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The term is introduced by the character Doc Daneeka, an army psychiatrist who invokes "Catch 22" to explain why any pilot requesting mental evaluation for insanity—hoping to be found not sane enough to fly and thereby escape dangerous missions—demonstrates his own sanity in creating the request and thus cannot be declared insane. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. " "Catch-22." According to literature professor Ian Gregson, the old woman's narrative defines "Catch-22" more directly as the "brutal operation of power", stripping away the "bogus sophistication" of the earlier scenarios.
This phrase also means a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to, he was sane and had to. Besides referring to an unsolvable logical dilemma, Catch-22 is invoked to explain or justify the military bureaucracy.
The "Catch-22" is that "anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn't really crazy".
This bogus democracy that can be overruled by arbitrary fiat is perhaps a citizen's first encounter with organizations that may profess 'open' and libertarian values, but in fact are closed and hierarchical systems.
Heller originally wanted to call the phrase (and hence, the book) by other numbers, but he and his publishers eventually settled on 22.
The number has no particular significance; it was chosen more or less for euphony.
Catch-22 is an organizational assumption, an unwritten law of informal power that exempts the organization from responsibility and accountability, and puts the individual in the absurd position of being excepted for the convenience or unknown purposes of the organization.
A significant type of definition of alternative medicine has been termed a catch-22.