Monday, September 11, 2017

The Widening Gulf

Some time ago, we had a post about Secretary of Defense Carter’s ill-advised desire to improve recruitment by lowering standards (see, “Drug Users Welcome”).  In the comments, mention was made of the widening gulf between society at large and the military (we’re also seeing a divide between society and the police but that’s a topic for some other blog) and that mention has stuck with me.  After much thought and much self-debate about the desirability of posting on the subject, I’ve decided to offer my thoughts.  Be warned, if you don’t want to read a sociological commentary post, leave now and wait for the next post. 

Observers have offered various reasons for the divide between society and the military.  The reasons generally focus on politics, policies, involvement in unpopular conflicts, and so on.  All probably contain a degree of validity.  However, the main reason for the gulf is something different, I believe.

The gulf between the military and society stems not from politics, policies, and actions but from a widening difference in values.  The military has traditionally valued order, discipline, honor, integrity, sacrifice, and identification with something larger than self.  Society has, over the last couple of decades, turned away from those characteristics and moved towards blaming others for one’s own failures, a focus on self, and elimination of accountability and personal responsibility.  Consider these examples.

  • Suing the seller because you were dumb enough to spill hot coffee in your lap
  • Participation trophies
  • Sanctuary cities
  • Failure to prosecute Hillary Clinton
  • Enforced feminization of boys in elementary schools
  • Banning of Christian references to Christmas
  • Legalization of drugs
  • Programs to forgive IRS and credit card debt
  • Welfare, in general

It all comes down to standards and standard’s handmaidens:  accountability and responsibility.  Our society is systematically removing standards.  No one is held to any civil or criminal standard.  No one is accountable for their actions.  No one is expected to demonstrate responsibility.

Is it any wonder that military age young adults who have grown up in this society and have come to see it as normal see little that they can identify with in the military?

Of course, in the last few years the military has also begun to abandon standards, accountability, and responsibility so the gulf may actually be narrowing a bit.  We see this abandonment in the Fat Leonard scandal that has rocked the Navy, the disgraceful, willful failure by 7th Fleet to follow mandatory training requirements, the lying by the Marine Corps regarding IOC of the F-35, and so on – I won’t bother presenting an endless litany of the moral and ethical failings of Navy leadership.  Read the blog and you’ll see all the examples you need.

Ironically, anecdotal evidence suggests that the military’s recent social engineering policies are turning off those who do identify with the military culture but now see it being eroded.  I’ve heard from endless veterans who tell me they will actively steer their children away from military service because of the erosion of traditional values.  The long, unbroken lines of familial service are being broken.  The widespread failure of veterans to promote military service may be more damaging to recruitment than the general gulf between society and the military.  Veterans are, arguably, the most effective recruiting tool there is and if they have stopped recommending service then recruitment will, indeed, become a challenge.  Recruitment-wise, the military has shot themselves in the foot by abandoning traditional values.

A functional society must have standards and hold its members accountable to those standards or it will fall.  Is our society climbing or falling?  I’ll leave it to you to answer that question for yourself.

The military has traditionally been the caretaker of society’s standards but is now rapidly abandoning its standards.  This is not a good trend and our civilian leadership’s response of further lowering standards could not be more wrong.  Now is the time to strengthen and reinforce military standards.


  1. The disconnect that I can't understand is who is supposed to do all of the jobs that still maintain standards and accountability if society at large is shirking that duty? Everyone thinks universal health care is a good idea but no one wants to be nurses and doctors. People think clean drinking water is a universal right but scoff at the idea of working in sewers and the water transport industry. The same could be said for the power delivery and law enforcement.

    1. Part of the problem is that we've convinced/indoctrinated our high school kids that if they don't go to college they're failures. We've almost completely dropped the concept of getting into the trades and that trades are an honorable and vital job.

    2. That is a pet peeve of mine. I am related to teachers and many are frustrated that they have kids who are being forced to take college courses at which they fail, because they have no interest in the courses, when what they really want to do is vocational/career tech training. But those courses are disappearing because our State legislature has decided every HS student is going to college.

      I come from a family that has a ton of college professors and lawyers. We also have a ton of cops, truck drivers, and tool & die guys.

      Both career paths were honorable. I was equally amazed at one setting up a iron clad trust as I was with another using a lathe to make parts for an old outboard he was rebuilding.

      In terms of a Navy, we NEED people that have those skills because the ship is deployed and at sea and the ability to keep it running is essential. Or, at least we did.

      Now, another problem is that some of the ships we are building (LCS, maybe Zumwalt) are designed only to be taken care of by contractors in port.

    3. If you take a look at the rate that entering freshman are taking remedial classes its evident that many HS are NOT preparing kids for college. Which would be fine if new degrees hadn't been created that allowed students to graduate without facing any real academic rigor. Why STEM students are forced to take liberal arts classes but the converse does not hold true is baffling.

    4. You've hit on something there--the loss of skilled labor. Part of the quality issue with ships is the lack of skilled labor---we are short of qualified welders, fitters, machinists, you name it. Even though they get paid more than most college grads. Because of the pro-college bias in modern educators.
      So we lose hard workers to colleges who tell the kids how much smarter and better they are than their parents. And not coincidentally those colleges also look down on the military. So the Navy suffers from quality both in leadership--colleges discouraging military service for the best and brightest--and suffers from lack off skilled labor both within the ranks and from the contractors as well.

    5. "Part of the quality issue with ships is the lack of skilled labor"

      Ship quality is not the point of the post - it's the cultural divide between military and society. Still, quality and trades (and the promotion, or lack thereof, of trade/vocational education in the high schools) are a vital issue and worth addressing. We need to push, at the local educational levels (meaning, our city high schools) for far more extensive vocational training.

      "colleges also look down on the military"

      You make a very good observation, here. Many colleges have run ROTC off campus, for example. Again, we need to push for more military presence on campus.

    6. Ugh, pretty much everyone wants to be a nurse or PA these days, even people that went to college. And are people really scoffing at working for public utilities? If anything, states and local govs are having to layoff/furlough or salary cut a lot of those positions because of horrid fiscal responsibility in places like Indian, Kansas and Michigan. I think more people would think about becoming cops if they didnt have to work with other cops.....

