Andrew D. Todd
Department of Anthropology
University of Oregon
final draft of aug 11, 1988
An army in battle is held together by the force of an idea. This idea is not the one for which men are thought, by the conventional platitudes, to fight for. That is, they do not fight to make the world safe for democracy or anything like that. Rather, they fight because they feel that they owe it to themselves, that to fail to fight would be to display a deficiency in the moral virtue known as honor.
Honor is somewhat hard to define. It is best characterized as a sort of virtue more or less peculiar to the warrior. Its irreducible minimum is personal bravery in combat, but there are various kinds of extensions to other behavior. It is a pervasive virtue, in that it is held to be a sort of universal measure of a man. That is, while a man may lack some other quality without his colleagues doing more than making allowances for it, if he is held to lack honor, then it is taken for granted that he is worthless in every sense.
i. Diversity of Honor and the Problems of Incorporation.
Given that honor is a distinctively-military value, one must ask how it is inculcated. I shall treat this in terms of the notion of cognitive appropriation, and a linkage between cognitive learning and emotional learning. Such a linkage has the advantage of permitting one to talk about emotion in relatively concrete terms. The notion of "appropriation" is useful, because it permits one to deal with the diversity of honors, as well as the manner in which the military is able to maintain a value distinct from the civil society that surrounds it.
One problem about honor is that it is not one monolithic phenomenon. There are different and contradictory kinds of honor. While there is generally a common core of values about bravery in battle, there are important divergences as well.
For example, there is a good deal of divergence about the extension of honor to money matters. One kind of honor includes honesty about money matters and even the forswearing of acquisitiveness, but other kinds do not. To give some idea of the degree to which values can diverge away from the first kind, let us consider an example. We have a case like Chuck Yeager, the living culture hero and archetype of the fighter pilots and their elite, the test pilots, whose colleague (Ascani, quoted in Yeager, 1985:127) spoke of him as having terrific integrity in the sense that he would never abandon a comrade. Yet this integrity was not incompatible with a steady scrounging and fiddling for his own profit (Yeager, 1985:246,257). Ascani was under few illusions about Yeager's financial ethics (Yeager, 1985:171). It would seem that he just did not consider them relevant.
But, at the same time, there is a problem of bounding the notion of honor, so that it does not become a synonym for any virtues which are favored in a particular time and place.
To this end, we need to be concerned with the mechanisms that define what is mere local divergence, and what is apostasy. Is there some kind of informal or formal group that decides who is honorable, but different, and who is either dishonorable or a- honorable?
Additionally, there is a question of how the military, a minority institution in society, manages to maintain its own distinctive set of values, which differ from those of the larger society.
The larger society has values which are defined without reference to the needs of the military. And further, the tendency of the last couple of hundred years has probably been toward values that are less rather than more suitable for military purposes. They tend to stress such themes as the autonomy of the individual. But there are really only two types of autonomous individuals on a battlefield. They are the psychopathic killer, who being utterly unpredictable, is a danger to everyone, including his own comrades, and the bug-out.
So a modern military has increasing need to develop mechanisms to maintain its own values, ones that are suitable for the purposes of fighting.
ii. Why the United States Army Has Not Always Acted in Ways Which Most Tend to Cement Values.
Sometimes the military fails to develop and maintain its own values. This is not a matter of being unaware of the importance of values. Rather, it is a consequence of the lure of technical efficiency. There is a chronic conflict between the pursuit of values and the pursuit of efficiency which runs through Western armies.
Military thinkers, at least those of the western variety, and Americans in particular, have tended to put a low emphasis on questions of morale. While they usually recognized the importance of morale, they have put their real faith, as demonstrated by their actions, in technical and tactical innovations. That is, they have obtained essentially every useful invention that came along, and they have not systematically made over their organization in the direction of gemeinschaft. The effect of the technical innovations is often to reduce the numbers of men who actually have to fight, although not necessarily the size of the unit.
To put this in concrete terms, consider that Vietnam- era innovation, the Claymore mine. This device is an explosive charge, cleverly shaped so that when it explodes, it lays down a barrage of steel balls, at man-height, along the ground in the particular direction in which it is pointed. It is a command mine, which is to say that it is electrically set off, usually by remote electro-firer (Jane's, 1978:488-89). It sits out in front of the troop positions, and the aiming is done when it is set up. Then it is connected to a wire leading back to the troop positions.
Think of what this means. First, the aiming is done in calm and relative safety and at leisure, instead of being done in the storm of battle. The result is that it is much more likely to be done right. All that remains to be done is to pull the trigger. Further, multiple claymores can be hooked up to the same circuit to build up banks of fire. Or the electro-firers can simply be collected together. The result is that the firing of a considerable portion of a unit's firepower can be centralized to whatever degree is desired. So the majority of non-fighters do not have to fire the claymores. They may work at setting them up beforehand, but once the system is rigged, all of it can be fired by the commander, or whoever else has the required coolness under fire. So as long as there is somebody in the unit who will fight, the claymores will fire.
Now, of course, claymores are not suitable for all purposes, but there is a tendency to invent other devices to fill the gaps. What is important is the underlying notion that a technical solution is more practical than one of human transformation, inert matter being more malleable than the human spirit. This leads military leaders to make the development of values a secondary priority.
Survey Of The Anthropological Literature On War,
With Respect To Honor.
Martial honor is a topic which has been systematicaly neglected by anthropologists, falling between the old anthropologist's materialism on the one hand and the new anthropologist's empathy and cultural relativism on the other.
i. Cultural Materialists and War.
A large group of anthropologists tend, by reason of their theoretical orientation, to be somewhat casual in dealing with values in general. Since military honor is a species of value, it is included.
Marvin Harris is, of course, the arch- cultural materialist, and that shows in his views on war.
In accounting for military success, he tends to put predominant stress on the technological aspects, such as the Amerindian lack of the horse. This is to say that he effectively ignores matters of organization, morale, and training. He seems to view war as essentially a population-regulatory mechanism (Harris, 1971:229-30), which is no longer functional in the modern world (Harris, 1971:231-32), and dismisses accounts of non- economic motives as mere false consciousness (Harris, 1971:226-28). In this vein, he stresses that religion is compatible with pragmatic needs (Harris, 1971:556-59), and also stresses the adaptation of personality traits to needs in a short time span (Harris, 1971, p574-89).
In The Rise of Anthropological Theory, he is highly dismissive of emic approaches, such as that of Lowie, whom he accuses of shoddy workmanship (Harris, 1968:364-66).
Paul Bohannon, in Social Anthropology, treats war very briefly, but in essentially Clausewitzian terms, (War as the continuation of policy by other means.) dismissing tribal feuding as not really war (Bohannon, 1963:304-306). The one reference to nonconcrete aspects of war such as ritual is in such terms as Marvin Harris might use (Bohannon, 1963:338).
Such an attitude effectively rules the idea of honor out of court as a trivial example of false consciousness. It is pretty much intrinsic to Harris' system that it does not admit of an idea which shapes and defines behavior.
