The Detriment of Ignorance

When I was 20 years of age I decided to join the military.  A more important note is “why?” – why did I join the military?  I was peeking around a local unemployment department one day – looking for work.  I had a fairly long list of job history under my belt at the time.  In other words – I had already been employed and quit more jobs than most people do in their entire lifespan.  Nothing fit.  Nothing fit, and I was heartbroken at the time.  I just quit my latest relationship as well.  Needless to say, I was discouraged.  I paced around the building gathering information and browsing websites.  I just wanted out.  Out of my situation and do something exciting.  I wanted to travel and see the world.  Or something…  Truthfully, I had no idea what I wanted.

Head down, I moped out of the front doors of the building.  I looked over to my right and there was a building hosting every type military recruiting office.  I always liked the Army – so, I went there.  I wanted to be something creative like an aircraft mechanic, I told the recruiter.  He scanned the pages of his job catalog.  He didn’t say much before an older, white whiskered, stout man snagged my attention.

“Let’s have a look at you” as he grabbed both of my shoulders in a firm grip.  His eyes moved over my upper body.

“Do you like to hike, repel, and work outdoors?”
My eyes widened.  “Yeah!”  I said excitedly.  “Well, son, you should sign up for 11 Bravo!”

I just wanted out of my skin.  There wasn’t much thought involved.  Sign me up – send me around the world.  I was simply young and wanted nothing more than a shiny new life.  Before this moment, I had worked in a restaurant, a trucking freight warehouse, data entry, department stores, temporary work, and I was even a car salesman.  I walked off jobs.  I even jumped a fence one time because I just didn‘t want to deal with my manager.   The last job I previously held involved working for a general construction contractor.  I had served as a pack horse for three months.  I didn’t want to be anyone’s slave, either.  I didn’t have the drive to work in modern day society anymore.  This explains why the Army looked like an agreeable option at the time.  Though, the work would offer something equivalent to a hired thug.  I had even been to college and dropped out by then.   I was twenty years old, and empty – but still searching.

Long story short – I found myself on a plane to Fort Benning, Georgia.  I had signed up for the job the old guy with a dad feel to him sold me.  I signed up for what he suggested as if he held my best interest in mind.  But, the recruiter told me…that I was going hiking?

I can laugh about it now.  I quickly found out that I signed up to be a killer, and guess what?  I have held violence in contempt my entire life, and I just took the most violent job they had to offer.  I was gullible…so gullible, when I was younger.  I believed in people and I still do.  I never read the fine print at that age.  I was green, naïve, and ripe for the hustle.  I was optimistic.  I had doubts concerning this new lifestyle, but I told myself I was going to do it.  I would be a killer if that’s what it took to find my place in this world.  The more cunning side of me was after the bonuses and G.I. bill, but I was just lost and throwing myself to the wolves.

I conditioned before I went in.  I ran often – sometimes for ten miles or so.  I lifted weights.  I honestly wanted to be an effective soldier.  I sold myself on it all.  The conditioning paid off and so, all the push-ups, flutter kicks, and other creative physical training didn’t phase me.  The defining moment of clarity came when I was in the middle of a two hour drill focused on bayonet attacks.  The drill consisted of hopping in a three point turn.  At every point, the platoon in unison, would perform three stabbing maneuvers.  Every time we used our rifle to stab we had to shout “Kill!”  Each first thrust exacted stabbing at the groin, the second at the torso, and the third at the neck.  “KILL, KILL, KILL” we shouted for two hours as we jabbed the air with bayonet armed combat rifles.  I made a mental note to carry extreme amounts of ammunition because this was preparation in the case my last clip ran dry in battle.  Images of stabbing enemy soldiers coursed through my mind.

I felt like a savage maniac.  That’s exactly what they were training me to be.  Later on, I was sent through courses and stabbing humanoid targets.   It wasn’t long before my personal bubble of illusion burst, and reality crept in.  My optimism felt like a cunning dark joke.  There were talks of “peace keeping missions” in the Middle East.  They were saying that most of us would go.  That shifted from a rumor to an ice cold reality when the drill sergeants gave their platoons the news.  Killing others became a reality I knew that I would soon confront at that point.

