Sharing a special education

There is such a big difference in the attitudes and assumptions of the younger people I work with, as compared to the older generation.

It’s not simply a question of optimism versus cynicism, although that concept seems to help younger people dismiss the opinions of the older generation as being somehow less worthy of consideration.

It seems to me to be more about expectations of entitlement… of what is owed to people by the country and the government, in exchange for a certain level of effort… or lack thereof.

I think a large part of why I just don’t mentally connect with a lot of what I see in the attitudes around me, is that I was fortunate enough to join the US Marines, and that there is a world of difference in the expectations for those in the service.

It’s an entirely different culture.

Once you are in the service, you are no longer a civilian, and you are no longer permitted to go succeed or fail on your own, affecting no one but your own sorry ass.

You are not a free member of society.

Your ass belongs to the Corps, and you are expected to accept responsibility for your actions, perform your duty to the utmost of your personal ability, to succeed at all costs, and get the job done.

You are expected to use your personal initiative to see what needs to be done, and then go do it.

And if you do not rise to meet these minimum expectations, you won’t go very far. And there are many, many words for those that fail to rise to the challenge.

This attitude is inculcated in boot camp, it is reinforced by your superiors, and it is explored in detail in the education materials and examples provided to you.

As an example of the educational materials you are expected to learn from, I’d like to let you know that there is a required reading list for US Marines. It has changed a great deal from the time I was in, thats’ for sure. 

At the beginning, it wasn’t just a list of what you might expect, non-fiction textbooks and such.

Among other books on the lowest ranking rungs of the list were certain science fiction and fictionalized novels, such as Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein, and The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, just as a few examples you may be familiar with.

I see that the newest list, which has changed with every Commandant, omits Starship Troopers and The Killer Angels. That makes me very sad. I find it odd that Ender’s Game made it but The Killer Angels got cut, but since they reduced the size of the list to 5 official books per rank, I guess I should just be glad they kept one sci-fi title.

One of the books that was on the list when I was in, and still remains, is a work that is not really a book. It’s a short essay.

It’s called A Message to Garcia, written and published by Elbert Hubbard in 1899.

A Message to Garcia was an essay written 109 years ago, and it refers to events that happened at the start of the Spanish-American War. 

But the heart of the essay… well, let’s just say that it’s message, in all it’s cranky glory, seems obvious, but does anyone ever remember hearing anything even remotely like it taught in a public school?

Why are subjects such as arithmetic and geography considered to be of greater importance to teach than initiative, determination, and commitment?

I think that, all things considered, today is a fine day to share the essay with all of you. For my friends in the service, it is a warm reminder of an attitude we know all too well.

For my civilian friends born and bred, perhaps reading it will help you to understand the core of why sometimes I and others like me can get so incredibly cranky about some things.

And then again, perhaps not.

A Message to Garcia

By Elbert Hubbard

In all this Cuban business there is one man stands out on the horizon of my memory like Mars at perihelion. When war broke out between Spain & the United States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain vastness of Cuba- no one knew where. No mail nor telegraph message could reach him. The President must secure his cooperation, and quickly.

What to do!

Some one said to the President, “There’s a fellow by the name of Rowan will find Garcia for you, if anybody can.”

Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How “the fellow by the name of Rowan” took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, & in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and delivered his letter to Garcia, are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail.

The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, “Where is he at?” By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing- “Carry a message to Garcia!”

General Garcia is dead now, but there are other Garcias.

No man, who has endeavored to carry out an enterprise where many hands were needed, but has been well nigh appalled at times by the imbecility of the average man- the inability or unwillingness to concentrate on a thing and do it. Slip-shod assistance, foolish inattention, dowdy indifference, & half-hearted work seem the rule; and no man succeeds, unless by hook or crook, or threat, he forces or bribes other men to assist him; or mayhap, God in His goodness performs a miracle, & sends him an Angel of Light for an assistant. You, reader, put this matter to a test: You are sitting now in your office- six clerks are within call.

Summon any one and make this request: “Please look in the encyclopedia and make a brief memorandum for me concerning the life of Correggio”.