The flaw to this is that while war may be in a society's interest, that does not mean that it is also in an individual's. Wars are fought, in great measure by people like those described by S. L. A. Marshal, the fifteen or twenty percent who actually use their weapons (Marshall, 1947:50-54), sometimes called 'Fighters' in distinction to the 'Nonfighters' who make up the majority, and they are under no visible compulsion to do so. And given the incredible and obvious drawbacks of being a hero (about half of all heroes are dead heroes), if the system is to work on the basis of the rational pursuit of collective good, the individual must be a victim of false consciousness, or he will, instead, engage in the rational pursuit of his own personal good. But how can false consciousness be trivial if it is what makes people do all these critical things?
The views of the classic cultural evolutionists are even less helpful. It is problematic whether they even allow room for values as a systematic consequence of economics and technology.
In his The Science of Culture, Leslie White maintains that 'Warfare is a struggle between social organisms, not individuals'(White, 1949:132). He further stresses that the motives of the individual participants are more or less random, except for a measure of social coercion. In these terms, there is even less room for the individual will and values than there is in Marvin Harris' formulations, inasmuch as White treats individuals as little more than what one might call the elemental components of an over-mind.
In Anthropology: Culture Patterns and Processes, A. L. Kroeber mentions war only once and in passing. But that instance, which, incidentally, is concerned with military technology rather than values, consists in taking changes in warfare to be a manifestation of a fashion-like herd instinct (Kroeber, 1963:54- 56).
It will be noted that this kind of outlook precludes taking values seriously, since a value becomes an aspect of culture which is not anchored by considerations of practical necessity. The display of such a value as honor translates into practical advantage only indirectly and after a period of time. So there is greater freedom to maintain a maladaptive value system.
In A Scientific Theory of Culture and Other Essays, Bronislaw Malinowski treats the needs imposed by culture as equally basic, compared to other basic drives, inasmuch as the cultural institutions are there to satisfy biological needs, which go unmet if the cultural institution is disrupted (Malinowski, 1944:120-23). But he seems to think of war in relatively concrete terms, eg. talking about the relation between war and food production (Malinowski, 1944:123-24).
The followers of G. P. Murdock, such as Otterbein (1970) and Nammour (1974) would seem to exclude the study and the relevance of values in an even more absolute way, inasmuch as their statistical methods cannot deal with anything that cannot be coded and which is not context free. Nammour includes codings for such things as whether warriors have high prestige (Nammour, 1974:272), but that is about the limit of what can be coded. Now values are interpretations of concrete facts, e. g. given that so- and- so did such and such, what does it mean. And such interpretation is pretty well context laden by definition.
The interesting thing about all this is that great sections of cultural anthropology, functionalist, evolutionist, and so on, hold views that tend to deny the authenticity of values. They vary from taking values and individual decisions to be consequences of something else to totally denying that there are individual values or decisions or that they are of any importance. Following their assumptions, honor is not a subject that makes any sense to deal with. What counts are the concrete economic or ecological constraints to action.
But there is a body of anthropologists who do take values seriously. I refer to the Interpretive school.
ii. The view on war of the new anthropologists.
The new anthropologists, who collectively might be called the Interpretive school, do recognize the centrality of values. This recognition follows out of their stress on empathy, on not dismissing the native mentality as false consciousness. But it bears its own limitations, as the anthropologist, still a product of Western culture, becomes committed to defending his people against those who would portray them as barbarous. Because the anthropologist is still operating in the moral framework of Western culture, he finds it difficult to come to terms with those aspects of native culture which actualy are what Western culture defines as depraved. In particular, when confronted with the role of violence in native society, or any society for that matter, he prefers to wish it out of existence, or if that is not possible, to treat it as social pathology. This means that he is often unable to deal with the ways in which violence gives meaning to life.
In Cultural Anthropology: The Science of Custom, Felix Keesing recognizes a diversity of roles of war, and stresses that there is no universal meaning of war, but the one that he stresses is a tribal one in which war is a sort of sport, with extensive restrictions (Keesing, F., 1958:295-6).
But one is troubled by the association of honor with something like this. Does honor make sense in a context where war means throwing a token spear or two? Given that the characteristic fight, at least among the sorts of tribes that Keesing is refering to, ends when one man out of at least a couple of dozen has been hit, the risk level, even in the worst fight a tribesman can ever expect to be in, is fairly low. A proper venue for a notion of honor should have a risk level high enough that the threat of death is a serious factor in the individual's decision- making process.
In Cultural Anthropology: A Contemporary Perspective, Roger Keesing is almost reluctant to deal with war. There is no systematic presentation, and the words "war", "honor", and "battle" do not appear in the index. Nor does a major figure in the anthropology of war like Keith Otterbein, or a classically bellicose group like the Jivaro. He does mention certain charismatic leaders, such as Joan of Arc as examples of the powers of messianic ideas (Keesing, R., 1976:285), but he does so only perfunctorily. Similarly, in the chapter on 'the impact of the west' he is obliged to mention the native resistance, but the discussion is so concise that in mentioning a figure like Samori, such topics as the role of militant Islam in West African resistance cannot be dealt with (Keesing, R., 1976:391-93). Similarly, the Ghost Dance Movement is lumped with cargo cults (Keesing, R., 1976:406-8).
Keesing himself describes the book as 'politically committed' (Keesing, R., 1976:vi). This may color his thinking and explain why he doesn't care to deal with primitive war too much. In particular, to accept the reality of primitive war is to accept that the natives who the Europeans conquered were far from harmless innocents.
Their moral standing as victims is often undermined by their pursuit of wars of aggression and conquest. For often, the European conqueror, as viewed at the time, appears as one whose participation was sought by at least some of the inhabitants, as in the case of Cortez (Padden, 1967:148-51,163). Rather than a European subject acting on a native object, there were at least three actors: at least one faction of Europeans, and at least two of natives. All acted in a positive way in pursuit of their interests. To deal with the moral structures of war is to give war a certain legitimacy, along the lines of what might be called cultural relativism. So for this reason, those who are not prepared to deal with war as something more than an evil to be shuddered at cannot afford to look at the values of war. If 'politically committed' means what is conventionally called anti-imperialist, then to fail to defend the moral superiority of those who were subjugated is to tacitly admit the rhetoric that justified their conquest--viz that the conquering forces were those of reform. And once reform becomes a grounds for conquest, almost any Western developed country has a fair charter for invasion of almost any Third-World country on the basis of comparative corruption, tyranny, and so on.
One of the few anthropologists who deal with honor at all is Michael Herzfeld, in Honor and Shame: Problems in the Comparative Analysis of Moral Systems. In studying notions of honor in different mediterranean communities, he stresses that there is no one thing that can be described as honor, but that it can only be treated in local context, which is to say that he would seem to be taking a basically local knowledge type of approach. He gives examples to the effect that in two different Cretan villages, honor is in one case antithetical to egotism and in the other case depends on it (Herzfeld, 1980:344). One feels that about the most that he would concede is that honor is repute writ large. What he does implicitly recognize as a universal is little more than acting according to social expectation. But his main point is that such a concept is not translatable from one society to another, that some sense of what is meant can only be gained by the use of folk taxonomies in each case (Herzfeld, 1980:348-49).
