Fuel the debate!

Well, my last entry predictably spawned a few sarcastic comments from some of my friends in the army accusing me of getting my facts wrong and building my opinions on stereotypes.

First of all, no, I haven’t been to the army so I wouldn’t know a thing about from first hand experience.

But I am happy to be corrected and would love a debate on the subject. As I can see it, I made exactly three assumptions about the army:

1) Its primary goal is to learn people how to kill each other. Please prove to me how an institution that centers around guns, tanks and bombs is something else than a killing machine – when it all boils down to it. Yes, I know that there is a lot more to it, but in the end, isn’t that what the army is there for, to kill the enemy and protect a country?

2) The soldiers are taught to obey and follow orders without thinking. And that is something a man working for the army has told me, so I shall take his word for it.

3) In the army they speak about the imminent threat from Russia. That is an assumption I have made after speaking with many a friend who have served their military service, but of course, this is not experienced in first hand, so I may be wrong.

Everything else discusses values and opinions connected to the army, not necessarily the official stand of the army itself, and certainly not the values and opinions of the soldiers serving the state.

“Home, God and Fatherland” I wrote. What else can you retrieve from an institution that requires the salutation of the Finnish flag, that teaches men (and women) to take up arms to protect the country it serves and that still, in this secular age, provides evening prayers for its soldiers? But despite what may or may not be inside the walls of the garrisons, this is at least the picture it provides of itself to the rest of the country.

After this I discuss the war fanatism of the post-war generation, the idea of the national state, the rise of xenophobia and national egotism and the myth of The Finn.

I do not claim that the army willingly and on purpose adverts all this, in fact, I do not think that it does. I do not claim that those working for the army are by definition racists, nationalists or backwater knife wielders. I know that many of them are not. I know some who are. But again, this is not the point.

The point is that the army by its sole existance in its current form promotes these ideals by providing fuel for opinions that are already simmering in this country. It is no coincidence that new nazis base their appearance and their rituals on army practice. It is no coincidence that the people who want to kick the Somalis out of Finland wear t-shirts with logos that thank the war veterans. And this is what I do not wish to be a part of.

The last update was an explanation of why I chose the civilian service. It was not an essay on my thoughts on the army. The army serves many purposes and some very good ones. Border patrolling, crisis management, peace keaping etc etc. Some working in the army see it as a job just as any other. Others do their work with zeal of one kind or the other. Most of those who do their military service do it simply because it is something that has to be done. Some enjoy it, others don’t.

I think it is honorable to be ready to die for a noble cause. Finland and the Finnish people is not my cause of choice. And I suppose that everyone working for the army is ready to give his or her life for the flag and the country. Otherwise, why work there at all? Or maybe there are other reasons for choosing such a line of work. And in that case, maybe some of my criticism is to the point and the army is a bit outdated and should be rearranged?

Everyone who read this blog is free to disagree with my opinions on the army. But when you accuse me of getting my facts wrong, please provide an explanation. I am an idealist, but one who is happy to be proven wrong.

Sorry, no picture today…

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3 Comments

Filed under In the News, Ponderings

3 responses to “Fuel the debate!

  1. Jepster

    Hey, Humpster!

    Good arguments. On most parts I agree completely. But for the sake of argument, as one who did his military service a few years back, I’d like to challenge one of your assumptions.

    This is assumption n:o 1) “Its primary goal is to learn people how to kill each other. Please prove to me how an institution that centers around guns, tanks and bombs is something else than a killing machine – when it all boils down to it. Yes, I know that there is a lot more to it, but in the end, isn’t that what the army is there for, to kill the enemy and protect a country?”

    Yes, one can conclude that an institution which states it’s primary function as to defend our country from external military threats, to teach young men and women how to handle weapons in pursuance of this task, is nothing more than “a killing machine”. But in my experience, that’s not really what the military is all about. At least, not solely.

    During my military service, the main focus was on working in group, on surrendering ego and obaying orders. Yes, I’m the first to admit that many orders where completely ridiculous and I too fear the “army of clones” where following orders is more important than following your consience. But still, in a time of crisis I do believe it is important that we have large groups of people that can work together, follow orders without letting ego slow them down. Of course one should never be prohibited from expressing doubt, but I do believe in most parts, if every idiot (myself included) would partake in a democratic apparatus every time a drastic measure must be undertaken (such as any crisis), we would never get anything done. Therefore I see some importance in training people to follow those orders without doubt (thus without, or at least with controlled, fear).
    On a whole, the use of weaponry was never a central part of my military service. Mostly it was about pushing yourself to a physical and mental limit and beyond. And of course about cursing your officers to hell for every moronic order we got. But that’s another thing…

    Keep writing. Fuel the debate!
    And peace and love be with you, brother o’ mine!

    -J

  2. Yep, Jepster, I do understand the purpose of “shutting down your brain” and follow orders as a functioning group. And I agree with you on the point.

    And I know that for the soldiers doing their military service, the killing thing isn’t the central part, but testing your limits and engaging in an interesting social experiment. And as I wrote, I do not want to cast a shadow of the people that chose the military.

    I know I am generalizing and partly overstating a bit. But I am priviliged enough to sit here in my philosophical castle and sling arguments from high horses. And in my opinion, when it comes down to core level morals and values, I want a society where young men should not need to learn how to kill. Dress it up with any phrases you like, national health, maturing process, team skills, crisis management, social programs, flowers and christmas candles, but an army with guns, tanks, fighter jets and land mines is there for the sake of killing the enemy. And there is a need for one, perhaps not in its current form, but at the moment we can’t scrap the army.

    There is no invasion coming, so why are we preparing for one? Finland and Cyprus are today the only countries in the EU with mandatory military service. In Germany most guys actually perform the civilian service, which is now so popular that the German economy would collaps if it was completely abolished. I want a service which focuses on problems of today, and not on ghosts from the past.

    Finland has a reserve of 350 000 soldiers. In a war situation the army has use for 100 000, tops (according to military sources). Even the officials here at the civilian service office don’t know what we hippies are supposed to do in a crisis situation. Is it time to shift the centre of gravity of our mandatory service away from invasion preparation towards something that really would benefit us all? (And YES I know the army does a lot of useful work already, so don’t hit me on the head with that one! 😉 )

  3. By the way, these “related posts” are really nutty. “Fuel debate”. Christ…

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