  2. Bingo, Rome is falling because of moral decay and a corrupt political and military system. Destroy the family and you destroy the country. In the end the east (China/Russia) will win because they at least still have some notion of civil morals and strong family units.

    1. I'm good with your first two sentences but your last leaves me wondering. Certainly, Russia/Iran/NK/China have no governmental morals or ethics. Whether the individual family unit still exists as a strong entity, I don't know. I do know that it isn't translating to a moral and ethical government.

  3. Aye. All true and more.

    It starts with morality degradation around the edges and ends with people ignoring the law and leaders like Obama trying to "nullify" it... As a result the police feel it daily and after decades of social engineering/PC, the military itself is "infected".

    Drugs and all the other new acceptances of "bad things"...Heroin? I mean, YGBSM- what kind of moron does that. haven't they seen the '70's movies "French Connection" or "Panic in Needle Park"? Dope is for dopes...

    Coarser and coarser...I remember seeing an episode of "Married with Children" with "Al Bundy" after coming back from cruise...That seems tame and rated "G" compared to todays "Art".... It's been all downhill since the 1970's. People can't even see when it started.. My generation of pot head selfish, baby boomers started it and now its systemic. Almost a cultural, western civilization death wish...No wonder the Islamists think they can win...

    I'll never accept it.


    1. "I'll never accept it."

      And you shouldn't! And this blog is one, small way of fighting the decline.

      All that is required for evil to win is for good men to do nothing.

  4. Participation trophies?

    Most of the ribbons GIs wear are for this, including breathing awards like the GWOT ribbon. These need to be cut back.

    I saw at Breaking Defense that our Admirals blame congress for the recent ship bang ups. Funding cuts! But it is really funding caps. Why not, Marine Generals blame Congress whenever their aircraft crash. And speaking of ethics, how about this recent $57 million award to upgrade a single V-22.

    That smells like another hidden Class A mishap that requires a complete rebuild.

    1. I saw that contract award but hadn't made that connection to a mishap repair. You may well be right. Good catch.

  5. I dont think it has anything to do with values whatsoever. And I feel like many of your bullet points couldnt be farther from factors. Legalization of drugs? Our first opioid epidemic was started by veterans of the Civil War. Modern amphetamines first widespread use was with pilots during WWII. Current PTSD treatments are utilizing various forms of pot more and more. If anything, throughout this country's history the military has been the number one driver bringing drugs into the mainstream. The other points would take even more space to break down.

    But anyway, they arent the point at all. Driving the gulf with the military is what the military demands of new recruits vs the other options for them. College is main goal of everyone in this country and for many is their one chance at elevating them or their families out of poverty. Anything that gets in the way of college is pushed out. And despite all the recruiting campaigns, military service definitely gets in the way. Taking a 4 or 6 year break after highschool would be total death for many college aspirations. Even with the carrot of the GI Bill on the other side.

    And coming back after college? Well then the commitment is even longer and the career consequences even steeper. Not many college kids are cut out to be officers anyway and they shouldnt be expected to be either.

    What the military asks and what it gives are totally out of whack. When they cant even retain the most prestigious of positions (fighter pilot) you know there are some very deep seated issues. And from everything that I have heard the Air Force's dalliance with overt Christian culture has only helped drive people away.

    So adjusting pay would help, being much more flexible with commitments would help (making it much more worthwhile to stay in the reserves/guard and stay up to date on all your training maybe?). Pilots shouldnt be fighting at the exits to go double (or more) their pay and get better benefits. Maybe make the VA not a complete joke? Maybe just scrap the VA entirely and give all vets lifetime Medicaid instead. That stuff might help a bit.

    1. I think you're conflating two separate issues: retention and the cultural gap. The post is addressing the cultural gap between the military and society (meaning, young people of service age). You seem to be addressing the retention issue, mainly.

      Also, your drug use theory is interesting but I've never seen any evidence to support it. For example, even if every pilot in the air forces during WWII used, and became dependent on, drugs, that's only some thousands versus a US population of hundreds of millions. That's not a drug epidemic! If you want to make that claim, find me some evidence.

      Your thoughts on college are also interesting and likely contain a bit more validity. Our country has a badly skewed view of college. Still, that's not a cultural divide, that's a practical impediment, if true.

      My overall impression of your comment is that you don't believe there is a cultural divide between the military and society. If that's the case, you're welcome to your opinion.

    2. Ah, I wasnt saying that pilot use during WWII caused a meth epidemic, just that pilot use then elevated the visibility of the drug within the military and public. The larger point I tried (and failed) to make was that the military has benefited a great deal by using drugs for its own ends, and it would stand to benefit more if Puritan war on drugs in this country was put to bed for good.

      But yeah there are definitely two separate issues here that I was conflating a bit. However, I feel like there is much more of a cultural gap with how the military is perceived by society versus an actual gap with the regular military and society at large. This perception gap I think is driven by low enrollment numbers since narrow exposure to people actually serving/veterans allows people to fill in the blanks as they see fit. It seems like this has led the powers at be to try and put the military and its members on an unassailable pedestal. Just look at what they tried to do with Pat Tillman!

      I feel like the only way end this is to increase enlistment greatly, maybe even make it mandatory. But that is a whole other discussion.

    3. Increased enlistment, mandatory or otherwise, may be a different discussion but it's one worth having.

      The vast majority of society has never served in the military and this certainly skews public perception. The concept of mandatory service has much merit although the practicalities of such a policy would be daunting. While it works for a small country like Israel, it would be extremely difficult to implement in the US. With our population size, what would all the conscripts even do aside from sit around barracks and paint rocks white?

      Practicalities aside, I like the Starship Troopers concept of service as a requisite for full citizenship. Again, the implementation would be challenging.

      The Israeli universal, mandatory service certainly binds the citizenry together in ways we can't appreciate. Everyone served and everyone has that common link/experience, if not bond. In addition, they have all seen first hand the good, bad, and practical aspects of the military and are, presumably, in a better position to vote on military related matters.

    4. In order for everyone to do it you would have to greatly expand the options people would have. It couldnt just be military. It would have to be police, firefighters, something like the peace corps, and something like social services. Anything that serves the greater public or national interests really. I think there would have to be some sort of quota system to ensure everywhere got enough new recruits but at least give people the appearance of choice.

