Further Down the Spiral

Updated: August 22, 2013


By Mr. Twisted

Last week in an article regarding the question of the General Officer Corps of the United States military, I noted that the problem is rooted not with the officers—or even within the Armed Forces itself—but rather in our society. What has become the norm in the world we live in is a reality that fosters complacency and rewards mediocrity rather than building thinkers and praising risk-takers.

Upon further reflection, I realize how deeply this issue exists in people as a whole in the modern age. Consider something that was presented in a book I recently finished called Cyber Storm—a story in which the electrical systems of our country are brought down in a cyber-attack, causing mass chaos. One of the lead characters mentions Gene Kranz, former mission control for NASA during the Gemini and Apollo programs.

Do you know how old Kranz was when he took the role of Assistant Flight Director? 29. By the age of 32 he was the Flight Director, a role that was popularized by Ed Harris in the movie Apollo 13.

The point being that in today’s society, we barely trust a 29-year old to flip our burgers and replace the tires on our cars, let alone make major decisions regarding astronauts in outer space.

Why is this so? Where did things start turning towards us as a nation desiring safety and hyper-educated people to run everything through mind-numbingly complex bureaucracies?

In a word—fear.

We have grown weaker as a people through fear and the craving for security, which has ultimately only succeeded in bringing us more paranoia and even greater danger. Stop and ask yourself this question: if you were getting ready to go in for a medical procedure and, as it was beginning, the doctor introduced you to his resident student who is still going through training—what would be your initial reaction? If you are like the overwhelming majority of Americans, it is akin to “don’t let the student do ANYTHING to me!”

There is validity to this feeling, but it becomes a bit of a conundrum—if they can’t practice and train, how will they learn?

This, in a nutshell, encapsulates the problem: we want everyone to have more and more training before engaging on their task, but our risk-averse and lawsuit-happy culture has made that training so sterile as to be nearly irrelevant to the job it is designed to prepare for. Multiple degrees, trade schools, and certifications are never enough to equip one for the real world, so we answer that by requiring more degrees, more trade schools, and more certifications.

Our fear of incompetency has permeated every level of our society, yet the desire to prevent uneducated individuals from attaining positions of importance has succeeded only in making our education system nearly worthless. Our need to give everyone a college degree has ensured that our institutes of higher learning are so watered down that even our world leaders are grossly ignorant of even the most basic knowledge.

The schools we send our children to place greater emphasis on things like green energy and gender studies than they do on fundamental subjects like reading, writing, and arithmetic. Is it any wonder, then, that we as a country have fallen way behind in those very subjects?

Sadly, the military—though being far closer to ideal than the rest of the country—is not immune from this trend. Despite best efforts by certain pockets in the Army, combatives are still considered a side show by many in charge, basic weapon skills are unremarkable, and as we have covered here at The Den before, physical fitness is not what it was in your grandpa’s day.

Our force readiness seems more determined by a strong desire to fix every problem with a Power Point slide show and a reflective belt than it does on training warriors to do what warriors do.

Again, this is driven largely by fear. The commanding officers of our military reflect a society too afraid to take chances, push forward, and get dirty. This attitude is present in everything from elementary school up to major career paths; from putting more trust in teachers unions than in teachers and more authority in government agencies than in those who the government answers to.

Our risk aversion has reached a level whereby it is considered being active to “like” a Facebook page, support a celebrity’s humanitarian effort, and yell out our opinions via our keyboards rather than tackle the world. It’s easier and safer to write a blog than it is to get punched in the face, after all.

Keep in mind, I am fully aware of the irony regarding that last sentence. And though I am obviously guilty of taking to the internet to voice my opinion, I also know what it is like to take a beating and do so quite regularly. Both the physical and intellectual sides of my being are regularly challenged to a high degree—a trend I intend to continue for a long time to come.

But where are the big names for the next generation to look up to that embody the spirit our country once had? We live in a time when there are a substantial number of people who idolize a President who lacks basic geographical and historical knowledge, celebrities who blather on about nonsense, and athletes who are criminals. In other words, where are the real heroes?


Byron “Whizzer” White

Byron “Whizzer” White was a Rhode Scholar who sat on the United States Supreme Court bench for 31 years. Before that, he had taken a brief pause in his studies to go serve his country in the Navy and earned two Bronze Stars during World War II. He was also an All-American football player for the University of Colorado in 1937.

Where are the Byron Whites of today? During a time when our reality television stars are seen as a more important voice of authority than most politicians—sadly, there are often legitimate reasons for this—who is out there to step up and be more than just the lesser of several evils?