In his Poetics of Manhood, he stresses the role of "manhood", which may presumably be glossed as honor, as a means of securing safety from molestation, in the sense that Cretan shepherds raid each other's flocks, unless they are in a relation of institutionalized friendship. One makes friends with a man by demonstrating one's own worthiness, defined in terms of daring, fighting ability, and so on. But worthiness is demonstrated by raiding his flock (Herzfeld, 1985:163-183). Honor is seen as something that is manipulated, game fashion, with a view to status maximization. For example, when a young man starts to make his way in the world by raiding, he is still presumed to be innocent of any stock thefts that occur. This gives him great opportunities, but it also hampers him in taking credit for these thefts. So he will, balancing these considerations, decide when to reveal his activities (Herzfeld, 1985:198).
In his Rebirth in the Airborne, Melford Weiss does deal with such themes as initiation and myth, but the treatment is merely at a descriptive level. For example, in describing the 'prop blast' following completion of training, he talks about how the ritual symbolizes parachuting, but fails to develop how it relates to morale. That is, there is a failure to link the ritual and tradition to actual behavior. However, dealing with the issue of dropouts, those who refuse to continue, Weiss does touch indirectly on honor. He observes that dropouts, if possible, simply disappear from the training unit, being removed before they can communicate their tendencies to the others. When such disappearance is not possible, as when the trainee makes a public scene, it is necessary to ritually shame him by tearing of patches and so on. It is not assumed that the act of quitting itself is polluting, only that it has disagreeable consequences (Weiss, 1967).
Emotion is a special case of cognition. This means that the problem of how emotions are acquired reduces to the problem of how cognitive knowlege is acquired. In order to discuss emotional phenomena, such as the possession of a sense of honor, we must think about emotion itself in concrete terms, with a view to defining emotion in a reasonably exact way, that is, in terms sufficiently precise that it can be related to other concerns such as language and knowledge. Such terms are provided by generative grammar and semantics. I do not propose to adopt any particular system of these, but rather to take their common elements, viz. a body of simple relations, referred to as a lexicon or database, and some kind of parser or inference engine to link the elements of the database together in useful ways.
Efforts to deal with emotion as something separate from language founder in sheer diffuseness. One possible approach is that of emotional commitment to the language itself that defines a group, incorporates members, and excludes outsiders. While this may have some measure of truth, it is not a very profitable line of inquiry.
Let us discard the more extreme whorf- like views, which hold that language conditions what can be said or thought in it. These are looked on with some skepticism by the linguists. They point out that while language can define the way one thinks to some degree, no language is such a prison as to prevent the expression of any given concept (Fishman, 1980:32-33).
Instead, consider the emotional meaning of language in instrumental terms, that is , in terms of the consequences in the speaker's life. The principle consequences of speaking a given language would be association with the group of speakers of that language. This association leads to a sense of identity as a speaker of that language, which in practice reduces to membership in the group of speakers. And membership means speaking the language. So what we have here is a loop from shared language to group membership to shared language.
The only way that more than mere circularity can be gotten out of this is to treat it as a feedback loop, that is, what Naroll calls servos and snowballs (Naroll, 1983:25-26). This constitutes an explanation for a group of phenomena which are intertwined with no prime mover or first cause. From the point of view of the individual, a small change in language leads to a small change in affiliation, which leads to additional change in language, and so on.
However, this still does not yield an unambiguous definition of emotion, which can be described in terms of specific causes. Learning a language, after all, does not put one under any particular obligation to use it.
Emotions are very like language. They are non- rational thought, thought that diverges from conscious reasoning. An emotional response is the response that you don't stop to think about, or rather that which you think about at a subconscious level. It is an animal- like response, in fact. So emotion and the kind of knowledge involved in parsing language have in common that they are both more immediate representations than conscious thought. That is, they are both closer to the level at which the brain actually manipulates data.
Now given that an emotion has in common with a lexicon element the quality of being subconscious and automatically popping up when required, what are the differences. A lexicon element is essentially subordinate in that it is something that some other mental process takes and uses. It does not really involve any action in and of itself. But an emotion, on the other hand is more of a reaction. To engage an emotion is to trigger a response of some kind. The salivation of Pavlov's dog is an example.
I propose to define emotion as an aspect of language, only one with direct connections to action and the related primitive basic drives of the reptilian brain. What is proposed is that, speaking in terms of generative grammar and semantics, some lexicon or database elements have hooks which trigger such reptilian responses. So, in these terms, investing one's emotions in some object means connecting the automatic responses of the brain to that subject, most likely in an indirect fashion. The main point is that the likelihood of such an automatic response being triggered is in some rough proportion to the number of different lexicon entries that are connected to the subject.
Language elements become available to the brain by a process of appropriation, or reconstruction. The process of reconstruction, as applied to language, involves taking a number of separate pieces of information, which are not explicable by themselves, but only as a group, and them bringing them into the consciousness so that they can all be operated on simultaneously. What is implicit in this reconstruction is that the bits of information must be learned so thoroughly that they can be brought up almost instinctively, without conscious thought. Given that there is a limit and a fairly low one to the number of nonmemorized things that a person can keep in his head, and given that making sense of such a group of chunks of information involves putting them together in different ways, jigsaw puzzle fashion, until they fit, then only a memorized fact can be fitted together, as it must be available when needed and the correct time to take it in cannot be determined a priori. So learning a language is learning instinctive non-actions, that is, instinctive responses which do not lead directly to action.
But emotions are just more of the same, except for the difference that they do lead to action. In the same way as with any other chunk of language, the information underlying emotion can be taken to be complexly intertangled, so that one must memorize it all in order for it to operate. And, correspondingly, it must be reworked to fit into the internal organization of the brain. So the appropriation of emotion is no more than a special case of the appropriation of language. The answer to the question of when people invest themselves, or their emotions, in something may be that they do so when they are obliged to reconstruct it in their minds by memorizing it.
Learning an emotion is learning an instinctive reaction. And that is interesting. Military training is full of the teaching of instinctive reactions. That is what drill is all about. But it is also the case that mere cognitive learning has emotional implications. The emotions are not a separate database, after all. What they are is a set of connections from the lexicon to various other parts of the brain tending toward action. Given that there is a chaining mechanism that ties the lexicon together, even cognitive understandings have the capacity to trigger emotional reactions.
Training And How Honor Is Inculcated.
If emotional training is a by-product of intellectual training, then we must look at military training in cognitive terms. There are a number of explanations of how cognitive- emotive transformation is effected, which should probably not be seen as mutually exclusive. What should be stressed is that they can feed from each other. That is, the mythology that is a part of a local knowledge approach (section ii.) defines the values that underly a right- stuff approach (section iii.), both of which depend on group membership (section i.) to initially establish themselves.
i. Communication and Group Membership.