      I think that is the only way to get rid of the (ever widening) Thin Blue Line BS too. Get people into the police force that would never normally seek that job out. The much higher turnover would also help break down the insularity. If its all of a sudden only "Us" it becomes a lot harder to make it "Us vs Them".

      Make it a 3 or 4 year commitment but give people a lot of options about when how they fulfill it. Maybe only require 1 of those years to served all at once. Work with colleges to incorporate gap years or work studies into most majors. Have college get totally paid for if you decide to stay on an extra 4 years or so (sorry, a lot of my suggestions revolve around college).

      It would be an enormous project but I think it could work without totally bankrupting the gov.

    5. Isn’t redistributing all that time a bit...socialistic? Doesn’t my time have monetary value? Why should I have to give up prime years in my youth to provide services for people who may not deserve them? Who decides what services are in the national interest anyway? Isn’t this an infringement on the freedoms guaranteed to me under the Constitution? Can I pay a tax to get out of it? Or pay someone who is more interested and qualified to put in my time? Why is the government running this program? Isn’t it more efficient to have the free market decide who performs those roles and how much their time is worth?

      I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but rest assured that those issues will come up. You may need better answers than “because these are the things that we value.”

      I would also point out that military volunteers haven’t always had the highest opinion of draftees in recent conflicts such as WWII and Vietnam. It’s hard to see how this would be any different. Is the cost of a rotating cast of characters in these services worth the potential loss of a cadre of individuals that might otherwise be motivated to make a career in these services among similarly motivated individuals?

      Things to consider.

    6. "You may need better answers than “because these are the things that we value.”

      There is a better answer. In fact, there is one and only one answer. The rest is just the mechanics of how to go about it. That you don't know the answer is symptomatic of the loss of values that I've described. I'll give you a moment to think about the answer .........

      Okay, the answer is because you are a member of society and benefit from the advantages of that society, you are obligated to "pay" for those advantages in some way or another. In other words, you are obligated to give something back to the society that is giving its benefits to you. This fundamental truth, this pact or implicit contract between the individual and society is the basis for all our rights and privileges (I'm talking about societal rights, not human rights which are God-given). Too many people (and more all the time) expect things from society but don't want to pay society for those things.

      The fact that our millennials don't grasp this basic sociological truth/foundation is due to the fact that we no longer teach sociology in school (in my day the class was called civics but it's the same thing and it was one of the mandatory classes in high school). Now, the concept of obligation to society is seen as antiquated if it's even seen at all.

      THESE are the things to consider. Your questions are merely the mechanics of how to go about it and, if you understand the fundamental sociological contract then most of your Devil's Advocate questions answer themselves in that they're seen as contrary to the spirit of the contract.

    7. I wasnt saying that we all wouldnt or shouldnt be compensated for our time. Quite the contrary. You can call it socialism too, that doesnt really bother me.

      I dont think it flies in the face of anything in the Constitution, nor any of the principles behind its drafting. Modern military and social institutions would have been completely alien to the Founding Fathers anyway.

      No payments excepted instead of service. You dont have to fight, but you do have to show up. And its not like anyone would be being pulled out of the OR and pressed into service. This would all be done (or at least initiated) by 18-20 year olds.

      These are all positions that are not currently dictated by the free market (and free market attempts at soldiers and police have been hapless failures at best and war crimes otherwise). Besides the free market is absolutely dog sh** at handling things that are distributed goods for society or business as a whole.

      As far as the volunteers vs draftees debate, well, when that distinction is completely removed since everyone would effectively be turned into a draftee initially.

      Dont sweat the Devil's Advocate angle, its all good discussion.

    8. And it sounds like one side of the isle wants to address this "fundamental truth" via higher taxes and the other via compulsory service. They are both "socialistic." I'm posing the same questions that conservatives ask liberals, rightly or wrongly, when discussing taxes. It's not like more than half the people who voted last November, you know, the people who voted for Hillary Clinton, are gonna let something like this happen without the same questioning.

      I'm not against service. I will serve in any way my country needs and in which I'm able. I'm still waiting on that call, despite being registered for selective service and our country fighting a never-ending war against terrorism. In the mean time I dutifully pay my taxes, am paying off my student loans, and use my talents as best as I know how. I struggle with determining how best to "give back." I'm getting married soon. One very small step is foregoing wedding gifts and asking our guests to make donations toward the charities that we support. I wish I gave more of my time to these organization too, but I'm only human and have professional and social demands on my time. I don't claim to be any sort of saint. I just do the best I can.

      The fact that I'm playing devils advocate should indicate that I suspect what your answer will be. And you delivered with an argument that could have come from Bernie Sanders. So maybe you can lay off the personal slights. Or not. I don't really care. But it seem like asserting that a person does not share "good" values runs counter to the policy of arguing the comment not the person.

      I could parry every one of your thrusts at my generation with ripostes against the "boomers", "generation X", and the "greatest generation", but that wouldn't advance the discussion, would it?

    9. I have offered no personal slights. If you believe so then you're reading more into the comments than is there. Regarding comments about your generation, hey, this is a sociological discussion!

      This is also the reason why I so seldom open the discussion to politics, religion, or, now, sociology. People are too easily offended and even less capable of calm, reasoned discussions than with normal blog posts! Not to worry, the next post will be back to purely military matters.

    10. "There is a better answer. In fact, there is one and only one answer. The rest is just the mechanics of how to go about it. That you don't know the answer is symptomatic of the loss of values that I've described. I'll give you a moment to think about the answer ........."

      Kinda hard not to read into that. Keep in mind that the wording of those examples could have come straight from Fox news. I'm not sure that kind of thing is likely to cultivate the reasoned discussion you're looking for. I think we, you and I and others, ARE having a reasonable and productive discussion. I'm not going to get run off with that sort of thing. You'll have to start deleting my posts before that happens, heh heh. But others with perspectives different to yours might not engage in the behavior you're looking for when their views are explicitly or implicitly dismissed so brusquely. Heh, I'm an attorney and trained to see multiple viewpoints to every issue.

      For example, "differential treatment of improper handling of confidential information (e.g., Hilary Clinton)" is probably better than "Failure to prosecute Hillary Clinton" if you're actually looking to have a discussion with people of opposing views. It also happens to identify the real issue, which IS an issue, and is not a political applause line. Just a suggestion....