This all gave me a lot to think about.  Everything became clear when I stopped conforming and dared to think.  I had taken a year of psychology in high school.  It was my favorite class, along with art.  My eyes were open the entire time, and I had realized the mechanical being I was becoming.  Before, I had convinced myself that I belonged there.  As soon as I stopped tricking myself, the behavioral conditioning the Army used to coerce my conformity screamed at me from every corner I turned.  I had been there for eleven weeks up to that point.  I was two weeks from graduation.  Yet, I wanted out…and NOW!  I looked over my paperwork during my down time.  I scanned through the thick stack of legalities I had barely glanced at upon when I was unknowingly signing my life over.  Finally, I found a door.  The contract was not officially binding until I graduated basic training.  I decided to refuse to train in order to prevent my graduation.  I first told my drill sergeant.  He barked at me.  I didn’t move.  He sent me to the Captain of the battalion.  From there, I was sent from officer to officer.  One of them spit in my face and told me I was a disgrace to the U.S. flag.  The words sailed over me like some foreign object that I didn’t understand.  I took no offense.  Apparently, the flag was an idol symbolizing something he believed in.  I was reminded of pledging allegiance in grade school.  Flag praise seemed like lunacy to me, though I wasn’t very judgmental at the time.  I was a child and I figured flag worship was what the adults in my community did.  I had not learned to question authority – nor, conformity.

What is the point of this story?  I may have not been taken against my will to appease some cultural god, but my ignorance proved to be the shackles around my feet.  I had taken “Think For Yourself” 101 in a very rudimentary setting.  I wanted to rip the brochures out of every high school.  I wanted to talk with children like myself that were convinced the war machine of America deserved their devotion in the name of all that is right and good.  I wanted to devour a thousand times, the ignorance that had chained me.  I looked around, wagging my heavy finger, but there was no one to blame but myself.  I did not have the warrant to push my anger in such directionless aim, yet I was placed upon a sacrificial mantle nonetheless – another body adding to Army numbers.

Ultimately, our awareness is molded by our own choices about how and what we think.  I made a choice to not fall in line.  I made a choice to look within.  I did not see a murderer in myself.  It did take more courage to walk away.  That much was true.  I chose to be lost again instead of found by something other than myself and used like a tool.  This is an issue with generations of modern times.  War is an ongoing theme, and the flag may as well be the stone idol that the Aztecs appeased by pouring sacrificial blood on it.

I took time to study reactions of the other boys training to become sacrificial men. The authorities in this arena would explain war as a necessary evil without hesitation if a new recruit were to question it.  I watched some embrace the change, and I watched it break wills.  Lost children did everything from plunging off a high roof top to drinking laundry detergent in a means to find their way out.  The training techniques were concrete.  It was an orchestrated force conducted by instructors, who themselves, were weapons forged on the same anvil.  Like a river, it (the training and propaganda) coursed through the psyche of the young men around me and eroded their doubts – for, it was pure belief at work. Psychologist B.F. Skinner coined this project in mental technology, “behavioral conditioning.”

To put it bluntly – beliefs are dangerous.  A belief can be sold, and/or forced.  Lying in wait, these viral ideologies are coiled to strike.  It is belief that drives me to write these very words.  The core of it all is – what is a belief based on?  Quite simply, a belief is grounded in knowledge in one form or another.  The knowledge may be abstract or unquantifiable, yet it is the credibility perceived that makes an idea undeniable.  Whether it holds truth is irrelevant to its existence.

In finality, to answer the question concerning whether one can be certain of something – definitely.  Yet, this confirmation alone does not verify any truth beyond how the knowledge is perceived.  Thus, you see, knowledge and certainty maintain very human elements in regard to objective reality.