The recruit's sense of who he is, and therefore who the unit is with respect to him, is changed by getting him to speak a new and different language, with the result that he becomes cut off from his past by a communication barrier.
As Ricoeur points out (Ricoeur, 1981:148), all speech arises out of shared understandings between speaker and listener, whereby the listener can reconstruct the actual message received into a fuller revised understanding. What permits two in-group members to conduct a meaningful conversation in single words and grunts is the fact that they already share almost all the understandings that they collectively possess. But when two people who do not belong to the same group are communicating, then there must be more expansion and clarification. One must consider the possibility that the relative inefficiency of communication with outsiders is the thing that creates and maintains a gap of intimacy and belongingness, e.g. the irritation of making an unthinking remark, only to find that one must now, on penalty of being thought rude, deliver an extended lecture of exegesis in order to make that remark comprehensible.
Training creates commitment by disruption of the normal flow of communication between the recruit and his previous associates, cutting out a member of the larger community and attaching him to a new group.
This is possible because humans are changing all the time. They maintain stable social relationships by teaching each other enough about their new activities and modes of thought so that the other can make allowances and accommodations. Indeed, in a particularly intense situation at work, say, they use their outside friends and relations as lightning rods to talk out the things that, if said to their workmates, would be disruptive.
If the recruit can merely be kept from, in this manner, reconnecting his social ties to outsiders, with the coming to terms with changes that this implies, then he will diverge. Now, if the recruit went home every night, he would promptly spill out to uninvolved friends and relatives, all the strains and tensions implicit in the training. At the end, the folk back home would be people who he could still talk to about things. But instead, he is kept apart until the process has had time to jell, that is, until there is such a backlog of uncommunicated explanations that the recruit cannot talk frankly about his emotional reactions to a situation, because that would require the listener to have some understanding of the practical factors involved. The listener does not have such understanding, so the recruit will return a non- committal answer.
To put this in concrete terms, consider a paratroop trainee, in a situation where there have been a series of training accidents in the unit. He is fearful, granted, but can that be communicated to his former associates? Now, fear in the abstract may be comprehensible, but this is not fear in the abstract. It is fear of concrete details, fear that the parachute packer may have put the parachute together in the wrong sequence, with the result that it will not open properly. Or it is fear that abrupt eddies of the wind may slam him into the ground at bone- breaking speeds. If our recruit wanted to explain his reservations about the parachute packer's work to a boyhood friend, he would most likely need to draw diagrams. Under the circumstances, it is much simpler to pretend to be something simpler and less ambivalent which can be explained without recourse to drawings. So given the choice between playing arrant coward and Hollywood hero, the recruit naturally plays Hollywood hero. And so the relationship becomes complicated by a lie. And the strain of keeping it going increases correspondingly.
But he can share his fears with other paratroopers, who share his understanding of parachute anatomy.
There are other factors besides physical isolation that enhance the separation of the recruit from his past.
Consider the effects of depersonalization in training. As Victor Turner points out, the depersonalization of an initiation serves to disconnect the neophyte from his past, as he does not have to react in terms of his previous role (Turner, 1967:101). One could state it alternatively that he is not allowed to so react. Donald Duncan describes the depersonalization involved in United States Army basic training as a process of removing, by means of the lack of privacy and by imposed social relationships, the trainee's idiosyncracies, values included, with a view to replacing them with military values (Duncan, 1967:97-99).
Now J. Glen Gray's position that that troops fight as units and not as individuals (Gray, 1959:44), which implies that the core of fighting spirit is group solidarity, means that what training must do is to detach the recruit from the civil society and connect him into the military one. Anything that the soldier has, which is considered important, and which the civilian does not have, serves to define the civilian as an inferior person, with whom relations must necessarily be less intimate. The effect of ostensibly agreeing, with however much mental reservation, that, say, nonparatroopers are 'legs' and not to be associated with (Duncan, 1967:118) is that the newly-initiated paratrooper will begin to spend most of his time with other paratroopers. Thus, this formal caste- like regulation will start to redefine his social universe.
Secrecy heightens this effect, as it constructs a further barrier to communication with former associates. It is probably not important whether the secrecy is due to tribal taboo or the regulations governing classified information. The effect is the same. The only people with whom the thing can be talked about are others with similar rights of access to the information in question.
The military, being a sub- culture apart, exhibits this to a greater degree than most, but all occupations have these kinds of linguistic problems to some degree. Here is a curious case of this in connection with railroading. In railroad parlance, the term "dead" means that the man is, in accordance with the union work rules, not available for further work at that time. So it once happened that a wife, who did not understand this usage, had occasion to call the dispatcher to find out when her husband would be home. He said that the man was "dead" over in such and such a yard, and the wife, misunderstanding him, became hysterical, and various confusion followed (Scholl, 1987). One probable result of this would have been that the dispatcher would have learned not to elaborate on the information he gave wives who called in, thus increasing the degree of noncomprehension.
What this implies is that once the recruit is physically incorporated into the unit, commitment to it would seem to follow more or less automatically, if, as Naroll claims, there is a more more or less innate need to belong to some group (Naroll, 1983:131). For, as we have seen, the only available group is the unit. And a change of affiliation means a change of reference group. Now, since the reference group can be changed in a straightforward manner, then we deal not with some arcane force that compels alien behavior, but only with the relatively ordinary forces that bind a moral group together.
What emerges from this is that emotional commitment is essentially a byproduct of cognitive commitment, in this case, the kinds of knowledge that one needs to function as part of a group. In these terms, that is , of communicative efficiency, Turner would be wrong in that it is not so much freedom from the previous role as the lack of freedom to rely on the supports of the previous role which is the essence of a rite- de- passage. Support took the form of a pre-existing identity, consisting of a reference group and a language which could be spoken with the reference group. The individual was never trapped by his previous role in the sense that he could not do things outside of it. For example, he was always free to talk gibberish, but then he would not have been understood, and therefore there was no incentive to do so.
ii. Local History.
The extent to which a soldier can have a sense of place, of what tradition demands of him, is dependent on the unit`s sense of itself. This means that the unit must possess history. The meaning of group history is that it defines those intellectually-held understandings which link up to emotion. In this connection, Geertz points out that an ideological abstraction is made real by '...clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic'(Geertz, 1973:90). Or, in other words, the credibility of the unit's claim to expect something of its members is a function of the sheer weight of historical example that it can bring to bear to convince the recruit that it is normal and natural to do such and such a thing. That being so, unit performance will tend to vary as a function of the quality of the locally-prevailing group history.
Unit history is of variable quality in that some units have a lot of history and some do not. Further, in some units, the history is inauthentic in that it is purely book history, having no connections to oral tradition. This is because the policy of rotation means that there is almost nobody around the unit who has been there for any length of time. The most extreme case is that some units have no history at all, as they are regularly formed and disbanded in the name of administrative efficiency.
