A lightly misleading title, perhaps, since I don’t have a yard, the only plant in my home being that damned cactus by the kitchen sink (renamed, “Bastard Plant”) I seem to snag my elbow on all the time. After a few comments yesterday I had a bit of a think and decided to write this entry.
Trut be told, I have a profound dislike for both the academic and military ways of life, with one being far too care-free and t’other too restricting. Since I’ve lived both of ’em I’m confident I have a better understanding than most, and with that comes what each thinks of the other. My experience so far is thus: telling people in academia you were once a soldier leads them to conclude you are a) a colossal moron who couldn’t possibly have any kind of academic understand of anything at all ever b) a racist right-wing nutter and c) intrinsically violent. I’ve not met many people more patronising than those wrapped up in academia, whatever their faculty.
On the other hand, if you tell a group of soldiers you were privately educated at the £20, 000 a year Royal Grammar School for eleven years they’re inclined to think 1. Posh cunt (I brought that on myself. Note to budding soldiers: do not turn up to Basic with a copy of The Complete Works of Shakespeare) 2. Never worked a day in your life 3. Useless in a fight (second note to budding soldiers: take up boxing years before you turn up to Basic. It saved my life).
A balance is what’s needed, my lads. In my opinion academics get far too wrapped up in technicalities and can easily lose sight of what really matters; that’s certainly something I found at university. The harsh reality of terrorism or war is forgotten when professors sit down to debate the bullshit (and yes, that’s a technical term) and the plight of the people in question is forgotten, since it’s so intangible. Someone mentioned Bloody Sunday to me yesterday, when Parachute Regiment soldiers gunned down eleven-odd protestors in Northern Ireland in the ’60s. It was a terrible tragedy, no error, and quite why someone had thought it a good idea to send assault troops in to curb a civilian riot is a mystery to this day. Then again, if you’re an eighteen year old soldier fresh out of Basic Training and there’s hundreds of angry people screaming at you and brandishing weapons…and then a petrol bomb explodes and sets your mate next to you on fire, so what do you do? It’s very easy to judge people in situations like that in hindsight, particularly smug academics safely wrapped in university offices with no danger of ever being exposed to that kind of violence.
Then again, soldiers could benefit from a lecture or two. The Army does a fair bit in the education line, but not enough I don’t think, and too many soldiers have one-track ways of thinking that could do with a little expansion. Not too much, mind; you don’t want them questioning orders saying ‘Hm, well, you know Lieutenant, after our philosophy seminar yesterday, I’m not sure I can get in line with the Kantian sense of duty anymore, so perhaps ask Corporal Jones to do it, he’s more of utilitarian J.S. Mill sort of bloke…’.
I didn’t find either world easy to live in, I’m most comfortable at home here in Tbilisi. The academics and students at university seemed to treat me like a bundle of dynamite, liable to explode if meddled with, and their nervousness around me made me very uncomfortable, especially as I’m a friendly sort of chap and tried my best to fit in. But I suppose it wasn’t normal for the students that one of their number ironed their clothes and went for morning runs and referred to the searches for illicit substances as ‘inspection’ and the routine fire-drill as ‘muster-parade’ (old habits die hard). Then again, in the Army, apart from the piss-taking at my expensive education from my colleagues, some of them seemed a bit embarrassed that they couldn’t compete with me (as one of them admitted to me when he caught me reading Homer and mistook it for a Simpsons’ book), and the officers uneasy that one of their rankers had a better education than they did.
To my regular readers (if I have any), you’ll know from the tone of all these mad ramblings that I’m not here for any kind of academic debate. If I was, funnily enough I wouldn’t have mentioned my aspirations for my cloud base, compared Bidzina Ivanishvili to Mike Tyson or the notion of Keria Knightly having sex with Megan Fox (although what a bloody good idea that is…). I don’t claim to be an expert of any kind; I wasn’t the best soldier and I’m sure as hell not the most devoted student. I call it like I see it as I go along, but I want to know what all of you think about things, too. But keep it chilled. Don’t make me come back there.
End of broadcast…