  6. “The military has traditionally been the caretaker of society’s standards but is now rapidly abandoning its standards.”

    “Society has, over the last couple of decades, turned away from those characteristics and moved towards blaming others for one’s own failures, a focus on self, and elimination of accountability and personal responsibility.Consider these examples.”

    If we’re trying to diagnose what’s wrong with the culture of the military, my hypothesis is that the military is not receiving enough high-quality candidates because it can’t attract them for cultural and financial reasons (i.e., the military does NOT reflect a cross-section of society). I can only speak as to the members of the military whom I know personally (three cousins and a small handful of acquaintances who joined the military after high school, all vote Republican as far as I know), but I would agree that they have many of the deficiencies noted here. I, however, would characterize them as personal deficiencies, largely due to their upbringing, and not ones shared by the majority of my friends and acquaintances. I do come from a fairly privileged background and have an engineering B.S. and a law degree. I think it’s fair to say that my background and those of my close friends and acquaintances is not one widely shared by members of the military.

    I have, however, also studied and worked with former members of the military who pursued a college and/or legal education before or following their service. They most definitely were very responsible, accountable, and by all accounts wonderful people whom reflect well on the military. These former members tended to have a similar background to myself, and from what I can tell, largely joined for personal inter, patriotic reasons, and/or because of a family history of service as opposed to joining for lack of better options (i.e., college or trade schooling).

    As far as society as a whole goes, my hypothesis is that the liberal and conservative factions of society have for too long marketed themselves and governed based on subjective rather than objective reasoning. It’s impossible to acknowledge your own failings and deficiencies (i.e., where you can and should compromise) if you are evaluating yourself subjectively instead of objectively. I think there’s plenty of evidence that subjective thinking and decision-making has infected the military.

    As a young 30-something, left-leaning “millennial,” I expect that my views are in the minority here. I disagree strongly with the explanation offered in this post. I think this post is more illustrative of my characterization of the problem than it is a solution to it. From my perspective, those examples adhere to a particular political and socio-economic outlook, and one that can’t be said to be objectively correct on the whole. I’m not going to debate whether that outlook is right or wrong because I don’t think that it is the purpose of this blog. I am, however, willing to discuss my background, my experiences, and my perspective if anyone wants to try and understand why someone like me has the views that I do. I read this blog and other blogs to, at least in part, do the same.

    1. I, for one would be interested in hearing your perspective, as I approach the issue from a commitment aversion POV.

    2. I think you've missed the point of the post, to a large extent. It's not about the culture in the military, per se. It's about the difference in culture and values between the military and society, as a whole.

      Young service age people, as a whole, do not value the characteristics of loyalty, sacrifice, identification with a larger whole, discipline, etc. which have traditionally been the foundation of the military culture. The post is asking why that rift or gulf exists.

      There is absolutely no questioning that society has turned away from those values and moved towards a more blameless sociological basis where one's actions are no longer one's responsibility but are due to society at large. That movement is beginning to infect the military as I've documented repeatedly in this blog.

      Citing individual exceptions proves nothing anymore than citing individual supporting examples does, so don't both with that.

      Either you believe there is a cultural gulf and need to explain it, if you don't accept my explanation, or you don't believe there is a gulf, in which case you see no problem and there's nothing to explain.

    3. GRIPEN,

      You're a "millennial" today, 2017, as I was once a "baby boomer" identified in the early 1970's. Later that decade I entered the military for a career at the time a very unpopular war was ending... No hair, no dope for me and I learned to live w/"honor" that my parents and community (church,BSA, varsity sports, etc) had instilled in me BEFORE I joined. I might be a "Boomer" chronologically but I never was one or will ever be one, really...

      I have watched my pot smoking, non-judgmental, anti-military generation of baby boomers adapt, change, or die over the past 40 years. They are generally millennial parents... From my observations they were full of guilt after 9-11 most now offer thanks to those who have served but it is too late. They were silent for years- look at the movies/culture they consumed during the 70-90s... I chose different and I am glad I did... When I watched that pot smoking, draft dodger who protested against his own country in foreign lands, become President in 1992.. I knew the decline would accelerate. And it has...

      You sort of hint you aren't a true millennial with all the snowflake habits and I take you at your word, but what have you said or done to convince your peers they need to do things differently... Political party ain't what I'm talking about either. The bottom line is in 1975, 7 out of 10 men were physically and mentally qualified to enter the military now the trend is diametrically opposed:

      From personal experience I can tell you it was hard for me all those years dealing with civilians from my own generation of baby-boomers and seeing them screw it up... My own kids are millenials and I like to think they don't fit the role also. I have hope that some of you new millenials will get the train back on the tracks but I am not holding my breath, because every time you throw all frigging aspects of the past under the bridge you lose....What they taught you always isn't true and BTW you aren't smarter or more enlightened than us just because they told you so at college or even in the military.. I for one don't exist in anybody's box..


    4. “It's not about the culture in the military, per se. It's about the difference in culture and values between the military and society, as a whole.”

      It’s objectively true that the military does not reflect a cross-section of society, with the possible exception of time periods including a national draft. But even then, certain classes have a habit of finding a way out of military service. Of course the military’s culture and values are not going to be the same as that of society as a whole. Maybe we should start by asking what we want to learn by making a comparison in the first place.

      You seem to have identified a growing trend in society, whether real or illusory, that is contrary to the traditional values of the military and that you find worrisome. You projected this trend onto society as a whole to conclude that the divide between society’s present values and the military’s traditional values is growing. You have also observed that this trend in society has has infected the military. Because of this infection, the military’s culture and values are similarly in decline. You therefore observe that the conduct of the military and the conduct of society are increasingly similar.

      Please correct me if my characterization of your logic is incorrect.

      My contention is that you are wrong in projecting the trend onto society as a whole, and that to the extent that the trend is real, it exists primarily in a subset of society, and that it is that subset of society that is most likely to serve in the military.

      Your list of examples illustrate your own biases. And as you say:

      “Citing individual exceptions proves nothing anymore than citing individual supporting examples does, so don't both[er] with that.”