Now, the issue of historicity can be said to exist on two time scales. And in both of them, the issue is the same, that authenticity arises out of social stability.
The first time scale is the short one, that of the memory of man. Depending on circumstances, this can be anything up to forty years. Here, authenticity is a matter of the history expressing the experience of the tribal elders. History is inauthentic if it does not represent their own experience. While this history may be dredged up and put in a book, it is still inauthentic in that it does not belong in a personal way to any of the cadres who instruct the troops in it. Some of them have history, but it is personal and private, and does not lend itself to being shared, for it deals with the cadre's experiences in a different social milieu, doing different things, which the trainees cannot expect to do in their turn. In fact large sections of it are assertions of the natural superiority of the members of a group which again, the trainee is not going to belong to. Under the circumstances, the cadre has to suppress such memories as he does have, in order to have some kind of common ground with his trainees.
But what about the other time scale, that beyond the memory of man. For example, what authenticity have the legends of a battle like Waterloo or Saratoga, so long ago that nobody alive today participated in it, or even ever spoke to someone who had? At this remove, the historically-spurious character of a legend is probably irrelevant. Just as most of the Scottish tartans have no authentic linkage to old, tribal, Scotland, being Victorian inventions (Prebble, 1962:48), some unit lineages are fictitious, to a degree, in that there were substantial periods of time in which no such unit existed. For, example, the U. S. Army Rangers, whose first battalion was raised in 1942 and trained by the English Commandos, may claim a tie back to Robert Rogers and the French and Indian war (Eshel, 1984:35), but the whole thing was in abeyance, until the novelist, Kenneth Roberts, excavated it, in the novel Northwest Passage and the subsequent film of that name, released in 1940 (Maltin, 1986:696). But this is utterly beyond the experience of the ordinary enlisted man who is the primary recipient of such mythology. From his point of view, the unit history is as authentic as one that would satisfy a historian. When it ceases to be authentic is when the cadres have rotated in from somewhere else and have not had time to learn it and become comfortable with it themselves. That being the case, they cannot use it for instructional purposes with any degree of conviction.
So the smallest group that can support a viable system of local history is what one might call an endo- rotation group, that is, a group which does not systematically exchange members, via rotation, with other groups. And what can be shared is only that which is common to them all. What this means is that a large endo- rotation group has access to only a very small portion of its combined past.
But there are no pure cases. Even in an army, such as the United States Army, which is committed to efficient utilization of skills, and the consequent rotation, there are still some pockets in which such local history flourishes, paradoxically because of the pressure to make good utilization of skills. If the skill is particular to the unit, then transfers out of the unit are discouraged. This is especially the case in aviation. A pilot is qualified in a particular aircraft, and can only be transferred among the small number of squadrons (or equivalent unit) which fly that particular aircraft. The result is that a transfer does not take a man into a group of strangers, but rather brings him up against old friends, friends of friends, and so on. For example, when the helicopter pilot, Robert Mason, transferred to a new unit, he did not leave his connections behind. There was a man already there who had gone through flight school with him (Mason, 1983:393), and soon another man from Mason's old unit turned up (Mason, 1983:399). All this was through the operation of chance, given the fact that there were so few places that a man with those qualifications could be sent. In the same way, Mason had a firm grasp of the tradition of airmobility, because he was, at the start of his tour, copilot (read apprentice) to a pilot who had flown a glider in World War II (Mason, 1983:58-59).
Of course, the need for history may make it flower even under unlikely conditions. Even under rotation conditions, there are some elements of continuity. Moskos gives an intriguing example of the foreign employees of the United States Army, such as the barracks' housekeeping staff, who, in overseas stations, are jointly hired by the troops and paid out of a fund raised by pay deductions. Since they stay, while troops come and go, these latter day Gunga Dins become highly committed to the unit, tagging along with it on operations, and serving as the bearers of tradition (Moskos, 1970:87).
iii. The Right Stuff and Folding In On Oneself
Another level at which the unit can maintain a sense of itself is at the level of what it is, rather than what it was, or who it is. This is done through a retreat from the culture of the outside society. This is, of course, related to the whole problem that a modern army is a minority institution, and has all the usual problems in defining its identity apart from the larger society.
At the macro- level, Deagle (1973:167) contends that the American military has the possibility of maintaining its identity by retreat from the civilian sector, that is, by narrowing down its scope and concerns to the point where civilians tune out.
In the same way, at the individual level, an army can maintain a sense of identity by the cultivation of an attractive center, remote from the larger society.
A common type of such a center is the learning of some esoteric military art, such as parachuting. Aran, writing about Israeli paratroops, describes a tendency towards not one but a series of higher and higher forms of initiation (Aran, 1974:149). I think that what this means is that the normal state becomes not a state of initiatedness, but rather a state of perpetual neophytecy, which is to say a pursuit of what Tom Wolfe calls 'the right stuff', that mixture of personal bravery and competence which consists in the ability to do dangerous things without suffering injury (Wolfe, 1979:24). Aran makes the point that in the face of declining utility of parachuting, the Israeli army makes every effort to get as many people involved in parachuting as possible, dealing with the inevitable debasement of ideological currency by creating progressively higher forms of parachuting (Aran, 1974:148-49). As Wolfe puts it, referring to American military aviators:
"A career in flying was like climbing one of those ancient Babylonian pyramids made up of a dizzy progression of steps and ledges, a ziggurat, a pyramid extraordinarily high and steep; and the idea was to prove at every foot of the way up that pyramid that you were one of the elected and anointed ones who had the right stuff and could move higher and higher and even - ultimately, God willing, one day- that you might be able to join that special few at the very top, that elite who had the capacity to bring tears to men's eyes, the very Brotherhood of the Right Stuff itself." (Wolfe, 1979:24)
So how does this state of perpetual neophytecy relate to the conditioning of emotions? It implies that the emotions are under perpetual reconstruction, that there is not a stasis at the end of training.
The pursuit of the right stuff means that the trainee's attention is not merely concentrated on the group he finds himself in, but rather on the center of that group. That is, he derives his norms not from the average members of the group, but from those few who embody the center. In parachuting, this means the jumpmaster. In basic training it would mean the cadres. And later, after formal training has ended, this center is represented by the older NCO who is a veteran of the battles that the unit celebrates. The effect is that it prevents the formation of a stable subculture of non- commitment. The extent to which a short training period can remap a man's emotions is limited. Given that he is in contact with others like himself, there is the possibility that they could pool their previous experiences to produce a culture which has little room for military values or sergeants. It is only by keeping the soldier in more or less perpetual training that the army can avoid its influence being swamped by the weight of twenty years or so of accumulated experience.
But an army can maintain its ability to influence the recruit without interference from the larger society by the cultivation of esoterica, of secret cults and so on. These are alternatives to the kind of massive control that would be needed otherwise, and which would bring civilian interference and dilution. Consider the effect of the Second World War on the authority of cadres in the United States Army. The extension of military authority to large numbers of people brought a postwar reaction in the form of various measures limiting the powers of officers and NCO's (Fehrenbach, 1963:34,458-65). So it can be seen that there is a premium on methods of inculcating values that do not rely heavily on coercive authority.