Will the clerk quietly say, “Yes, sir,” and go do the task?

On your life, he will not. He will look at you out of a fishy eye and ask one or more of the following questions:

Who was he?

Which encyclopedia?

Where is the encyclopedia?

Was I hired for that?

Don’t you mean Bismarck?

What’s the matter with Charlie doing it?

Is he dead?

Is there any hurry?

Shan’t I bring you the book and let you look it up yourself?

What do you want to know for?

And I will lay you ten to one that after you have answered the questions, and explained how to find the information, and why you want it, the clerk will go off and get one of the other clerks to help him try to find Garcia- and then come back and tell you there is no such man. Of course I may lose my bet, but according to the Law of Average, I will not.

Now if you are wise you will not bother to explain to your “assistant” that Correggio is indexed under the C’s, not in the K’s, but you will smile sweetly and say, “Never mind,” and go look it up yourself.

And this incapacity for independent action, this moral stupidity, this infirmity of the will, this unwillingness to cheerfully catch hold and lift, are the things that put pure Socialism so far into the future. If men will not act for themselves, what will they do when the benefit of their effort is for all? A first-mate with knotted club seems necessary; and the dread of getting “the bounce” Saturday night, holds many a worker to his place.

Advertise for a stenographer, and nine out of ten who apply, can neither spell nor punctuate- and do not think it necessary to.

Can such a one write a letter to Garcia?

“You see that bookkeeper,” said the foreman to me in a large factory.

“Yes, what about him?”

“Well he’s a fine accountant, but if I’d send him up town on an errand, he might accomplish the errand all right, and on the other hand, might stop at four saloons on the way, and when he got to Main Street, would forget what he had been sent for.”

Can such a man be entrusted to carry a message to Garcia?

We have recently been hearing much maudlin sympathy expressed for the “downtrodden denizen of the sweat-shop” and the “homeless wanderer searching for honest employment,” & with it all often go many hard words for the men in power.

Nothing is said about the employer who grows old before his time in a vain attempt to get frowsy ne’er-do-wells to do intelligent work; and his long patient striving with “help” that does nothing but loaf when his back is turned. In every store and factory there is a constant weeding-out process going on. The employer is constantly sending away “help” that have shown their incapacity to further the interests of the business, and others are being taken on. No matter how good times are, this sorting continues, only if times are hard and work is scarce, the sorting is done finer- but out and forever out, the incompetent and unworthy go.

It is the survival of the fittest. Self-interest prompts every employer to keep the best- those who can carry a message to Garcia.

I know one man of really brilliant parts who has not the ability to manage a business of his own, and yet who is absolutely worthless to any one else, because he carries with him constantly the insane suspicion that his employer is oppressing, or intending to oppress him. He cannot give orders; and he will not receive them. Should a message be given him to take to Garcia, his answer would probably be, “Take it yourself.”

Tonight this man walks the streets looking for work, the wind whistling through his threadbare coat. No one who knows him dare employ him, for he is a regular fire-brand of discontent. He is impervious to reason, and the only thing that can impress him is the toe of a thick-soled No. 9 boot.

Of course I know that one so morally deformed is no less to be pitied than a physical cripple; but in our pitying, let us drop a tear, too, for the men who are striving to carry on a great enterprise, whose working hours are not limited by the whistle, and whose hair is fast turning white through the struggle to hold in line dowdy indifference, slip-shod imbecility, and the heartless ingratitude, which, but for their enterprise, would be both hungry & homeless.

Have I put the matter too strongly? Possibly I have; but when all the world has gone a-slumming I wish to speak a word of sympathy for the man who succeeds- the man who, against great odds has directed the efforts of others, and having succeeded, finds there’s nothing in it: nothing but bare board and clothes.

I have carried a dinner pail & worked for day’s wages, and I have also been an employer of labor, and I know there is something to be said on both sides. There is no excellence, per se, in poverty; rags are no recommendation; & all employers are not rapacious and high-handed, any more than all poor men are virtuous.

