Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Truest Faces of the Military

Written by John, posted by Tracy


In the same way that the use of nuclear power can only ever lead to destruction and pollution of the very people it purports to help, so with the military in all its guises. If for a moment one is ever deluded into thinking a genuine humanitarian motivation underpins a military vision, think again. Unless soldiers have been drafted against their will, or maybe even drawn into the military out of poverty, only to find themselves enslaved to something every bit as destructive as starvation, inevitably the ‘thrill’ of violence underpins the decision to ‘join up’. Adventure at the expense of someone, somewhere. Or maybe something far more malign than that.

In my teenage years, I was highly ‘militarised’, and had every intention of going to Duntroon and becoming an officer. I was obsessed with strategy and tactics, starting with Alexander the Great, the Peloponnesian War, Hannibal, and Caesar’s writings, and worked my way through to the finer details of armaments of the Second World War, their manufacture, deployment, usage, and the general thinking behind total war. I was a strategy game aficionado. As with a chess game, I saw it as intellectual pursuit.

Wilfred Owen’s poetry made me rethink things. I connected the dots between ‘intellectual’ interest, and the physicality of playing wars in the backyard (and elsewhere), and issues of repressed aggression (often engendered by humiliation and inadequacy in the face of being bullied). As my political and social awareness increased, I found it a struggle to resist this urge.

When I look back I am aware that this struggle came out of a paradox: a belief in the morality of ‘protecting’ in the face of a desire for control, excitement and power (however limited). This desire for power arose from being bullied at school, and compensating for an offended masculinity. I knew many people who went into the military, or had been in the military in some capacity. I don’t now. Not a few of those who went on to become soldiers were bullies, were very often racist and misogynist. Military women I only knew through others.

Now, to be fair, this was not carte blanche. I did meet those whose moral convictions were melded with defensive nationalism, who believed they were doing good (though all claim to be doing good!). But still, scratch away and an excitement over military ordnance, and an almost prurient interest in the casualties of war, drove motivation.

It astonishes me that anyone should be surprised that Australian (or any) soldiers in Afghanistan should post racist brutalities on their facebook pages. Just be surprised that it got through the military filter system. The military is that, but knows it must hide it to survive. The military exists because people believe it is necessary. The very same soldiers that committed these offences against human dignity at the very least, and maybe much worse, will be tomorrow’s heroes if they are killed on the battlefield. Their individuality will be consumed by the nationalist cause, while portraits of their goodness will be painted. Ironically, the military (and the country) will treat who they really are with as much disdain as they are treating the Afghan people.

When I was a youth I worked on the wheatbins for a couple of seasons. Soldiering and racism went hand-in-hand for some of my colleagues. They know what crimes they committed against others. It was just an extension of the military dialogue into civilian space. From a war/military-obsessed childhood and teenage years, to total pacifism: it seems an obvious journey to me.

I live in a place where violence is worshipped. Guns are never far away and they go with an anti-ecological stance and general social conservatism. The army recruits from such demographics. They brush the soldiers up so as not to show it in public (though they do, anyway), but they rely on racists, bigots and ultra-conservatives to feed their recruitment drives. Those very attitudes are what allow them to kill an enemy. An enemy they wholeheartedly believe in, that they’ve been encouraged to believe in as they’ve grown up, watched television, played violent games, and towards which they’ve been socially directed as an outlet, rather than venting on their own streets (which is obviously also disturbing).

A couple of years ago I met a cop who despised guns. Despised violence. He didn’t believe in meeting violence with violence. He gave me hope. The military isn’t designed to operate that way on any level. It is the home of propaganda because it is founded on violence and not an aversion to violence. The military needs all the propaganda tools it (and the government) possesses to sell itself to those who aren’t violent by inclination.

All sewn up? No. I won’t forget the boys cat-shooting and fox-shooting and roo-shooting, hyped up and talking about joining the army. And I won’t forget their elders saying ‘it will do them good and harness their aggression — give them control and make use of it’. No, it just puts the aggression in a holding pattern until it’s let loose to serve the military overlord-vampires and their human helpers who can walk in the daylight.

Our small son has had to endure threats of shooting, knifing and witnessing a parrot corpse frenziedly beaten with sticks. Many of the perpetrators idolise the military and say ‘war is good, we need it’. I don’t doubt that more than a few will sign up when they’re old enough, encouraged by their parents, their peers and the state.

See this article. Actually, evidence of an endemic problem is implicit in the article’s title — the headline is as much part of the problem as the soldiers themselves. We all provide the environment in which these things are fostered and projected. These soldiers just do the dirty work. Watch who comes out to defend these actions. It won’t be surprising. Think about it.

1 comment:

Phillip A. Ellis said...

Let's not forget the institutionalisation of sexism and sexual violence in the military as well, as in the latest of examples, that has only recently occurred. This is one reason why I am a pacifist and conscientious objector to all wars; another, the promise I made to my stepfather, a WW2 veteran, who is living proof of the damage that warfare does on combatants, not to join the army.