So, we see that training involves cognitive and cognitive- emotive learning, both of which mean appropriation, as a mechanism for changing and forming the values of recruits. That is, these values are essential intellectual with emotional correlates, and the emotions are cultivated by learning the non- emotional components that go with them. But appropriation itself is not a simple pouring in of information, but rather a complex interaction between the subject and the learner. That is the theme of the next chapter.
Sapir, Authenticity, And Diversity.
When a person appropriates something, he puts part of himself into it, and in so doing transforms it. Different people transform the idea in different directions. And this is useful because it explains the diversity of kinds of honor. For this is a recurrent problem: the existence of a community of diverse norms, which are somehow reconciled and linked to each other.
i. Authentic Culture, Appropriation, and Diversity
Edward Sapir, in Culture, Genuine and Spurious, defines culture not as the totality of patterned behavior but as an essence that is characteristic of a particular culture. Genuineness is the quality of logical consistency (Sapir, 1961:90), of almost all activity being meaningful in terms of the higher values. Sapir recognizes two kinds: that of an individual and that of a larger group (Sapir, 1961:89).
And they must, if the culture is genuine, be integrated in that the first must be the second on the level of the individual. That is, the individual must find emotional expression in the acts required to satisfy the group's higher ends (Sapir, 1961:90-93). In conditions of economic fragmentation, the immediate ends become means toward ultimate ends, which serve as a sort of escape hatch, and are conventionally defined to be the real essence of the culture (Sapir, 1961:99). Genuine culture must be such that everyone is able to participate in it, or as Ricoeur would put it, appropriate it. That is, if there are a large body of passive consumers, it would be spurious (Sapir, 1961:102-103).
One useful aspect of this is that it helps to explain situations where a culture has, instead of one set of values, congeries of sets of values, with a certain thread tying them together.
Now, as stated, an authentic culture involves mass participation, and further, participation involves what Sapir calls ' remodeling of [by] individuals willing to put some part of themselves into the forms they receive from their predecessors' (Sapir, 1961:102). This would be Paul Ricoeur's 'Appropriation' (Ricoeur, 1981:185), which one might define as a process of reconstruction from limited echoes. But this reconstruction in each individual's mind must proceed from that which is already there, so the result is that an authentic piece of culture has necessarily different manifestations in the minds of different individuals.
ii. Appropriation of Honor
So, if we apply Sapir's definition of genuine and spurious culture to honor, there would therefore be a distinction between authentic honor and spurious honor. Further, genuine honor would have to be a diverse plant, on account of the need to let everyone make their own. Hence the divergences on what constitutes honor might not be indicative of a split into two cultures, but merely an expression of the range of one culture.
In view of this, great differences can exist in what behavior is covered by the concept of honor, without these diverging values being incompatible. There are, in a typical modern army, two major views of honor. One is characteristic of enlisted men and holds that honor has little to do with the stricter varieties of financial probity, but more to do with the willingness to fight on almost any provocation. The other, perhaps associated with Janowitz's career officer, tends to define financial probity as an integral part of honor, but is less concerned with willingness to fight for no substantive reason.
These two different groups come from different social classes within the modern nation. The difference in the nature of the two differing ideas of honor can be accounted for in terms of the different values prevailing in the different subcultures. They grow out of existing class norms of conduct. But one must remember that these differing class norms were not called honor on their home ground. It was only after the bearers of the class norms got into the military that they redefined them as part of the military norm of honor. That is to say that they started with the core definition of honor, and then, using elements from their pre- existing moral structure, built up an elaborated notion of honor.
Officers hold to a stricter code of financial uprightness than enlisted men. This is simply the local manifestation of middle- class attitudes.
Now, outside of a slum, there are few subcultures so Hobbesian that theft from a neighbor is acceptable. And certainly barracks-room theft was all but unheard of until the sixties, when drugs became widespread (Walton, 1973:94). (One must also consider the possibility that the theft and the drugs were both consequences of the army becoming less selective with the Vietnam war and the subsequent end of the draft.) But there is a much wider degree of variation in attitudes towards lesser forms of dishonesty or illegality.
The traditional West Pointer tends to be concerned not merely with whether an action actually constitutes theft, fraud or whatever, but also with whether it involves an undignified scramble for money (Janowitz, 1960:219). This also could be considered as largely a product of the officer's premilitary origins. It could be seen as part of a pattern of upper- and middle-class rejection of the money ethic.
The enlisted man is much more casual about the ways in which he makes money. And again, this is an outgrowth of the society he came from, For example, the archetypical redneck NCO of the thirties to fifties came from a society, the rural south, where prohibition and moonshining were venerable and coexisting traditions.
There are demands of honor which are distinctively enlisted, and hence working class. One important one is willingness to fight for its own sake.
Consider the tradition of the better sort of NCO's willingness to take his stripes off, that is to participate in what amounts to a duel limited to fists. The man signifies his acceptance of a challenge by removing the jacket or shirt bearing the insignia of rank. Thus, his antagonist does not have to show disrespect to the symbol of authority. Now, of course all this is clean against regulations, and for that matter, regulations define even threatening an NCO as a grave offense. So honor among enlisted men has certain similarities to the schoolboy code in that the loser is agreed to have fallen down the stairs or something of that nature. Now this is an outgrowth of the values of the working class, from whence the NCO comes. There are intriguing parallels in the standards of willingness to fight among such groups as the Portland longshoremen (Pilcher, 1972:26-30). When these people go into the military, they naturally take that ethic with them, and redefine honor to include it.
It should be stressed that this taking off of stripes is not mere pugnacity. If a private physically attacks a NCO, all the NCO need do is invoke the appropriate article of war and let the system of military justice take care of his attacker. And it will take care of the offender with great force, because striking a superior is the last stop before out-and-out mutiny. And further, a NCO's powers give him great scope, if he likes, to goad a private into making himself liable for such an offence. Unless he informally rewrites the rules to that end, it is impossible for a NCO to ultimately lose a confrontation with a mere private. So it is precisely in rewriting those rules that a NCO can display honor.
By contrast, the upper and middle classes, the source of professional officers, have not approved of such casual brawling by grown men (although there is a traditional exception for boys) since Aaron Burr's time. And this is carried over into the values that their military members use to make an idea of honor.
And these differing codes of behavior are linked in that each group displays at least covert tolerance for the operation of the other group's set of standards. That is, they allow the other group to maintain its own standards, and sanction offenders, without interfering.
It would be a somewhat naive officer who was not aware that his enlisted men were settling matters with their fists according to the time-honored custom. Convention, however dictates that officers normally turn a blind eye while the enlisted men live up to their own standard. But this is not the standard prevailing among officers themselves. Even among so combative a subgroup as airborne officers, a punch- up rapidly escalates to the filing of charges, as in the instance given by Anthony Herbert (Herbert, 1973:94).