My heart goes out to the man who does his work when the “boss” is away, as well as when he is at home. And the man who, when given a letter for Garcia, quietly take the missive, without asking any idiotic questions, and with no lurking intention of chucking it into the nearest sewer, or of doing aught else but deliver it, never gets “laid off,” nor has to go on a strike for higher wages. Civilization is one long anxious search for just such individuals. Anything such a man asks shall be granted; his kind is so rare that no employer can afford to let him go. He is wanted in every city, town and village- in every office, shop, store and factory. The world cries out for such: he is needed, & needed badly- the man who can carry a message to Garcia.


35 thoughts on “Sharing a special education

  1. Thanks for sharing that, B3. Very nice, thought provoking, and appropriate message.

    I am heartened that the US Military, or at least the Marines, at one time felt the messages imparted by Card, Heinlein, and Shaara were worth imparting to those serving our country. I have fortunately read all three and enjoyed them.

    I am not surprised Troopers was pulled, as that always has been a controvertial book, even if the message is critical to anyone serving in the military in a democracy. The Killer Angels really challenged my (admittedly only half formed) opinion on Longstreet. But one has to wonder if questioning the chain of command (which both of those books at least imply) is the message the military wants to send in this post-Iraq world. But… as I was not in the military I will refrain from providing a definitive, uninformed opinion.

    But I *still* think to myself “The enemy’s gate is down” quite often!


  2. Wow. I loved it. Was rather heartened that I do share some of the qualities of Rowan, was not surprised that I do tend to think of myself as “entitled;” something my father’s generation would not have condoned.


  3. Oddly, perhaps, I’ve always disliked this tale. It was required reading four times in my life (once as civilian, once as enlisted, once in ROTC and once as an officer) and each time the flaws simply leapt at me. I understood the message, yet…

    “Take a message to Garcia,” is such a simple, elegant order. Then the author gets so self-righteous at the questions. I present a simple reality that is so blithely skipped in this tale. To which Garcia in Cuba should the message be taken?

    It was absolutely necessary that fellow by the name of Rowan know which Garcia was to receive the letter. The President assumes the fellow knows. Obviously in this tale, he does. In reality – the army (and I know the rest of the military) teaches the danger of the word assume. ASS of U and ME.

    “Bring me a wrench.” If you meant a 9mm socket and I bring you a box 1/2 inch, you and I are both going to wind up just a bit upset at the waste of time and effort.

    The author is an idiot again. Consider his disparagement of the clerk given the simple task. The author brought more than a little problem on himself. Why did he add the unnecessary portion “look in the encyclopedia?” This is the wrench. If all he wished was a brief memorandum on the life of Correggio, that’s what he should have requested. By specifying the tool, he implied there was specific reason for it – and unless the clerk knows from experience or context which encyclopedia is needed he’s a fool to simply grab one. He and the author will be upset at the waste of time and effort if the clerk writes from the wrong encyclopedia.

    The man who succeeds, who does what it requested and needed without waste or digressions, is always a good thing. The sad thing is that there are actually a lot of men and women who meet this, but who suffer from employers and supervisors who cannot give clear directions, who give conflicting directions, who insist on regular reports throughout the trip over the ocean and through the jungle with full intent of offering advice and corrective instruction. And sadly, historically, all the rewards the author claims in the last paragraph turn out to be illusion as well. Ask, and it shall not be granted (but instead a note made of how the individual is not cooperative). Increased wages are unlikely unless forced. Retention? feh – you make too many demands.

    I understood the message of the tale – blessed be he who accomplishes the task using initiative and steadfastness, neither wasting the time of others on questions of needless detail nor feeling entitled to more than is deserved or earned. But the unconscious arrogance of the author – the assumptions he makes – leave me gnashing my teeth.


  4. FYI Bear, didn’t know if you knew…just saw it on the alumni page today. Since ‘The Bridge at Dong Ha’ was and still is on the required list: Col Ripley passed away.

    Definitely a man of initiative.

    Totally bummed about Starship Troopers being dropped from the reading list. I bet I gave away a dozen copies to my Marines in 5 short years. Same with The Killer Angels – a book that really got me hooked on Civil War history. The latest versions of Ender’s Game has an exceptional forward by the author regarding his work’s ‘adaption’ by the military.

