Further Down the Spiral
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 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.