    5. I will instead utilize an issue that we agree on to the extent that society promotes college as a primary goal and the trades as, at best, a secondary goal:

      “Part of the problem is that we've convinced/indoctrinated our high school kids that if they don't go to college they're failures. We've almost completely dropped the concept of getting into the trades and that trades are an honorable and vital job.”

      You also state that:

      “The military has traditionally valued order, discipline, honor, integrity, sacrifice, and identification with something larger than self. Society has, over the last couple of decades, turned away from those characteristics and moved towards blaming others for one’s own failures, a focus on self, and elimination of accountability and personal responsibility.”

      So on the one hand, society is “convinced/indoctrinated” our high school kids that a college education is necessary. College, an undertaking that I contend to objectively require discipline, honor, integrity, sacrifice, accountability, and personal responsibility to be successful. Just getting a diploma isn’t even enough these days. And yet on the other hand, “society” has “turned away from those characteristics and moved towards blaming others for one’s own failures, a focus on self, and elimination of accountability and personal responsibility.”

      The only way these two things aren’t mutually exclusive and consistent with your overall premise is if you do not believe that a successful college experience requires those attributes. In my experience, however, it the people who are unsuccessful in college (and in high school and the workplace) that have a habit “blaming others for one’s own failures, [having] a focus on self, and [demonstrating] elimination of accountability and personal responsibility.” It is also my experience that these individuals seem to have a habit of joining the military in recent years because it is often the next-best option and they are qualified enough to get into the military in the first place. Even the military would not take the lowest performers from my high school, and I graduated high school in the mid-2000s in the midst of two very active wars.

      Therefore, I find that it is at least equally probable that the trend you cite does not exists across society as a whole; the trends exists to a large extent in the segment of society that is most likely to join the military; thus, the gulf between the military and “society” is, from YOUR perspective, narrowing in recent times because you incorrectly ascribe this trend to society as a whole.

    6. “Young service age people, as a whole, do not value the characteristics of loyalty, sacrifice, identification with a larger whole, discipline, etc. which have traditionally been the foundation of the military culture. The post is asking why that rift or gulf exists.”

      I don’t know how you expect anyone of service age or near service age to respond to this with anything other than indignation. I place and have always placed a high value on those traits. My friends and acquaintances all do as well. I’m not sure how you expect this discussion to go if one generation, for all intents and purposes, claims a monopoly on ethics and morality.

    7. "I don’t know how you expect anyone of service age or near service age to respond to this with anything other than indignation."

      I don't! With rare exceptions, by definition, any individual believes themself to be "good". They are incapable of identifying a flaw in themself. That does not, however, mean that those flaws and shortcomings don't exist! I've given a list of indicators of the problem in the post. You can agree or disagree with it but the evidence of a general decline in society, and trickling over into the military is pretty clear.

      I'll give you one more concrete example which demonstrates my contention. Consider the enormous popularity of Bernie Sanders and his political views. Those illustrate the kind of flawed attributes I'm describing. The desire to take other people's money without earning your own (redistribution), free -fill in the blank- without earning the "right", the unfettered growth in "free" govt programs, etc. all indicate a basic, fundamental lack of accountability and responsibility among a generation of service age people.

      As I said, don't both citing your own personal beliefs since, as a single data point, they mean nothing from a societal average perspective. In fact, your readership on this blog pretty much identifies you as a statistical outlier (in a good way!) in terms of values compared to the societal segment I'm talking about.

      Agree or disagree, the choice is yours. I have no illusions about changing anyone's mind. All I hope is to prompt a bit of contemplation among readers.

      Regarding your college argument, you're correct that I don't view today's college process/experience as being anywhere near as useful, productive, and indicative of proper values as it once was. Whether it's an intolerance and unwillingness to allow conservatives to speak (if not threaten with and execute violence towards them!), the inability to deal with the slightest discomfort (safe zones from words???!!!), the revisionist movement towards history (removing all reference to Thomas Jefferson from the Univ of Virginia!!!!!), the exploding prevalence of "feelings" and sensitivity classes at the expense of hard science, math, and literature, the movement away from grades and towards mere completion, or the intolerance towards ROTC type military programs, these trends all clearly indicate a college age society that has lost touch with the principles, morals, and values I've described as proper.

    8. “With rare exceptions, by definition, any individual believes themself to be "good". They are incapable of identifying a flaw in themself. That does not, however, mean that those flaws and shortcomings don't exist!”

      No. Your statement presumes that such a person believes their belief system to be infallible. If one does not regard one’s belief system to be infallible, then one can identify flaws in one’s belief system and therefore flaws in one’s self. I understand why moral relativism freaks people out, religious people in particular, but “discomfort” is not an argument against it. I guess we disagree.

    9. By adulthood, most people (99%) have formulated their beliefs and will not, indeed can not, change them barring some cataclysmic shock. They do, in fact, believe their belief systems to be infallible. Witness the inability of people to change their opinion on blogs even when presented with overwhelming evidence! This is basic human nature.

      It is a very, very, very, very, very (have I conveyed the rarity?) rare person who truly believes their belief system is or may be flawed. Many will say that they aren't perfect but none will actually change any fundamental belief or behavior. For example, I, myself, am not perfect ... oh, who am I kidding, yes I am!

      On a closely related note, if you're not familiar with it, you might investigate the "you are what you were when" phenomenon which describes how an individuals belief system is formalized and cemented at an astonishingly early age. It's a fascinating theory and explains generational beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. I think you'd thoroughly enjoy learning about the concept if you're not already familiar with it.

    10. “Citing individual exceptions proves nothing anymore than citing individual supporting examples does, so don't both with that.”

      Somewhat against my better judgement, I’m going to bother. It will have been worth my time if helps even one person understand another point of view. And I’m betting that my observations, if not my experiences, are not unique and likely illustrate a trend amongst young white middle and upper class males of my generation.

      I grew up in a very privileged household. My father, a college graduate, made $200k+ and my mother, while college-educated and having begun a very successful career of her own, was a stay-at-home mom to my two sisters and I. We wanted for very very little but lived within our means. My sisters and I were never told we were the “best” or “better” than anyone else but were praised and rewarded for high achievement in athletics, academics, and the arts. My sisters and I all played more than one sport through our childhoods and played more than one instrument in middle school and high school. We lived in the suburbs and went to some of the best public schools in the country. Our schools, suburb, and neighboring suburbs were virtually all white. My parents’ property taxes were significant. They happily paid their taxes because we received an amazing education because of them.

