call it anything. To discuss it with the other
outsiders would make you feel outside yourself. And to mention it in talking
to the man who is inside, and who may help you if this present conversation
goes well, would be madness.
Badly as I may have described it, I hope you will all have recognized the
thing I am describing. Not, of course, that you have been in the Russian
Army or perhaps in any army. But you have met the phenomenon of an Inner
Ring. You discovered one in your house at school before the end of the first
term. And when you had climbed up to somewhere near it by the end of your
second year, perhaps you discovered that within the Ring there was a Ring
yet more inner, which in its turn was the fringe of the great school Ring to
which the house Rings were only satellites. It is even possible that the
School Ring was almost in touch with a Masters' Ring. You were beginning, in
fact, to pierce through the skins of the onion. And here, too, at your
university-shall I be wrong in assuming that at this very moment, invisible
to me, there are several rings-independent systems or concentric
rings-present in this room? And I can assure you that in whatever hospital,
inn of court, diocese, school, business, or college you arrive after going
down, you will find the Rings-what Tolstoy calls the second or unwritten
systems."