Our fear of danger and the subsequent over-litigation of our current world has seemingly stunted the growth, creativity, and drive of a great portion of the population. In the name of fairness, we have ceased trying to challenge our youth to rise to new levels and have instead simply lowered the bar in hopes that they can step over it.

Thomas Jefferson had barely made it into his thirties when he risked his life to pen the Declaration of Independence and help start this little experiment we know as America. The difference between then and now—a culture where 85% of college grads are moving back in with their parents due to a crappy job market, massive school debt, and a watered down degree that isn’t worth what students thought it would be—should be enough to make one weep for our future.

Yet apparently it is not—or at least it’s not enough to make a significant number of Americans stand up and take notice. Yes, those of us that know how to fight for something—those who believe in what America was and possibly could be again—are taking notice and have been for some time. Whether it is enough is another question.

As history has shown, a small number can make a large change. But that takes risks and it takes pushing—hard. We need people willing to knock down the door of mediocrity and make a difference.

We need individuals willing to set an example for the next generation so they understand that there is more to having your voice actually heard than just being “liked” and retweeted.




  1. JoeC

    August 22, 2013 at 9:45 am

    This is a chicken or egg debate. You mentioned how young people were when they did significant things twice, but you didn’t mention what their life expectancy was. At the time of the Revolutionary War a man was expected to live only 35 years, so Jefferson was over the hill when he penned the Declaration of Independence. That doesn’t mean he was any less wise, it just means he (and the other men of his generation) was more wise at a younger age than we are now. Why is that? Probably because at that time everyone’s father died when they were fairly young and responsibility was forced on them at a young age. As our life expectancies improved and we were able to lean on mom and dad a little longer it is only natural that we would not be as successful at such early ages because it was not necessary. Unfortunately, we have taken this so far to the extreme that it’s pathetic and we now have 30 and 40 year olds that still lean on mom and dad for everything and are unable to think for themselves.

    This same phenomenon carries over to the professional sector and is especially prevalent in emerging technologies such as spaceflight in the 60s. Gene Krantz became flight director at time when men were expected live 68 years, so he was still very young at 32. However, spaceflight was a new development and was primarily being staffed by very young scientists and engineers. Even though Krantz was young, he was stil a very senior person in his field and was forced to grow up quickly based on the circumstances he was under. If it hadn’t been for Apollo 13 we wouldn’t even know his name. It’s also worth mentioning that his father died when he was very young, so he got a head start on growing up and accepting responsibility.

    We have gone from making children accept responsibility when they were 8-10 years old to isolating them from it until they are 20-25 years old. Facing and accepting failure at a young age is a cornerstone of development and we now refuse to allow that to happen. Everybody gets a trophy and it doesn’t matter how bad you suck at playing baseball, you are required by the rules to get your 3 innings of playing time no matter how badly it hurts the team. Heaven forbid we put the well being of the team ahead of our own. And that’s how we have a bunch of self centered, incompetent and unmotivated fresh college grads. Why would they be anything else? They have been trained their whole lives that no matter how bad they are at something and no matter how bad they screw up that there are no consequences for that. Someone will be there to pick up the pieces and they can simply walk away. Then when they get out in the world and fail for the first time they don’t have any tools or experience to fall back on and they ride the spiral waterslide to oblivion.

    • Mr. Twisted

      August 22, 2013 at 10:41 am


      Thanks for the comment. I must address your premise, however.

      You wrote: “You mentioned how young people were when they did significant things twice, but you didn’t mention what their life expectancy was. At the time of the Revolutionary War a man was expected to live only 35 years, so Jefferson was over the hill when he penned the Declaration of Independence.”

      This is a misunderstanding of the data. Life expectancy numbers were lower during this time not because people were living that much shorter lives (Thomas Jefferson was 83 when he died), but rather because infant mortality was so much higher and therefore skews the data considerably. When we consider that a higher percentage of infant deaths affects the overall life expectancy numbers, it changes things.

      Please see here for a better explanation on life expectancy: http://www.livescience.com/10569-human-lifespans-constant-2-000-years.html

      • JoeC

        August 22, 2013 at 11:26 am

        You are correct. I knew it didn’t sound right when I wrote it and my caffeine deprived brain couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it so I went with it. Regardless, Jefferson’s father died when he was young as did the father’s of Washington, Adams and probably many other signers of the Declaration. I think the spirit of the statement is still true and there were more children with fathers that died when they were young at that time.

