(Comic) How Basic Training Works

(Comic) How Basic Training Works

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TRANSCRIPT

 

An enlisted soldier is carrying a lot of military equipment and wearing a helmet that is
too large is talking to a military officer who is wearing sunglasses and standing under an
umbrella. Behind them is a barbed wire fence.
SOLDIER
Trainee Moon reporting for duty.
OFFICER
Hold it right there. You’re not a member of the in-crowd yet. Until you complete your
indoctrination … I mean training … you will be referred to as “trainee Moon.”
SOLDIER
Sorry about that. So what will we be doing in basic training that will turn me into a higher form
of life worthy of a separate title from the general population?
OFFICER
We’ll start by waking you up extremely early every morning with disorientatingly loud noises.
Then you’ll dress in uniform clothing and go through a rote process of lining up in a formation to
chant a rote oath of unquestioning loyalty to the group.
SOLDIER
Cool. Why do we do all that?
OFFICER
What part of 
unquestioning loyalty don’t you understand?
SOLDIER
Sorry. What happens after that?
OFFICER

Then you’ll spend a few hours in a classroom learning about the glorious history of our group
and why it’s the best organization in the world. You’ll also learn all the unique symbols that we
wear on our clothes to distinguish the ranks of our pyramid shaped authority structure, and you’ll
learn the in-words and gestures we use to communicate inside the group.
SOLDIER
Speaking of history, Will we learn where you’re…I mean our glorious organization learned these
training methods?
OFFICER
That’s not covered in the material we provide you.
SOLDIER
Okay. What next?
OFFICER
Then you’ll learn to march in formation and respond to commands as a group.
SOLDIER
Will the jobs we do after basic training require a lot of marching in formation then?
OFFICER
No, never.
SOLDIER
So what’s the point of learning how to march in a group and perform repetitive, rote drills on
command?
OFFICER
It builds discipline and esprit de corps!
SOLDIER
Sooooo your idea of discipline isn’t so much to do what’s philosophically responsible per say but
rather to do whatever our authoritarian leaders say to do without referencing one’s own internal
moral compass?

OFFICER
The leaders of the pyramid-shaped authority structure define what’s right and wrong for you.
They are your moral compass.
SOLDIER
So I’m just supposed to have faith in them… like they were the pope or something?
OFFICER
Right…except that their authority supersedes any religious leader and/or doctrine in the world.
SOLDIER
Okay, let’s get back to the topic of marching. What if I don’t follow your commands precisely?
OFFICER
You and your entire training group suffer severe retribution.
SOLDIER
Hey, why does everyone get punished if one person screws up?
OFFICER
It motivates you to succeed and to hold each other accountable.
SOLDIER
So you’re conditioning us to condition each other?
OFFICER
Affirmative.
SOLDIER
…and this builds esprit de corps, does it?
OFFICER
Affirmative.

SOLDIER
What does “esprit de corps” stand for again?
OFFICER
it’s Latin for “The spirit of the body…” it’s the inevitable sense of pride and unity you feel with
the in-group once you come to base your identity on being a member of the group and see the
world through the perspective of the group.
SOLDIER
…sort of like a church? A church congregation would have esprit de corps then, wouldn’t it?
OFFICER
Yeah, but they’re pussies. They don’t kill people.
SOLDIER
Speaking of killing, when do we exercise and learn survival skills and get weapons training?
OFFICER
You’ll have an hour of exercise each day, and you’ll spend a week camping at a mock base
where you’ll fire a gun once. We also have an obstacle course there. It’s pretty fun.
SOLDIER
Do we get any other training?
OFFICER
You’ll spend 
a lot of time learning to fold clothes and clean your barracks to precise
requirements.
SOLDIER
…so your job is to teach us how to fold clothes and perform marching drills we’ll never use?

OFFICER
My job is to convince you that you’re worthless as you are and that true worth is measured only
by your elevation in the organization. As you get better at following my commands I’ll get nicer,
but once you start feeling comfortable with me I’ll tear you down again even if you’re doing
everything perfectly. I’ll repeat that emotional roller coaster all the way through your
indoctrination … I mean training … until your graduation ceremony where you’ll receive the mark
of the in-group.
SOLDIER
So you’re going to be with us 24 hours per day?
OFFICER
No. I’ve got to spend 
some time with my family.
SOLDIER
Right. So when do I get to spend time with 
my family?
OFFICER
no. no. no.
you’ll be cut off from the outside world and your traditional support structures. You’ll
literally be locked on base, and Communication with your loved ones will be severely limited
and will only be allowed as a reward for demonstrating obedience and conformity.
SOLDIER
So who will watch us when you’re gone?
OFFICER
I’ll appoint a certain number of trainees in your group to police you.
SOLDIER
Hmmm. will you give them a special title that distinguishes them as authority figures and me as
their subordinate? …and these “leaders” will be able to discipline us anyway they want as long as
it doesn’t leave a mark?

OFFICER
In the good old days, we used to be able to beat the crap out of you…
SOLDIER
Wasn’t the Stanford prison experiment shut down for doing the exact same thing?
OFFICER
Keep up that kind of talk and I’ll reprimand you and the rest of your fellow trainees.
SOLDIER
What if I never stop questioning the logic of the rules or the authority of the leaders?
OFFICER
Then we’ll kick you out of the group for failure to conform.
SOLDIER
So let me see if I got all this straight. The only people allowed to stay in the group are those who
conform their behavior, accept the values of the group, identify with the group and never
question the pyramid-shaped authority structure? And basic training focuses less on technical
field training and more on conditioning new recruits mentally to accept, embrace and enforce the
in-group’s unique version of reality?
OFFICER
Sounds like you could be a basic training instructor someday…as long as you can learn to keep
your thoughts to yourself.
SOLDIER
Dude, this is a cult. Everything you’ve told me is text-book brainwashing procedures.
OFFICER
Wrong. I don’t know anybody who has ever been brainwashed, and the purpose of basic training
is to make you a man.

SOLDIER
Well, it wouldn’t be very good brainwashing if everybody knew they were brainwashed. You just
said you don’t tell recruits you’re brainwashing them. You tell them you’re making them into
adults. But the training techniques you mentioned don’t make you an adult. They strip you of
your identity and values and replace them with mindless obedience. That’s the opposite of being
a fully self-actualized adult.
OFFICER
I’ve never been so insulted in my entire life! How many times do I have to say it? This isn’t
brainwashing!
SOLDIER
You’re getting angry because your programmed schemas conflict with the evidence, which is
triggering your defense mechanisms. And look in any brainwashing textbook…it’s 
literally textbook
brainwashing. Hell, it’s 
streamlined brainwashing. If I wanted to start a cult and
indoctrinate new recruits I would have the best chance of success by copying your methods as
precisely as possible.
OFFICER
That’s it. I’m kicking you out of basic training for failure to conform, and I’m giving you a
dishonorable discharge that will prevent you from getting meaningful employment for the rest of
your life!
SOLDIER
Well that’s not cultish at all.
OFFICER
Out!

THE END

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