At every stage in my life I’ve been told not to expect to get everything I want and that I was lucky to be blessed with the luxuries and opportunities I have, and if I want more, I’ll have to make sacrifices and work hard. When my parents told me that, I did my chores. When my teachers told me that, I studied hard. When my employers told me that, I wore their uniforms, followed their rules and went above and beyond what was expected of me. When the government told me that, I paid my taxes and enlisted in the military. When the military told me to salute an officer, or work overtime, or go to the Middle East, I obeyed enthusiastically.
Sure, I complained along the way, but I never stopped working, because I believed in the mantra that real men “suck it up” and deal with the unpleasant weight of responsibility. My generation has been living like this for almost forty years now, and looking back at everything I’ve endured, I no longer believe in this creed or that we should be teaching it to children without including some major caveats.
I’ve written a little about this topic before, but someone left a comment on one of my military blogs last week that inspired me to talk about it again. The person was responding to my claims that the military is a textbook cult that uses classic brainwashing techniques to indoctrinate recruits. I argue that it would unethical, if not illegal for you to start a cult and treat your initiates the same way the military treats its members. Therefore, the Uniform Code of Military Justice should either be abolished or fundamentally revised, because, in its current form, it’s a crime against humanity.
What struck me about the person’s response wasn’t its originality, but its popularity. Here are a few comments from people who disagreed with me about my assessment of the military:
- “Eh no difference than anything really, but everywhere is a pyramid structure. Whether it’s a MIT program or internship every business wants you to buy in. The ones that do are the ones that move up. The ones who don’t do something else. It’s life.”
- “I served 17 years in the Army. When I went to Iraq, Army finance screwed my child support payments up. When I got back stateside I had a warrant for my arrest. I ended up serving 18 months of a 3 years sentence because of someone’s fuck up. You don’t see me trying to make any military branch look bad at all. Grab what balls you got left son and turn that anger into something positive. Believe me it will pay off sooner or later. The path you are taking with this trash that you have written is not the answer. P.S. I would NEVER tell any Veteran face to face that you wrote this shit. You’re asking for a goddamned ass kicking if you do.”
- “I wanted to dig into your comment piece by piece. I will put your statements in quotes. ‘They break you down to build you back up.’- Of course they do. It’s meant to get you out of the mindset of everything being about you (break you down), and direct your mind to focus on the team aspect (build you back up).‘You do what the military tells you to do. Where to live, what to wear, what to look like, how to act.’- Of course. That’s the structure of order. You do the same thing at work. You’re told what to do, and you may or may not wear a uniform at work. Active duty is just like you being on the clock at all times. You must remain and act in a professional manner all the time. ‘Some E-6 or E-7 will dictate the terms of your life’ – You mean my boss? Yes, my boss does have the power to tell me what to do. ‘In your off time (liberty) there are certain things you can’t do and certain places you can’t go.’ – This is false. The only thing I can think of is our loss of the right to protest against the government. However civilians cant protest against their job w/o repercussions either so it’s the same thing. Yes joining the military means that you give up certain rights and freedoms so you civilians can enjoy yours. I wouldn’t call it brainwashing, all men and woman in uniform know that there are certain rules and guidelines you have to abide by. Just like working for any company or corporation. When you wear a uniform that says you represents something or someone you have to act and behave accordingly. I know plenty of businesses that won’t allow you show of your tattoos at work. Just using that as an example.”
Perhaps infantry troops need to have their rights stripped away, their identities stolen, and be forced to endure extreme stress to prepare them for combat, but if everyone’s life is as bleak as basic training, then what are those soldiers fighting for?
More than one adult has already told you life is full of authoritarian pyramid structures, illogical rules, demeaning treatment, low wages and other inconveniences and indignities, and that’s just how life works. Mature people accept it and deal with it, and only immature spoiled pussies complain about the status quo.
There are times when it’s mature to do things you don’t want in order to get the things you need, but the system goes out of its way to force everyone into that position. We’ve created an artificial environment that makes it irresponsible to stand up for yourself or follow your dreams.
The problem with young people today isn’t that we tried to make sacrifices but were just too big of pussies to stay the course. The majority of Generation X and the Millennials have been eating their pride and pounding sand since day one. We’ve held up our end of the bargain. The problem is we found out too late, there’s no finish line. This is just how life is forever. You spend your whole life getting pushed down and being told, “You gotta learn to follow before you can lead,” until you die. Now that we’ve figured this out, we’re expected to keep calm and carry on as normal despite knowing we’re playing a game we can’t win.
You’re damn right we’re going to complain. That’s not the American dream we were promised. A perpetually servile role isn’t good enough, not by a long shot. Not for my generation, and I don’t want to hand down the mantra of battered-person syndrome to the next. This cultural norm needs to die for the sake of all future generations.
Even if I’m blowing the whole situation way out of proportion, and success really isn’t so hopeless, we need to stop and ask ourselves, is the system we have good enough? If it can be improved on, shouldn’t we do that? Are we really doing ourselves a favor by militantly, dogmatically defending the way things have always been done?
In order to figure out how to rectify this problem, you need to understand the root cause. The reason self-subjugation is considered a virtue in America is because you need money to survive, and in order to get money, you have to work for someone who expects slave-like obedience. Employers are motivated to control, overwork and underpay their workers because they need money to survive and grow their company. They have to fight tooth and nail against other business, and if their business fails, they lose all their money… which they need to survive. The stakes are life and death for all of us. Business is war, and war is hell. In this environment, the most valuable survival skill an employer can have is sociopathy, and the most valuable survival skill workers can have is obedience.
Our economy is fueled by fear. We all do great and terrible things we didn’t know we were capable of because we’re afraid of running out of money and starving homeless in the streets. Remove the fear and we won’t have to act like desperate animals anymore. It doesn’t take a full-socialist, communist or fascist government to accomplish the bare minimum of guaranteeing that every person who works receives food, water, shelter, and electricity. Everyone doesn’t have to be equal, but everyone needs to be guaranteed the bare minimum. This could be funded with less than half the taxes we already pay for the police state we currently have.
We’re never going to have a humane economy as long as we keep yelling at each other to suck it up and deal with the one we’ve got. We should be shouting at our overlords and telling them the system they’ve given us isn’t good enough. If they won’t listen, we should turn our backs on them and build a better system ourselves. But nothing is going to change as long as we keep blaming the victim.