      I can’t claim that my present successes aren’t due in large part to the amazing opportunities that society afforded me, opportunities that are NOT afforded to the vast majority of children in this country. My parents always reminded us of this. Equally, I cannot blame society for any of my failures. They are my own.

      I played soccer and baseball in my early childhood and played competitive sports from middle school through high school. I was a varsity athlete sophomore through senior year of high school. I played an instrument from 5th grade through the end of high school and played in a community youth orchestra as well. I never missed the honor-roll in middle and high school.

    11. A few of my peers, including former “friends,” rewarded me for all of this by regularly beating me up physically and bullying me verbally between 4th grade and 7th grade. I was too close to their size and strength for any one person to “fight” me (a better word is ambush) so there were usually at least three of my peers involved. Relief only came when I stopped giving them the reaction they wanted and they moved on to easier targets. Because I had been friends with some of these bullies (i.e., assholes) in our early childhoods, I saw how these children were always the “best” at everything and the coach and/or teachers was ALWAYS to blame. There is no clear correlation between these lessons and the political leanings of their parents. Their parents LOVED me by the way, and always told my parents that they could “never understand” what happened between their children and myself. Of course they wouldn’t admit that their little precious child was an asshole.

      Virtually all of my male cousins shared these characteristics, but thankfully I was spared their ire due to our familial connection.

      After I was no longer being bullied, I was largely ostracized by my peers because I was one of those “band geeks” and “nerds” taking all those AP classes. Thankfully, there were many of “us” at my high school and we had our own “click” so high school was still quite enjoyable. Virtually all of my friends from high-school onwards are high-achieving and successful individuals.
      It is also good to see that society as a whole has begun praising and highlighting intellectual achievement in children and young adults more publicly and making it more and more “fashionable” to be smart. As I stated before, I think you’d find many of my friends and acquaintances to share, or at least be amenable to, traditional military values.

      Thus, and as has probably always been the case, the “popular kids” and the “geeks” voluntarily segregated themselves and had little, if any, interaction between the groups. I had some interaction across this boundary because of athletics.

      Through the magic of social media, and the relatively close-knit community in which I grew up, I have stayed apprised of the on-goings of my former tormentors and their own associates. “Society” might judge these characteristic “males” as having achieved very little professionally and personally. With one or two exceptions, no others appear to have attended or graduated from a four-year university (I could have guessed the exceptions). Many have children out of wedlock. Many are now employed in the trades, mostly as auto mechanics. In my high school the trades were heavily promoted as a good and viable option for students without the academic interest required to pursue a bachelor’s degree. It probably helped that our school district could afford well-funded and lavish “shop” and “industrial technology” labs. A few were able to join the military, but even the military wouldn’t accept some of them in the mid and late 2000s.

    12. My aunts and uncles are all college-educated and managed to steer my male cousins in a slightly better direction, although none has yet pursued a bachelor's degree. In my opinion, none of aunts and uncles instilled the discipline or intellectual curiosity necessary to succeed academically in these boys/young men (the girls/young women have done somewhat better). Instead, they encouraged my cousins to chase girls, prioritize sports, and never failed to reinforce that their academic and/or athletic failures were because of their teachers and/or coaches. Without fail, my sisters and I received a full update in these three areas at every family gathering. Other than my grandparents, no one ever seemed that interested in the academic and musical achievements of my sisters and I. With the exception of my father’s father, my grandparents were not college educated. They sent all of their children to college.

      I have two male cousins in active military service; one is in the Air Force and one is the Army. Another cousin was in the Navy for several years and left voluntarily; he worked as a police officer following his stint in the Navy and is now working towards a trade certification. I think it’s fair to say that the military was the best, if only only “career” available to these cousins following high school. Fortunately, the military has been beneficial for them. In these three cases, however, it’s difficult for me to regard the military has anything but a form of welfare for young, male adults who didn’t take high school seriously and thought there would be no repercussions for doing so. It’s not surprising to me that they now blame immigrants, people on welfare, or god knows which form of “other” to explain why they are not excelling the way their parents told them they would. These and other cousins with such views, continue to receive SIGNIFICANT financial support from their parents, who also have such view. One cousin has utilized bankruptcy proceedings to address credit card debt but has a cognitive disconnect that prevents acknowledging that this is a form of welfare.

      My male cousins, and many of the young men I attended high school with, had more or less the same academic opportunities that I had. Most worrisome, their parents were almost universally college-educated. I’d say the vast majority had a stay-at-home mom. All of their families can be characterized as “middle class” if not “upper middle class” or even “upper class.” These men should have been prime candidates for STEM jobs, skilled trade jobs, and exceptional military candidates. I think that many of those who were able to join the military benefited greatly from its traditional values. The military is/was definitely a good thing for them.

      Nevertheless, I find in extremely worrisome that my male cousins and a large percentage of the young men with whom I attended high school have not adjusted to the realities of today’s economy. I will say the the “enforced feminization of boys,” whatever the hell that means, had nothing to do with it. If anything, the opposite was the problem; parents who promoted a crazy version of “masculinity” that almost completely disregarded intellectual curiosity and academic achievement. In my experience, the most successful men are, to varying degrees, at once confident, decisive, objective, intellectually intelligent, and emotionally intelligent. I have observed that many of the most problematic men whom I have encountered have an overabundance of confidence and decisiveness and deficiencies in the latter three qualities. I think it would be a mistake to disregard objectiveness, intellectual intelligence, and emotional intelligence in any definition of masculinity. I’ve also certainly observed problematic attitudes and behavior towards women among men of my generation as well, but I can’t say whether or not it’s worse than in other generations, unfortunately.

    13. Caleb, I deleted your comment because it was a personal attack. Your ideas were fine and I'd like to see you rewrite the comment in an impersonal mode. Argue the ideas, not the person. This was a sociological post so a certain degree of group-related criticism is warranted and expected but do not engage in personal attacks.

      You had worthwhile ideas. I encourage you to rewrite your comment. Retain the ideas and leave out the personal aspects. Address the sociology, not the person.