    Love that you put this article up. It was one of the first required reading materials at Annapolis during plebe summer. Oh, how many times can I remember being told ‘Message to Garcia’ after asking an unnecessary question of a task.


  5. A man was hired to cut glass. Every morning he arrived and made sure his blades were sharp. He worked more slowly, but more carefully than his coworkers so that in a month of working he had only broken three panes and produced none that had to be redone. His work was of the highest quality and a number of managers saw this and praised him.

    A new man was hired who had family that worked at the glass cutting factory. He did not check to see if his blades were sharp. The edges of the glass he cut were often jagged and he broke nine panes within his first two weeks.

    Because the second man had family working at the factory he was kept on. The first man was ‘laid off’ despite his slightly longer employment and more efficient record. – true story.

    I’m sorry BBB, but where does this fit in with your letter to Garcia? I do agree with you, and I’ve seen what the author speaks about. Before in my job I’ve been asked to do things I had no idea how to. Instead of spluttering and asking how such a thing was to be accomplished I set out to discover how to fix the problem on my own, that’s what I’m hired for. Machines can complete a task, but real people can be creative and problem solve.

    The problem I have is it’s never as clean cut an issue as that. Yes there are some, even many (I’ve seen so so many) poor who stay poor simply for the hand-outs, it sickens me, but I also see hard-working people, who would carry that letter to Garcia, turned away in favor of someone who had inside ‘contacts’, so to speak.

    Perhaps this is discrimination, but such people lack the wherewithal to acquire justice. They don’t want justice or revenge, all they want is security and a place to work where they know they will not be turned out the door for specious reasons.


  6. The required reading list was great for late night desk duty in the middle of the week. Our company Gunny made sure they were all there (even if he had to buy them himself.) Yeah initiative is important. I see it as determining your own place and your own position, as opposed to having things thrust upon you.

    Honestly, it speaks a lot to being involved in the processes going on around you and being aware of what is needed. The Clerk should know which encyclopedia or which wrench is needed at that time if he has been paying attention to the task at hand.

    Half the time when someone asks me a question, I can find the answer in less than two minutes, in much the manner they should have. “What is ‘X’?” “Have you tried Google?” “Yeah I couldn’t find anything.” “‘X’ is the first hit.” “oh. Thanks!”


  7. @Tigerfeet some of those poor don’t know how to do anything but put their hand out because no one has showed them how to do for themselves.

    Nepotism sucks, but if it is that way at a factory or an office, you probably do not want to be working there anyway.


  8. Kirk, it sounds to me like you’ve decided to throw out the baby with the bathwater, and focus entirely on what you perceive to be all the inaccuracies that make you gnash your teeth, rather than “The message of the tale”… which, to my mind, is the part that has caused an otherwise flawed essay to survive for 109 years.

    Having talked abuot this before, it’s pretty easy for those of us familiar with the material to quibble about the inaccuracies that date it. It’s by no means perfect, and I’m one of the people that believe that Hubbard was writing this mainly to put a fire in the butt of his slacker son.

    We could also critique it on historical accuracy, since by Rowans own written account, he had a great deal of assistance in accomplishing his mission. It was by no means a single mans’ Rambo-style raid behind enemy lines with dagger clenched between his teeth. It was a kick ass, impressive feat, but that wasn’t supposed to be the point, right?

    I think the reason it has endured after all these years is simply that we can recognise a great deal of truth to a lot of it… year after year, certain attitudes do not change, and it is GOOD to talk about it and, at least for me, it is good to have the example of someone like Rowan to remind me of what I should be doing in my life.

    Are there necessary questions to be asked when presented with a task? Sometimes, absolutely. But there are also so many delaying and unnecessary questions a lazy mind can ask.

    Are there orders that should be, even MUST be questioned? Without doubt, as the Nuremberg Trials so vividly made clear.

    But the heart of it remains, doesn’t it? Initiative. Determination. Commitment. Duty. A willingness to act. And a drive to make informed decisions.