Even the career officer's financial righteousness is somewhat abridged in this accommodation. There is an old tradition of the scrounger, an NCO who acquires, by means unknown and best not asked, whatever the unit stands in need of. The point is that proper officers tolerate him, and even go so far as to point out to him what is required.
iii. Limits of Honor.
But there are limits to what is included in honor. It is not merely an open-ended, define-your-own affair. This may be observed in the case of the mementoes of exposure to danger, that is wounds and analogous phenomena.
There is a strange relationship between honor and wounding, Take the case of the English commando leader, 'Popski,'(Vladimir Peniakoff, commander of a unit officially named 'Popski's Private Army'), who, writing about having his hand shot off, carries on as if he had received stigmata, or had seen the grail. about how he had always wanted to be wounded, etc. (Peniakoff, 1950:360- 61). And this outlook is further displayed by collecting trophies of one's own wounding.
There is the example of Col. George S. Patton III, who, during the Vietnam war, was noted for going out to deliberately draw fire, and if John Stevens Berry is to be believed, was revered for his bravery. When wounded, Patton saved the bloodied tunic as a souvenir. And in him, it was regarded as an appropriate gesture (Berry, 1984:50). But this is not so much an indication of a general and systematic reverence for Purple Hearts. Getting winged was, after all, a statistically-frequent occurence, and in that war, at least, was not all that exalted. What made Patton different was that it was known that he had gotten his wound by actively going out and looking for it when his rank exempted him from all necessity of doing so.
But, if the point of such wounding is that it constitutes evidence of the courting of danger, then other such tokens will have a similar significance. A piece of metal with a bullet hole in it may prove the same thing as a minor wound. So one cannot draw a simple blood/metal dichotomy.
In the light of this, consider the case given by Robert Mason. Mason was a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, and in his trade, getting rounds through the machine was an everyday occurence. (Since the rounds were merely small arms ammunition, and at extreme range, and since pilot and copilot had helmet, armored seat [Mason, 1983:67] and chest protector [Mason, 1983:402], these were not unduly dangerous). Now, one of Mason's comrades, known as 'Stoopy' Stodart, presumably for his resemblance to the Disney character, took a round through the tail-roter drive shaft. He got home all right, the bullet hole not being sufficiently large to cause the shaft to fail. And the mechanics, when they found the damage, naturally scrapped the thing. But Stodart claimed the scrapped drive shaft and made arrangements to ship it home (Mason, 1983:407). This was seen as part of a pattern of childishness, which, together with poor piloting skills, resulted in Stodart being unloaded onto a rear area unit at the first opportunity (Mason, 1983:453-54).
Now, considered by the standards of an infantryman, Stodart had not been playing it safe, or anything like that. And, in other contexts, getting rounds through the aircraft might have been authentic in the sense that it would constitute an indicator of real relative valor. And, correspondingly, the keeping of the shaft as a souvenir might be approved. What made Stodart's behavior laughable was that, considered in terms of the local reference group, the risk was not sufficiently great to be conspicuous.
Mason does give an example of what was considered really commendable. Another of his comrades was mortally wounded by ground fire at the same time as his engine was put out of order. As he died, in his last few moments, he managed to set the controls up for autorotation, the helicopter analog of glide in an airplane, followed by a controlled crash analogous to a three point landing, which is the safe way to land following an engine failure (Mason, 1983:278).
The point is that in that milieu, what was required to command respect was something approaching kami-kaze-dom.
iv. Pilot Honor as Pidginization.
As a further complication, consider what happens when the two different bodies of norms come to be merged in one man. This is what happens in the case of aircrew.
Pilots are perhaps a curious case, not fitting into any of the normal categories. They aren't really officers, and they aren't enlisted men, although their official grade can range anywhere from sergeant up to perhaps as high as brigadier general in extreme cases. They are elite warriors, who are neither 'grunts' or 'dogfaces' on the one hand or leaders (which is to say real officers) on the other. The pilot is a survival of the medieval knight or man-at-arms.
What this means is that he disposes of very great fighting power without leading anyone, or having any need for 'leadership qualities.' An aviation unit does have enlisted men, but the pilots do not direct or lead them. There are non-flying officers for that. The number of authentic enlisted men who form part of flight crews is quite small, almost never more than the number of man-at-arms type aircrew, and the number of low-ranking enlisted flight crew is smaller still. So the relation of the pilot to the enlisted man is that of a customer to the enlisted man's boss.
Pilots are an extremely mixed group. The standards of sheer physical competence mean that air forces commonly recruit for aircrew with relatively little concern for social background. At the same time, flying has always had very great snob appeal. Pilots do not live very long, but they do not squirm through mud. This has perhaps induced the better class of people, who were not always natural pilots, to work unreasonably hard to make up for their lack of aptitude. Or, alternatively, some of them learned to fly on their own time and at their own expense, thus presenting the military with a fait acompli. With this sort of drastic class mixing, pilots' norms are correspondingly confused. Aristocrats are juxtaposed with Barry Lyddon-style rascals. A member of an old service family, the nobility of an army, with very strict notions about taking money from anyone except the government may be found side by side with a ranker whose attitude is far more casual.
If culture is language, than perhaps pilot culture should be thought of as a sort of pidgin or jargon. Now, a pidgin or jargon is what happens when two or more languages are thrown into contact. It includes such things as grammar simplification and whatever is needed to permit communication on the me-tarzan-you- jane level. So let's consider an ethical pidgin. When two different groups of people with two different notions of how to behave are thrown together, what determines whose ways are used? If they pursue common ground, as in the linguistic case, that would work out to sanctioning everything that they are not agreed in proscribing. As a result, the standard of financial probity would be set low enough that everyone could accept it. The brawling is a bit more complex, since we have to determine just what it is that is prohibited or not prohibited.
Some idea of how far diminished fiscal probity could go is illustrated by the incident, recounted by Mason, in which the commander of his aviation company, a West Point graduate, personally organized and led the helicopter-borne burglary of a civilian contractor's storeyard, with a view to obtaining his unit an ice- making machine (Mason, 1983:398-99.) An awful lot of those sorts of scams are concerned with ice, which makes hot weather in the outdoors bearable. Regardless of what the high command says, a unit will make all possible efforts to keep itself supplied with ice.
As stated, willingness to fight may not be a simple norm, a surface characteristic, but rather the interaction of a number of norms. That is, the consistant patterns of conduct may be at the level of deep structure. What may be prohibited in the case of brawling is physical cowardice. Take as a hypothesis that it is, in both groups, permissible and even required to deck anyone who comes at you with sufficient determination. If that is the case, then proper officers don't brawl because they don't go at each other in the first place. They are expected to know their limit and not to get fighting drunk in the first place. But suppose that they are merged into a group where brawling is the norm. They will promptly find themselves in situations in which there is no retreat from a brawl, since the whole group does not agree that drunkenly going at someone is objectionable and will therefore not sanction that behavior. But the whole group does agree that cowardice is unacceptable.
