“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” Spock said as he died while saving the ship in Star Trek 2. Ole Pointy Ears must have been a Soldier.
The difference between the active military attitude and the civilian world’s is never more obvious than in the difference between selfish and selfless service. This is by no means a disparaging diatribe on the civilian workforce, so allow me a moment to explain.
When you’re in the military, you work until the work is done, no matter how long that is. If your Platoon Leader, Company Commander, or whomever tells you, “we have to get this shit done and nobody’s going home until we do,” you do it. You bite the bullet, suck it up, and drive on until the mission is complete. You don’t say, “my union won’t allow it,” “am I getting paid any extra?” or “lick balls old man, I quit.” When you join the military you forfeit your rights to rebel against the system. Some will tell you the rank structure that we have and harsh penalties for disregarding it ensure discipline within the ranks. Others will say that when there’s no rest until the work is done, Soldiers will buckle down and work their asses off until they can go back to the barracks and crash. Both of these explanations assume the Soldier is working because he has to, not because he wants to.
I don’t buy it.
I think one of America’s greatest strengths is its all volunteer force. For the most part, everyone in the military wants to be here. The days of “go to war or go to jail” where military service was seen as a punishment for crime are over. No one forces a Soldier to join and we don’t have conscription, so the prevailing attitude is one of volunteerism. The people who do that want to get the job done and done right. It’s called selfless service – recognizing that there’s a collective good much greater than the individual need.
Before anyone gets the impression that I’m about to go off on a holier than thou tirade extolling the virtues of military life and deriding civilian life, know this – I’m sure there are civilians with great, selfless attitudes who work their asses off to get the job done (God I hope so). However, on the whole, the civilian workforce has an attitude of, “what’s in it for me?” which is understandable under the construct of capitalism. That’s what they do-be creative, make money, and find more ways to make money.
Billing hours is a great example. Many civilian companies keep detailed track of their employees whereabouts and have them fill out sheets at the end of each pay period detailing how many hours they actually worked. Anything over their normal amount (usually 40 hours per week) is credited to vacation time. It’s this methodical counting of every second and an unbending policy of clearly defined work times that underscores how different our worlds are. In the military it doesn’t matter how many hours you worked. You just work until the work is done. It’s all about taking care of your unit rather than taking care of yourself. The measure of success is not how much money you’ve earned for yourself or your company, but how many lives you’ve protected through disciplined training and personal sacrifice.
Spock would have made a great Soldier.