  9. Hey B^3, I gotta say, that was an excellent read. This has never been part of any required reading lists up here in the frozen north, but the ideas that the essay intends to get across are things that have been drilled home my entire career and something I’ve struggled with trying to pass on to my troops as a leader. A great read and something I’ll definately be keeping around. Semper Fi.



  10. Well, BBB, this post moved me to write for the first time and stop lurking.

    First of all, in real life, I’m a member of the clergy, and I play WoW. So while that settles in, I’ll move on.

    I’m also classified by many as young.

    The problems delineated in the challenge to find Garcia aren’t just for young people. I have 60 and 70 year old members who do not grasp that the spiritual life, and the journey of faith require initiative, work, investigation, challenge and searching. They are unwilling to crack their Bibles, to test their political and social concepts against the gospel, or to investigate whether or not what some one has told them is in the Bible or that Christians believe is true. they think I’m unreasonable when i push them to do so.

    My point? Be careful. People don’t grow out of feeling they’re entitled. And our American culture, with its great emphasis on independence, and individualism, has made it harder. You came to where you are because of your experience with the community that is the Marines. i got there from my experience of the community that is the Church. I think what most are really missing is any experience where they are not the most important thing. And that, has no expiration date, no generation cycle, and no way to change other than by having people experience that type of community.

    Thanks for the hunter stuff, the life stuff and all of it.



  11. There’s a reason that our military branches are some of the most effective and respected in the world, if not THE most. I think you hit on a key point that as a society we’re lacking – personal responsibility and accountability for your decisions. Good and Bad. Positive and Negative results. No excuses, only acceptance of your responsibility.

    Let’s hope that as a country we can learn and start to “apply” these principles and see what a wonderful country we can be!


  12. As one who knows personally a fine upstanding Marine, the essay embodies him to the core. Not matter what he will get the job done. He does not feel entitled to anything he did not earn through his own blood sweat and tears. He will always be faithful no matter what.

    More of the people in this country should strive to follow and emulate this, including my self.

    It makes me proud to be an American!


  13. Reading this kinda makes me want to go back to doing work instead of reading WoW blogs.

    But overall, nice read. Like Kirk said, I don’t agree with everything the author says, but the message is still clear. It’s not so much about asking the “who, what, when, where, why” but really about taking initiative and getting something done.

    Thanks for the read BBB. Who knows, it might inspire me to stop playing WoW and start doing something more constructive with my time…. but probably not.



  14. While I agree with the qualities the essay supports, I also know that in order to instill this sort of mindset in future generations we would have to entirely change the way children are brought up now. Between proud parents, television, and the public school system, kids are taught that “there are no stupid questions” and that they are all special in their own way. When they finally get into the working world their mindset is not “I need this job,” but rather “this job needs me.”

    The essay’s message is good, but with the way society treats children now it won’t change things any time soon.


  15. The Rowan’s of the world won’t wait for society to change, they’ll be out there changing it.

    Its interesting to note the timelessness of this article. As many have commented, we face the same kind of apathy today as we did 100+ years ago and yet we recognize there are those that rise above.


  16. Ironic that you mention some expectation of entitlement, then go on to discuss your marine career, where you are provided shelter, medical care, dental care, meals, and clothes and even training aka education with some pretty nice perks for said training (well… maybe only technical training). I was really curious where you were going with this blog entry within the first three sub-paragraphs, but after that I got bored. Consider it a challenge, Bx4, from an army-chick-druid.


  17. Sorry Lheaf, I was really curious where you were going when you implied that being in the Marines automatically meant I felt entitled to something… but then I wasn’t.


  18. @ WoopinYe:

    I think that the phrase “There are no stupid questions” was probably initially meant in the same manner as the phrase “The customer is always right.” It’s not meant to be taken as literally as some do. The idea, I think, is that a child in school (or anyone else, for that matter) should be able to seek an explanation of something he or she doesn’t understand without fear of “looking stupid” amongst his peers.

    As B^3 has mentioned elsewhere, stupidity is excusable. Willful ignorance, on the other hand, is just irritating.