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9 Comments

Filed under culture, Religion and Modern Politics

9 responses to “The Detriment of Ignorance

  1. I find your lack of obedience disturbing.

  2. You’re not the only one. lol

  3. Magdalin

    It is interesting, I wanted to ask you once, how come and you had joined the army.
    It sounds like, as a youth, you did not like being under the rule of authority figures and did not like following rules and regulations, in general, and being under others’ control and/or directive. It seems, you had not developed the patience, self responsibility, focus, calmness, attentiveness, and self control necessary to stay with a job or, even go to school. Or, ultimately, you did not like to conform to something that did not satisfy your personal standard of being… whether a positive or, a negative one. It is funny that you chose the job (army) that was the most extreme in getting you to develop all of that. But it seems you were smart enough to find a way out when you wanted to, kind of falling back to the lack of conformity you had possessed, except this time it was to your favor. You got out a bad situation by not conforming.

    But, this makes me remember, when I was a teen I persuaded someone not to join the army. He wanted to join because he wanted change. Since then, I have thought about it occasionally whether I did right by him… But yes, your story tells me I did. I don’t think he would have been better off by joining…
    It seems that many believe that joining the army provides them some opportunity that they cannot have otherwise, but it is definitely hard core in shaping one mentally and emotionally. They do brainwash the soldiers to make them “tough war machines” ready for the dimmest war situations.
    It is true and sad that being in a war and killing people as one has been trained, that truly can mess one mentally and emotionally, if the inner strength is not there. You have to have build a very strong, and almost apathetic, inner psyche to handle such type of action or, have a different attitude and perspective about war and being a warrior/soldier. And the army knows this so, they attempt to desensitize soldiers so, their actions/reactions will keep them alive physically, and mentally and emotionally strong and almost “numb” to the darkness of that reality …

    Anyhow what you believe does shape who you are!

  4. Yeah…I wanted to address the psychological aspect of military training here and show how it is essentially fueled by belief.

    Buuut, I think Imma hack this piece. That or seriously cut it down and focus more on how the mind works. I definitely need to dedicate a chapter to the mind.

    What do you think?

  5. Magdalin

    I don’t know the actual focus of the book, but if it attempts to show how what we believe affects our thoughts, feelings, actions, personality, choices, decisions, lifestyle, etc. then, of course a chap. on the mind would be essential, as long as it is focused on what you are trying to prove or, determine.

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  7. No, don’t hack this piece. It’s the personality in it that makes it work – otherwise you just sound arrogant (no kidding!) or another text book read. Then again, don’t mind me, I just a Poet!

    I completely misread you. I found you when I first came on here and I thought you where crazy, far too young, and meglomaniacsical (ha!) with knowledge.

    I was wrong. I find myself confronted by the person you are, and spending far more time on your blog than I have on any other, though of course, your writing demands it.
    Don’t worry, I won’t stalk!

    Also, this message is long…and is a little too close to the personal so perhaps it doesn’t have a place here and you should delete after you read. I don’t really email unless agreed because…I don’t know…it feels invasive?

    Look at me going on like this.

    You talk about ‘belief’ being used as the foundation of the behavioural training? When I was younger, my whole life revolved around faith and belief and ya, and God, though God is a lot more complex where I’m coming from.

    Without those three things I would never have got through London, never have done America, never have lectured and then changed career, never have gone from Science to Film, never have made it home.

    Yet now I find myself questioning it all.

    Because life does not turn out the way belief and faith say it will. I’m no longer sure whether I made the right choices, whether or not I’m happy, I’m no longer confident with what I know and I’m afraid.

    Brash and sure, replaced by uncertainty and fear.

    So, this search for truth…how to make sense of it? How to use it? What precisely is ‘helping others?’

    I’m just throwing this stuff out, and like I said, loose the message once done. It’s been a long time since I thought this way, and longer still since I spoke like this.

    For whatever it’s worth, thanks for the use of the board.

    • No! Thank you! This is the best feedback, yet!

      I don’t delete messages unless they’re destructive in nature – unless you’d like it erased? I haven’t had someone give me that level of honesty, yet. This is stuff I need to hear…lol.