        Now that I’ve had my morning Pepsi and I’m am processing data somewhat correctly, I think this still holds true today. How many very successful people do you hear about that grew up without one or both parents? A lot. I think having to accept responsibility at a young age can be reasonably demonstrated to lead to success as an adult.

  2. leftoftheboom

    August 22, 2013 at 10:22 am

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    Our perils began when our parents, with the best of intentions, tried to give us better lives than they had and we as parents (if you are) tried to do the same.

    As a father, I look at my child and wonder why, when she is 19 years old, that I have a hard time letting her be responsible for herself when at the same exact age, I was playing with explosives, getting married (which was a different kind of dynamite), and had already been in the military for a year and a half.

    The life I created for her sheltered her because she was my child and I had the finances and had the skills to provide that shelter. I look back as a parent and I try to see where I might have changed anything and I still cannot because I love my child. But I did try and pound some common sense into her and by and large I am not disappointed.

    This is where we all, with the best intentions and love of our children, went wrong. Because we did not challenge them or allow them to risk, we created drones. When I was 10 I played demolition derby on bicycles that I built. I regularly went out for long walks with a .22 rifle and brought home rabbit for dinner. I crashed a motorcycle at 13. I had so many stitches that I cannot count, lost a finger, and I am covered in scars that came from my childhood. And knowing all that, I would not let my child take the same risks.

    That is my fault. There is my failure to prepare the next generation. Our founding fathers had no comforts for themselves or their children. It was hard work day in and day out and failure to work often meant the freedom to starve. So every advance led us to this point where we do not trust because we have not allowed the generation after us to live as we did and learn what we learned.

    Because we created shelter for everyone, no one is now ready to take responsibility for their own actions because all the while as a child, no one required it. I can say that I held my child responsible and I pushed a heavy dose of common sense but that was me. Now we have parents who want to sue the maker of a detergent because their kid ate a detergent packet. Where was the packet? At their home on the floor because the parent set the bag on the floor. Why is the manufacturer responsible? They made it look like candy. This is the world we created because we spent too much time trying and succeeding to give the next generation a better start then we did.

  3. ShawnS

    August 22, 2013 at 11:14 am

    There is much truth in your writing. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this because I feel the same way everyday. Many fields, companies,and even our government seem to be run on the peter principle. Why? Because we are raising mediocre kids who will be less than mediocre adults and leaders.

  4. J Gallagher

    August 22, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Thi s is one of the ongoing discussions that me and my friends have. I also think you hit it with the word fear, also like the phrase risk aversion. Fear is a big one holding many back, and also, maybe, the celebrating of mediocrity. How old was Alexander when people started calling him “The Great”?

  5. Mayhem, Inc

    August 22, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    The hippies ruined everything. Actually we can’t really blame them, it started much earlier.

    Fear is control. (putting on my tinfoil hat) Are we sure that wasn’t the desired outcome of compulsory education?

  6. Mark

    August 22, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Another glaring example is USAJOBS, where you can have amazing potential and credentials but the process–much of it automated–will hire the guy who did *exactly that job* before. Safer bet. Even if he sucked at it.
    It often occurs to me walking down the street in Baltimore, which has had a crime spike recently, that most people live in fear. Most people in the United States have never been tested. Never been screamed at by a drill sergeant, never been challenged. Never known the highs and the corresponding lows of success and failure.

    The military does an excellent job of training combat leaders to be audacious. Why do you think Rangers do Malvesti? It’s not really for the workout. It’s because A. it sucks, and part of the training is being able to drive on when things suck, and B. it’s high pucker factor on the top of that soaring log obstacle, which many an exhausted Ranger has busted his face on after falling off. They make you DO, not conceptualize, and you take the confidence with you for the rest of your life. You stood in the door…

    So why do today’s general officers display such absence of spine? Outside the battlefield one wrong comment and they’re through. Go against the administration and you’re cashiered. That’s why women in the infantry, which have railed against, is sailing through unopposed. And standards will of course go out the window. The official waffling on standards has already commenced.
    Finally, this fear cripples America in another way. The best people aren’t running for President. I have met some spectacular senior leaders in the military and dynamic leaders in the private sector. Why aren’t they running for president? Fear. They don’t want to put their families through it.
    Having said all of that, last Fall I met a young man at the train station in ROTC uniform. He’s already been branched infantry, already AAS and ABN, Recondo badge. Turns out he was preparing to attend Oxford on Rhodes. Varsity athlete, working on a book on economic theory with his professor. Overachiever central. You see a kid like that, you think, “Maybe there is hope…”

  7. Deebow

    August 22, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    The problem: zero tolerance. When mistakes will not be forgiven, they will not be made. It also sets the trend, like in schools for instance, that the adults have decided not to think.