    I will agree that there has been a certain shift in the upbringing of the latest generations compared to those before though. It’s one thing to encourage children to think of themselves as special and unique, because that is largely true, at least to somebody. The apparent inability of today’s parents to actually discipline their children, however, drives me to despair. Or even “parent” them, in some cases. Look at the cries from “concerned parents” for the government to step in and regulate electronic media in some way to “protect” vulnerable children from exposure to inappropriate material. What the hell happened to “parental supervision”?


  19. Hey B3, as one of the “youth” (at a whopping 21), I say that I have to agree with you on my generation feeling priviledged.

    I however, do not see myself as so. That might be due to my upbringing (y’know, being a military brat does that), but I do have to say it, in a way, makes me feel older than many people my age (and older)! I was raised that you do your best for the common good, and that while you need to succeed, you need to make sure yourself is not the main focus, but the group as a whole is the focus.

    I look around at so many of the kids at college and see them all on their blackberry’s and their iPods and expensive laptops…and while I do not deny I have such things (well, not the Blackberry…and my iPod is way old and dying, but still!), I wonder how many of these young adults just complained to Mommy and Daddy until they got them. I also wonder how many college students squander the valued education their parents are paying for. I personally had to buy my own phone, pay my own cell phone bill, pay for my own college education, etc.–and I work for it! It pains me to see our society in a mindset where “I can get what I want because I’m special”.

    Everyone is special in some way or another. America just takes it to extremes and doesn’t instill the age old “you are expected to accept responsibility for your actions, perform your duty to the utmost of your personal ability, to succeed at all costs, and get the job done” as you so succinctly put it.

    Thank you for writing such a provocative post, B3. Not many people would have the guts to do so. And the essay was a nice read as well. Haven’t looked at that one in a while. 😉


  20. Wow, I despise that tale. Arrogant, elitist, and idiotic. I don’t want people who don’t ask questions, I want people who ask the right questions. Sometimes, sure, it’s a simple task, go and do it, but if you ask me for a life of Correggio out of the encyclopedia when that’s not in my job description you’d best be prepared to at least help if I don’t know who that is. Not everyone studies painters in any detail.

    Encouraging your workforce to just go out and blunder around when you could guide them to what you want with a few simple details is as bad as having workers who essentially make you do the task yourself out of incompetence. I don’t ask my bosses exactly what to do each and every week, but if one has a task for me, I make sure I understand what it is they want.

    That ignores the idea of blaming poverty, then or now, on the stupidity of the poor and their laziness, and not the ridiculous excesses of the rich who create, say, massive banking catastrophes knowing full well that there’s nothing sustaining the economic growth save the sale of partitioned out debt (to use a modern example) but I’m too tired after reading yet another “stupid lazy poor should just get a job” screed. They haven’t changed much in the past century, it seems.


  21. Thank you very much for the honesty of your opinion, Matt. I appreciate it a great deal, and it’s nice to see someone that isn’t afraid to disagree with something publicly if that’s how they feel. I salute you.

    I disagree pretty comprehensively with your analysis on the economic situation and it’s root causes, but that’s really not an issue here. 🙂


  22. It’s been a while since I’ve read this. Like quite a few essays I’ve re-read over the years, it’s depth changes with my years.
    The overall message of having a “can do” mentality is ideal, as long as it is not confused with a robotic subservience to command.

    BTW, BBB in case you haven’t read it, I have a new book for you: Killing Rommel by Steven Pressfield.


  23. CURSE YOU MANNYAC for revealing that Pressfield has a new book out!!! As if WOW, Fallout 3, and a new puppy weren’t already sucking out every spare minute of my life, now I have that to deal with as well. 😀


  24. @ Ellis:

    I do agree with your interpretation of the “no stupid questions” phrase, but the problem is that as adults we can usually understand when to take things literally and when not to (although I can think of times that this isn’t the case, “the customer is always right” phrase comes to mind). In this case it is being conveyed to children, who tend to take things at face value, although there are obviously exceptions here as well.