      You are a prime example of my target audience, too. That is, gauging by your history with religion, bouts with fear, and uncertainty.

      I’m extremely glad that you spoke up. Really, I’m at a loss on how to present this information. I wonder how many people are thinking what you just spoke – yet – they say nothing.

      Now I have questions…lol. Can you explain what made you feel that way about my writing? Is the information too dry/dense/disconnected? How can I correct it, in your opinion?

      Now – your questions (which – are great for discussion, btw):

      “So, this search for truth…how to make sense of it? How to use it? What precisely is ‘helping others?”

      All this information is ultimately winding down a path that will arrive at something more useful than a deity that never answers back. That is my hope, anyhow. Hopefully, I can draw enough of my own blood to make it work. That is, give the reader pieces of my experiences that led to these realizations/conclusions. I was planning on mixing it with a dash of logic here and science there, as well.

      But, they’ll simply write me off if the presentation flunks. You did mention that “your writing demands it.” I thank you for the kind words, but what is it about the writing that calls you?

      Honestly, I need to know if this book is worth the effort. I’ve already dedicated time I don’t have to it, but I’m not attached. If it doesn’t work, then I’m wasting my time. I am having doubts. Do keep in mind that you only see fractions from various areas of the book at a time, so I understand if the larger scheme is obscured. I’m doing that on purpose so it can’t be stolen.

      Thank you again…

      Feel free to e-mail me. This conversation is the one I’ve been seeking.

  8. Hi there. Yup, came rushing back on here, imagine that. Thought about email, but that can wait for the time being.

    I’m thinking about what it is that has me attracted to you (in the way that you describe as drawing the audience). In every case of course, there is what I myself am looking for but there is a sense, that with you, there is someone reaching back across the void, that there is a person there. It is stronger in some of your writing, and lesser in others.

    You are vulnerable when you cry out – I want you to love me, and listen to me, and take what I have to give you! It’s very humbling because underneath it all, everything, I have discovered that we all just want to be loved honestly, to be told that we are doing well, to hear that we are worth something.

    You, in many ways, are able to collapse this very emotional, internal experience with intelligent discourse.

    I cannot give you advice or anything, just what I feel, for I work with feelings. With every piece, delve deeply into your intention, hold yourself to the highest standard of honesty you can, attempt to answer your question by the way you live, and write this experience down for us.

    If you get a good editor, they will find that you are marrying self to knowledge and that it is this that will make your book yours, and produce for us, an experience that we feel is meaningful and peculiar to us.

    I don’t know how to do this but where you show yourself in your writing, alongside the unique perspective you bring to very dense material – that is where it is.

    Your information is not available to us as it is to you…in the sense that you have chewed it for us so that we don’t have to gag, don’t have to contort brains and throats to swallow.

    I don’t know. Perhaps identify the areas in life, yours and ours, that you want to impact and bring the information that you have there. To Love. To Death. To loosing our jobs. To marriage and taxes and voting. I don’t know.

    I think you are powerful, that the book is possible, that possibly it will be very important. These things you’ll have to take to that place that you know, where you cry with all your soul to make it meaningful.

    Difficult in a world where meaning is undermined by prescription, where our honest search is obscured by language.

    Otherwise we remain, you and I, uniquely, but only just, intelligent.

    I think for a start, ask someone you are most vulnerable to – mother, father, brother, lover – and ask them to read a piece. And then listen for the disappoint in you, for where in the piece it comes and that there will be your answer, will be where you find yourself standing between them and your words.

    I know that you are seeking that in this answer and I’m failing.

    I think it is difficult and painful to do, I know I haven’t worked out yet, how to be still in the face of disappointment, that I am terrified of being present with others and my work at the same time.

    I recognise first though, in the writers that work, a deep sublimation to their need to affect, and the humility (and arrogance!) they have fostered.

    I don’t know, just go forward and get the manuscript done, and then wrestle with what is there and what is not.

    For me, I shall continue to visit.

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