Email circa 2031: My dear sons, beware “The Toxic 12” – #4 The Military “He-Man”

My dear sons

Let me just say upfront that for the contents in this email, I do have a ‘small grudge’ that guides my writing. So you are free to take everything I’m about to say with a pinch (or more) of salt.

But you have to understand. For the past six decades, I’ve carried a ‘small grudge’ against this fourth type of toxic folks, a grudge that’s stood the test of time.

If you recall my last email, I mentioned that there was a special category of toxic chronic problem-solvers (CPS) that deserve their own stand-alone write-up.

Well, here they are. I call them “The Military He-Men”, and they are one of the most toxic of CPS.

But first, here’s why I bear a ‘small grudge’.

My “Lost” Years

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At 13, I was forced by your uncle (my oldest brother) to join a four-year school cadet corp programme. All because he believed it would help prepare me for when I enlist at 18 into the military for the mandatory period (then) of two-and-a-half years of national service.

Even today I wonder how I got through those unavoidably horrid years in the slammer (yep that’s how it felt!). Six-and-a-half years actually, if you include those four lost years in the cadet corp!

Over the years, I’ve encountered people from the military or who are die-hard fans. They are loyal to the point of volunteering themselves to continue serving their military unit well into their 50s and 60s. And they actually gather regularly to reminisce the good old days of field marches and jungle exercises!

With all these, I’ve noted with repugnance their stubborn insistence that (military) might is (always) right. And that every problem requires instant foolproof solutions, or else! (Can’t get anymore CPS than that)

And you had better not disagree with these he-men, not unless you’re prepared to be deemed as an inferior male or weakling.

Look, let’s not kid ourselves…

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…the very existence of a defence force stems from a single premise: that humans are capable of violence and hostile life-threatening behaviour against those they dislike or wish to conquer.

Which is why the history of mankind is replete with examples of civil and world wars, not to mention crusades and holocausts.

Hence the need for every country to have its own army, navy and airforce, not to mention international espionage and spy networks! All in the name of protecting its citizens.

As a small nation, all men born in our country must serve in the military when they hit 18, something you both are more than aware of since you’ve served your time already (with Caleb about to complete his stint real soon! Yeah!!).

So the very existence of the military in our world, in our country, is a daily reminder of all that’s dark and wicked in humankind.

Okay, now that I’ve laid out all my cards…

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…I do want to be clear about one thing.

Regardless of my grudge, military service here is an important rite of passage for young men like you, so in many ways I accept that it is a fact of life in our nation and a necessary evil.

There are of course opportunities during service to build desirable values like integrity, loyalty, leadership, teamwork and helping the downtrodden, plus the more obvious benefits like developing your physical fitness and shaping certain aspects of your male identity.

(Then again, you can also build all those – and more – outside the military.)

But what I don’t care for is when “values” military officers ingrained into recruits and soldiers continue on into the working world of adults and the daily lives of civilians.

So let me explain hereon why I regard “The Military He-Men” as the fourth category of toxic people you need to avoid, by describing what these “values” are.

Be warned, they may defy conventional wisdom! Then again, you should know your dad very well by now – I’m the original family renegade! Haha…

1. The value of efficiency

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Yes you heard me right. Efficiency.

My bane for the longest time. It’s not that efficiency is bad of course. But when it’s taken to the extreme, it’s downright poisonous. It robs the soul of a chance to develop an appreciation of processes, and puts everything down to a digit, a designation or a destination, come hell or high water.

In the military, they have efficiency down to a religion or, if you prefer, a science. Everything has an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure), including cleaning restrooms! There’s hardly any space for manoeuvring or flexibility.

If you ask me, they can wield that efficiency crap all they want in the confines of their military enclaves. But they often think the real world works that way too.

And if it doesn’t, well it should.

Yet you and I know full well that the real world’s a whole lot more fluid, a whole lot less predictable. So to bring every real life experience down to a step-by-step is not only unrealistic, it’s downright heinous.

2 The value of uniformity

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Soldiers wear uniforms, and so appear ‘uniform’ when you look at them marching in parades. Yes I’m stating the obvious I know.

But what’s less obvious is how this external semblance of unity will, given sufficient time, entrench an internal pursuit of conformity. It’s why the military he-man typically dislikes outliers and non-conformists. Creative types are their mortal enemies.

For they despise anyone who defies.

Anyone who steps out of line.

Who challenges convention, even authority, and of course the proverbial “it’s how we’ve always done things.”

Know a more toxic value than this for independence, innovation, diversity and inclusion?

I don’t.

3. The value of hierarchy

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If there’s ever a more structured set-up in this world, I’ll be hard pressed to name it.

For which organisation in the world has more layers and authority figures to report and be accountable to than the military?

The minute you see someone who’s even half a rank higher than you, well let’s just say you better stand to attention and toe the line. Doesn’t matter if the person is an ignoramus or imbecile, or that you can run faster, jump higher or fire bull’s eyes better than them.

As long as they are a step up the rung from you, they won’t abide any dissension from those below them. That means you!

Well if even that is not toxic enough for you, then maybe my final point will hit the target, and maybe elicit a woo-hoo from your mom!

4. The value of male chauvinism

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Finally, much of the macho shit we’ve been trying in recent decades to clean up in the interest of gender equality has its roots in the rarefied military culture since the birth of weapons and soldiers.

I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s pointless and unnecessary for me to even defend this or bring evidence to support this claim right?

With all that testosterone packed into those army-issued backpacks, the military is literally a slogan for all things machismo.

The military he-men are toxic most of all because of this value they secretly hold. Don’t let their appearances fool you; they will always assume gender superiority when push comes to shove.

I think it’s all that shouting and yelling they do during those years of training to be officers and generals. Even the least combat-fit (typically the cooks, clerks and store men) will never actually subscribe to gender equality cos they’ve been indoctrinated into a boys club with strict rules about masculine superiority!

Don’t believe me? Consider the higher rates of divorce among military men.

So remember…

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…if you sense that colleague or boss you have is behaving in ways that fit any or all of the above traits, chances are this person’s got military in the blood, or in his (or her) past.

All I can say is: Disengage and run for the hills!

Alright. I’ve said my piece. Gotta go.

We’re a third way through my list of Toxic 12.

Next time, I’m gonna talk about the fifth type of toxic people: The Bootlickers!


Over and out…

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