I consulted with Profs. David Milton and Vallon L. Burris of the Sociology Department, and Maj. Russel W. Peacock of the ROTC detachment, University of Oregon, and am grateful for their time and help. Suggestions for sources were furnished by Ms. Angel Dawson, Prof. Vernon R. Dorjahn, and Prof. Aletta A. Biersack, all of the Anthropology Department, University of Oregon. In addition to my advisor, Prof. Richard P. Chaney, Anthropology Department, University of Oregon, the paper was also read and commented on by Prof. William L. Todd, Philosophy Department, University of Cincinnati, and Mr. Jim Richards. Also, I must thank Mr. Paul A. Frantz of the University of Oregon library for aid in conducting a computerized literature search and Ms. Elizabeth C. Lyon for proofreading.
2. Note on the Relation Between Battlefield and Nonbattlefield Displays of Honor.
In this paper, I do not limit myself to the combat dimensions of honor, that is, those that manifest themselves in battle.
It may be falsely argued that the noncombat display of honor is peripheral to the real business of battle, but that is not the case. It is perhaps a paradox that armies are formed in years of peace and phony war for use in days or weeks of actual fighting. For that reason, the conditions of training may be as important as the actual battlefield. While a war may last for a longer period of time, the actual period of active participation of an individual or small group is rather short. An individual or small group is apt to spend most of the war being trained, and then kept waiting until sufficient reserves can be built up for the battle. So, while the experience of actual battle is supremely important, out of all proportion to the length of time it takes, that does not mean that the preparation for battle is correspondingly unimportant. Much of the battle's importance derives from being the focus of the preparation, and is thus derived from the importance of that preparation.
People believe that the the display of honor in combat and in barracks are linked and they use the more accessible noncombat display of honor as a means of making judgments about behavior in combat in the absence of the real thing. Now, it may be that in some cases, there is in fact no connection between the two sets of behaviors, but in that case, what happens is that people are baffled. When they meet someone who cannot be fitted into any of their moral categories, they simply do not know how to behave with respect to him. Since the actor himself shares this world- view, he is unlikely to depart too far from it if he can avoid it. That is, he decides what he is and seeks to be that consistently. So the belief is in the nature of a self- fulfilling prophecy.
One problem about the battlefield display of honor is that it tends to be what Clifford Geertz would call a mood, and therefore a scalar quantity.
Geertz, in Religion as a Cultural System, makes a distinction between motivation and mood. Motivation is the longstanding predisposition, and mood is the momentary instanciation of motivation. He stresses that mood is a scalar quantity, without direction, whereas motivation is vectorial (Geertz, 1973:97). In these terms, a sense of honor is a motivation, but an act of bravery is a mood. What this means is that the act is a mere reflection, albeit recurrent, of the underlying motivation, and since the many dimensions of motivation are mapped into the single dimension of intensity of mood and hence of act, the different motivations become indistinguishable in terms of their moods and acts. For this reason, what happens on the actual battlefield is apt to be less than a clear expression of any given motivation.
This becomes apparent when one deals with the subject of medals. Medals are generally awarded for specific acts of valor, and are not necessarily indicative of sustained behavior. Only sustained behavior of some kind is reasonably sure to be indicative of sustained behavior. One problem is that the moment's act referred to was the instanciation of some motivation--but which one? It may be a reliable indication that the recipient will do what the medal was given for. But that is often not what his fellows want to know. A medal may be relevant- or it may not.
Medals are not given for the consistent keeping of one's word, per se, which can find expression in the gentlemanly code of honor of the officer, or in the differing but analogous code of the NCO, or in the more universal principle of not abandoning a comrade who has become an encumbrance. And that is what they want to know about. Now medals are sometimes given for heroic acts of rescue, for dragging a wounded man to safety under fire or the like, but the medal does not inherently mean that.
It may mean something else. And whether a man won a medal for personaly killing a large number of the enemy, capturing a position, or the like does not indicate how far he will carry a stretcher case. Sometimes, the act rewarded by a medal consists of an act which, even though it did expose the recipient to additional risk, was reasonably calculated to insure self- preservation in the sense that it leads to the survival of the whole unit, whereas failure to do so would have lead to the destruction of the whole unit, the hero included. This applies especialy in those kinds of war in which prisoners are not taken. The hero's action is in contrast to those who just stood or sat there in a catatonic state, unable to react, even though their lives depended on reacting. What is being honored in this case is the quality of retaining the ability to think clearly when everyone else has become irrational with fear, pain, or whatever.
Consider the award of the Congressional Medal of Honor to the captain of the U.S.S. Liberty, the spy ship which was attacked by the Israelis during the Six-Day War. The citation, quoted by Ennes, refers to his having continued to do his job, seeing to the safety of the ship, under fire and after having been 'severely wounded' (Ennes, 1979:327). That is to say, he carried on as normal under profoundly abnormal conditions which would have reduced an ordinary man to traumatized inaction. But at the same time, and without minimizing his valor, the captain was acting in a rational manner. If Liberty had been lost, everyone, or at least those who managed to get out at all, would have found themselves in the water. Precisely because the captain was wounded, his chances in that event would have been poor. Survival might have depended on the ability to swim, which would not have favored a man who was remaining conscious by sheer force of will. And wounded men in the sea tend to attract sharks.
For the purpose of determining whether the man is to be relied on, the experience of a long period of garrison duty may be more useful. One thing that troops need to be sure of is that their leader does not regard them as pawns. Hertling puts it thus:
'Our profession demands a "social contract" between the leader and the soldiers who are led. Soldiers certainly understand this contract- stated simply, the leader must never use soldiers for personal gain' (Hertling, 1987:22).
That a leader went for years and years in peacetime without succumbing to the temptation to make money out of his troops is strong proof that he will not see their casualties as the means by which to cover himself with glory.
Another problem is that battlefield experiences of very short duration and the behavior related with them do not always relate consistently to the deep motivation of the individual. While the notions of honor held in garrison have extensive reference to the battlefield, when they are exposed to combat, they may break down.
In fact, in some wars and some armies, the basic minimum expressions of honor, those of physical courage, may degenerate in combat. For example, consider Moskos' The American Enlisted Man. Admittedly, it deals with the special case of the Vietnam- era United States Army, but while Moskos recognizes the notion of honor, he locates it in those troops who have not yet been exposed to combat (Moskos, 1970:154). During the Vietnam War, troops with battle experience took a more cynical view, with minimal commitment to the others. He describes how the man on point duty would display carelessness in order not to be put there regularly (Moskos, 1970:145). This is rather analogous to the measures that men take back in garrison to avoid KP (Moskos, 1970:67). So one might view the lack of mutual commitment of troops as not merely a battlefield phenomena, but rather, an extension of covert attitudes that had formed in garrison.
But, while a man who evaded KP could maintain his illusions about his own bravery, when he applied the same tendencies (eg. a predilection for using slow- down strikes and cultivating organizational connections in order to be removed from consideration for disagreeable duty) to combat, he would be forced to surrender those illusions.
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