    On your other point, I also can’t stand how irresponsible parents are now, or how they deal with their children. I worked at a Blockbuster Video for 3 years (worst job I ever had) and I can’t tell you how many times I couldn’t help but cringe at how parents were handling certain situations with their kids. It’s one thing to shelter children from things they may not be prepared for yet, it’s another to keep them completely oblivious to how the real world works. The bigger problem is that these parents don’t think they are doing anything wrong.


  25. BBB, the heart is good. But I despise the tale.

    Perhaps I’m influenced by my first encounter. I was given a direct order to read it by an NCO in my chain of command. (yeah, Rangers read. go figure.) I didn’t particularly think it a good tale – nice primary message, sucky secondary messages, but no big deal. After that point, any time we asked this NCO a question about our mission or tasks o we got the response Rotoman said he got as a plebe: “Message to Garcia”. Great, except then when we took the initiative we got our rear ends handed to us because we didn’t do it Exactly the way he wanted. I got time in the pit because I used three more rolls of concertina for a position than he thought we should use – despite the fact I used the engineer manual to plan and built the frigging position. (I cite that as an example – it was not my only time in the pit, and I wasn’t the only one.)

    The experience emphasized, to me, the flaws I espoused above.


  26. As a member of the generation so accused I would like to make a minor point concerning generations and accountability. For all your generations groaning and grumbling, where is the accountability of parents for raising their children with the expectation that the world owes them for breathing? Every generation looks at the next with trepedation and head shaking. The generation before you surely did the same. And I already shake my head and catch myself sounding like my mother. Lucky for me she rocks, so there is some redemption there 😉

    I think the only problem I have with the essay is over simplification. Nothing in life is so simple to be swept away by broad statements. But where I work the devil is in the details which I admit skews my view.

    To comment on there are no stupid questions. I’m always reminded of an event that happened very early in my mother’s life in elementary school. She was drawing trees with her class. The teacher grabbed my mother’s paper, turned to the class and explained to them this was NOT the way to draw trees and to never draw like this ever. My mother didn’t pick up art again until she was in her 50s. The paradigm has changed for teaching. Does my daughter ask me questions that make me go WTF use your brain! you bet! I take it on myself as a parent to explain the thought process so that she can think for her self. The problem is not that they ask. We just hand them answers without helping them reason them out. Of course who is going to teach reasoning in school…*sigh*


  27. Thank you for sharing this essay with us—I find the intended message inspiring and sensible. Another one of Hubbard’s short passages titled “Loyalty” is permanently pinned beside my desk.

    It is unfortunate, however, that the current world culture has made such admirable attitudes dangerous to a person. Initiative is seen as a dangerous threat, loyalty as being unprogressive, duty as trap, and unquestioning dedication will get you into trouble. It is one reason why it can thrive in a military setting, where there are defined ranks and defined roles with defined responsibilities and defined authority—things which can work and has existed in a civilian context but, thanks to everything from post-modernism to Woodstock, has been rendered as ineffective as a rogue trying to kill the Gargoyles and Frost Wyrms in Hyjal.

    I still, however, believe in these… one only has to be careful. “Be innocent as doves but as cunning as serpents.”

    Thanks again, triple B.


  28. It is interesting that the military looks upon civilians as head in the cloud idiots and civilians look upon the military as unnecessary in the world if everyone just understood each other. Granted, my view may be slanted as I am going to school in the highly conservative University of Colorado-Boulder (If I didn’t get a slight grin out of anyone, Boulder is the Brekley of the Rockies) And when you try to talk to these idiots they think that the military causes more problems than it solves- odd that socialists despise socialism.


  29. Personally I’m always deeply sad to hear that “The Killer Angels” is off anybody’s reading list anywhere, but I’ll admit to a more than passing fondness for the book. And by “passing fondness,” I secretly mean that a fresh copy should be strapped to the stroller of every American newborn leaving the hospital of their birth, so “dangerous fanaticism” might be more appropriate here. At 26 I continue to indulge the belief that American history is really rather extraordinary.

    And Matt, I’d have to disagree re: the causes of the recent banking collapse. A lot of people of various political and financial backgrounds had a hand in this, and if we’re all being very honest with ourselves, there was a painful lesson for every shade of political belief here.


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