    14. Caleb,

      There's nothing wrong with with joining the military, police, fire department, or trades. I don't think an honest reading of my posts can support a conclusion that I think those professions are not honorable. They are indeed honorable. And they can help "straighten out" the members of our generation that need it.

      There is, however, a difference between voluntarily joining these professions and doing so because receiving a college education is not an option. I've seen too many of our peers that were unable to pursue their dreams because, following high school, they were not prepared for the realities that our generation faces. I agree that high schools need to do a better job of reinforcing that public service and the trades can also be a door to the middle and upper classes, especially if one excels at them.

      My issues are (i) members of all generations that predominantly blame others for their failures and (ii) the perpetuation, by some members of all generations, of a version of masculinity that does not place enough value on intellectual curiosity. Note that I don't think personal politics as anything to do with these issues.

      Yes, I grew up "soft." I'm not going to pretend like I faced any great hardship in my childhood. I posted details about my upbringing that open up criticisms of being "soft," "feminized," and "elite" to illustrate SOME of the ways in which my concerns about our peers can be combated. I grew up privileged and "soft" but my parents didn't let me forget it. I didn't serve in the military and face the real possibility of death, but I did play in bands and orchestras for directors that sometimes made me wish I was dead instead of having screwed up the whole group because I watched a movie instead of practicing. Being in a band or orchestra or playing any sport, but especially a team sport, can all help instill some of the traditional values of the military at a young age. They also require parents that are interested enough and with the financial resources to encourage and facilitate participation in these activities.

      A college education is not required to pursue a honorable profession or to be an intellectually curious person who strives to learn as much as possible about their personal or professional interests. I imagine that we agree that knowing a little about the physics of an object in motion and the chemistry of exothermic reactions could help one excel in fields that require one to jump out of airplanes and blow things up. College is not necessary. Asking questions to one's mentors and/or a library card and enough interest to use it are.

      You do not need to look very long to find frightening statistics as to how many of our peers are dropping out of the workforce all together as the economy changes. There is clearly one or more segments of our generation that is in crisis. Glossing over the realities of the situation and pining for long-gone, allegedly "better" days is not a solution.

    15. I've given my response. I'm fine with it if you want to re-post his comment with or without a warning as you see fit.

  7. LOL. Your list is insane.

    1. Care to add a more useful, substantive comment or should I just delete this?

    2. Sure. The coffee suit involved product liability for excessive temperature, which is not crazy. Participation trophies have been common for decades and don't hurt anybody (except the feelings of the "alpha males", apparently). Sanctuary cities as defined by Trump's executive order don't really exist, and actual sanctuary cities don't inquire into immigration status for the purpose of helping police maintain law and order. Hillary behaved badly and probably conspired to evade FOIA, but doubtful there was any crime, and anyway she lost and is ruined so who really cares at this point. I have no idea what boys are subject to "enforced feminization", and I don't even know what that means. I have never heard of any private citizen being forbidden from reference Christ in connection with Christmas, and the country is, in fact, overwhelmingly and ostentatiously Christian. The only drug being legalized right now is the state-level legalization of MJ, and people have been smoking that for a long time anyway, and it is clearly safer and less addictive than alcohol. The elimination of debt through bankruptcy is contemplated by the Constitution and is available via longstanding statute; no surprise that IRS and private lenders would see civil settlements or debt restructuring as advantageous in some cases. I'm not sure what your beef is with "Welfare, in general" but plenty of people are poor through no fault of their own and benefit from having food, clothes, etc. Give me a break.

    3. See? That wasn't so hard, was it? You've offered a specific and informative comment. It's all wrong, of course but, hey, at least you tried! Tell you what, I'll give you a participation trophy so you can feel good about yourself.

  8. "Participation trophies"
    What are those, really i dont know?

    1. In the US, there has been a movement to eliminate winners and losers in kids games and instead give everyone a participation trophy. Supposedly, this makes everyone feel good. What it really does is promote acceptance of mediocrity and ambivalence.

    2. CNOPs,

      You can't win against those "indoctrinated" from within who have drunk the "Koolaid" (remember Johnstown? look that up 30 somethings). Righteous, and humanistic self indignation is about all they can muster when their views are challenged...Yet us older folks who actually existed in tougher and in certain ways better times must simply acquiesce to their B.S..

      From my analysis, as one raised and reared by those who grew up in the depression and won WW2, most Millenials of today appear to be soft, neurotic, empathic, non-judgmental kids begat from dope smoking "baby boomers", and under educated "Gen x-ers" who became the "Me" generation in the 1980's. They are enlightened, we are not. Notice the self-victimization pathology and the check in the block resume building discussed above- almost an observer to life and "above the fray"...This is the new normal. LOL.

      Underneath all the "newspeak" they are scared. A little voice tells them that maybe what they have been told, IE- "their basis", is flawed. Just look at the all the apocalyptic movies and science fiction/fantasy they consume/create culturally. Escapism always has existed but rarely has it been so pervasive in all aspects of life.. They see the chaos/danger of the world they are inheriting with all the "old/new" problems and they want things to change and be better... That is noble but is not unexpected. Haven't all generations? What is ironic is that the strategies they want to use to make this happen have consistently failed for a long time running. They are generally (but not all...)products of weakness.


    3. Ha, b2. "We" are the scared ones but you can't even address my comments directly. Did you hit the wrong reply button? Want to try again? Anything you want to tell me, personally? Don't worry, I won't crumble like a snowflake. Want to lay out your own personal history so we can see how selfless you really are?

      By the way, the military will not enroll me due to severe, chronic atopic dermatitis that was activated during a summer working as a package handler at FedEx (120+ degrees in those trailers). I didn't even sue! It's great. My skin destroys itself when I'm under any form of stress, sweat, or am exposed to various allergens! I guess it was a good thing I did all of that "check in the box resume building" to go college and acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to facilitate development of the technologies that can help to win our wars.

      I want to respect CNO's rules, so I'll hold my tongue and just point out that best thing I can do is let you talk. See, for example, your comments with respect to Desert Storm in the comment section of the recent Frigate post. If anything, your comments to date illustrate the dangers of putting wars/people/generations on a pedestal and making them unassailable. You might benefit from being an "observer to life" more often. As you said, it's difficult to win against those "indoctrinated" from within. I suspect that I should just move on.