    The other problem: people in general are so [email protected] dumb that when they see a smart person, like Ted Cruz (who argued the Heller Case before SCOTUS), or run into one that points out the stupidity of whatever is falling out of their cake hole, their only response is things that dumb hot chicks say “your jacket looks stupid” “did you do your hair yourself?” And the like….

    I had no idea when I was young that grow ups would be this [email protected] stupid….

  8. Kvell the Furious

    August 22, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    An overlying element in all of this is the total lack of aggression(drive/intensity) that our “American” society has forced into everyone. Drive and intensity make people very uncomfortable. Other students at my university don’t do things or engage in any type of proximity to challenge as it makes them uncomfortable. Yet as the great field marshal (*T-Shirt idea*) Count Alexander Suvorov stated “The more comfort the less courage there is.”… And look at how comfortable everybody is. Pretty much seems to do a large part of the explaining for how things are.

  9. Common Sense

    August 22, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    This problem begins with parents. Mine are all young adults now, two are in the Air Guard. A parent’s job is to teach their children to be independent and live without them, tough as that is. Our kids had adult responsibilities when they started high school and were given age-appropriate responsibility at younger ages.

    That said, what I saw on my morning walk a few days ago doesn’t give me much hope in future generations. I walk by one of the bus stops in our upper middle class, super safe neighborhood. At this bus stop, no more than 2 blocks from any house, on a beautiful summer morning, there were 8 parents. 5 of them DROVE their kids to the bus stop, one had a bike, I assume the other two walked. These were not all little 5 year olds, at least half were older elementary school kids. They couldn’t walk two blocks to the bus stop without mommy and/or daddy? Their parents couldn’t walk that far? The propellers were almost visible above the adults’ heads! And we wonder why obesity is skyrocketing and kids are kids until they’re 40.

    • JoeC

      August 23, 2013 at 9:04 am

      I agree, but look at what happens when a parent gives there child any hint of independence and freedom to walk to the bus stop themselves. Some goody two shoes will report them for child neglect. It’s such a huge circle jerk that it’s a wonder any child ever becomes a functioning adult. Everyone seems to see the problem, but we have already legislated the solution away in both Congress and the courts and nobody wants to change it because they don’t feel like it applies to them.

  10. John

    August 24, 2013 at 7:11 am

    That was the most articulate presentation of the most troubling problem our society faces right now.

  11. Eli Shultz

    August 27, 2013 at 9:39 am

    I love this article. I definitely feel the same and have noticed the same issues. 3% of Colonists actually fought against the king and that was enough to create a free nation. While our freedoms are being encroached upon and laziness has crippled this country there are a few of us who still have common sense and love what America is supposed to be. We can make a difference and we have to do more than talk here on the internet. We need to take back what is ours and it starts by being informed and making good decisions while voting. Secondly, it is having a voice for your knowledge and spreading the word.

  12. PASMAN

    August 27, 2013 at 11:18 am

    When I was 22, I was learning how to BOMB enemies of the USA courtesy of the USAF. GOD help you if certain people learn you have done this. Many of us get the same response from people that our Vietnam brothers got: “Baby killers!” My point? You can be a young professional and well thought of… by the left sympathizers- which seems to be a larger & larger part of society. If you are professionally trained to kill & break things… you will not be welcomed in society.

  13. Joseph L

    August 28, 2013 at 3:49 am

    Reading that part about not trusting students made me think of a medical lab technician professor that I had as an adviser when I was bouncing around in college. She wanted everyone to practice doing blood draws and had everyone partner up. I ended up without a partner so she just said “Hey draw on me” like it was nothing.

    The college branch eventually fired her because she was so outspoken about getting the right education for her lab tech students.

  14. Dominic

    August 29, 2013 at 1:37 am

    Student, eh? Hey kid, c’mere. Guess how I got this scar!

Get notified of new Rhino Den articles and videos as they come out, Also, find out before anyone else about new product launches and huge discounts from RangerUp.com, the proud parent of the Rhino Den.

  • Videos (The Damn Few and more!)
  • Military-inspired articles
  • MMA (and Tim Kennedy) coverage
Close this window

Join the Rhino Den / Ranger Up Nation

Read previous post:
Douche of the Week – PVT Bradley Manning

Editor's Note: This story originally ran on January 22, 2012.  PVT (EIOU1) Bradley Manning was found guilty of 19 charges...