      CNO, maybe you can move b2's comment up so the context is clearer?

    4. Relax a bit. I did not read b2's comments as being directed at you personally so don't take it that way. You had the same reaction to some of my generic comments. These are sociological discussions/comments. If you feel the concepts and comments apply to you it's only to the extent that you are, possibly, a member of the target sociological group. This is also why I said that individual stories prove nothing and are not worth the effort to write. They don't violate any of my comment policies so I have no objection but they don't really accomplish anything.

      Sociological groups DO HAVE GROUP CHARACTERISTICS. That's what makes them a group. That doesn't mean that every individual shares those characteristics but they do hold for the group. It's how and why we've identified baby boomers, gen-x, millennials, etc. They do share certain characteristics, for better or worse, as a group and that's what we're discussing.

      So, relax and enjoy the discussion but read it and write impersonally.

      Again, this is why I so seldom open the discussion up to politics, religion, and the like. People just can't have calm, reasoned discussions!

    5. "They are enlightened, we are not. Notice the self-victimization pathology and the check in the block resume building discussed above- almost an observer to life and "above the fray"...This is the new normal. LOL."

      Uh huh. Yeah, okay. The context and the words themselves clearly indicate a reference to abstract individual(s) *SARCASM*. And that comment has exactly what all to do with an explanation of what a participation trophy is?

      I'm calling B.S. where I see it. Don't mistake that for victim hood. And you've had to do the same with this particular individual. Perhaps I share that quality with my generation. We understand that having respect for someone and acquiescence to that person are not the same thing. Being a member of the millennials, gen-X, the baby boomers, or the greatest generation in and of itself doesn't give anyone the right to end a discussion. The qualities on an idea should speak to qualities of the person espousing them; the qualities of the person espousing an idea should not speak to the qualities of the idea.

      I don't think this worth my time. There is no evidence offered against my generation other than mere conjecture masquerading as proof. My first person evidence, while merely one data point, is dismissed out of hand. I have a hunch that your readership is primarily white males in the 40-70 year range. I don't think you're used to discussing complex sociological issues with other sociological groups. I've tried to keep the issue confined to my sociological group because I thought I could provide context for one segment of that group. That's clearly impossible when another, older sociological group is not willing to question its assumptions and regards itself as qualified to judge another. And lest we forget, the millennials didn’t just magically spring into existence. Those of you that made “us” might want to start doing some self-reflection before condemning my generation.

      I look forward to the next technical topic where we can presumably all agree on how the laws of physics and chemistry apply.

    6. I have a lot of sympathy for your point of view Gripen.

      I'm 64, military then oilfield then IT then oilfield again. I'm also socially quite liberal. I've worked with awesome GenXers and excellent Millenials. I've also worked with horrible people from all generations.

      I spend most of my time overseas by choice, most of it in places a mainstream North American would be horrified by. It's fascinating watching North American culture from the outside. I'm from that culture but no longer really a member.

      Lots of people like me out there. In my experience people harden their attitudes as they age. Both real liberals and real conservatives.

      I'm not sure how this relates directly into social acceptance of the military ethos. My experience is that the International oilfield is not that different to the military. The job defines the attitude by necessity. There is sometimes only one way to do a job right. Do it wrong and you or your colleagues die.

      I give you the Piper Alpha disaster compared and contrasted with a couple of 7th Fleet badly broken destroyers. The similarities are eerie if you look below the surface a bit.

  9. Interestingly enough, one of earliest people to talk about this was Heinlein in the novel Starship Troopers (1958). He has a history teacher in future talking about the breakdown in society at end of the 20th due to parents no longer disciplining children.
    Now Heinlein liked to deliberately over the top to get people to think so his "solution" was also a tad extreme but worth looking at; only those willing to sacrifice for society could vote. It included things like Military service, a doctor volunteering to serve the poor or (this is scary) people willing to be medical test subject.
    And you only got the vote after you performed that public could die in combat before exercising the ability to vote. This was what many of the Ancient Greeks ran their government. You were allowed to make all the money you wanted, lived you life however you chose but you had to bear the burden of protecting and serving before you were allowed to determine the nations path.
    Not saying I 100% agree (I don't) but something to think about.

    1. The Founding Fathers had a similar concept in that voting was limited to land owners. The idea was not without merit.

    2. The novel's military had some rather radical concepts as well. Foremost was that college and even military academies meant next to nothing for becoming an officer. You had to prove leadership as an enlisted man first. In fact in time of war his military only took officer candidates who had seen combat. No officer could have a career that didn't include the possibility of having to fight. Compare that to our current military leadership which may spend years on "social engineering duty" teaching sensitivity instead of leading from the front. In the novel even chaplains were expected to fight.

    3. I'm quite familiar with the novel. It's one of my favorites. The author offers many fascinating and, to my way of thinking, beneficial theories about sociology, military, bureaucracy, government, etc.

      It's too bad the movie made such a mockery of the book in pursuit of cheap thrills and quick money.

    4. Yes, I was quite appalled at how the movie deliberately dressed everyone in Nazi style uniforms.
      And whereas you have the sexes separated by branch of service--men as ground and women as air support---they went for co-ed showers.
      The best thing about the movie was that it got people to read the novel.

    5. Heinlein was in many very ways a very social liberal. In other ways very hardline Libertarian. Starship Troopers is a book I grew up with and it's almost been a beacon guiding me.

      Probably why I like the Freehold series so well. Socially quite liberal in a very libertarian society.

      I like to think I could function fairly well in that kind of society. If you haven't read the Freehold series but like Starship Troopers I highly recommend.

  10. Benefit from actual experience when it advises...

    "Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free" R. Reagan


    1. “Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” - George Orwell

  11. The pain feels so good that I can't stay away. Or is it that I like to "hear" myself talk? Am I narcissistic gen-Xer or a naive millennial?

    Joking aside, the inter-generational aspects of this discussion are interesting, at least to me. I thought that it was worth my time to read the comments of the Minnesota Public Radio story. Make what you all will of these:

  12. The Navy has gone to hell since steam replaced sail.
    Men haven't been Men since the invention of fire lead
    to sloth and agriculture.

    [Grumpy Old Man Mode off]


Comments will be moderated for posts older than 30 days in order to reduce spam.