Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Humor in Uniform - THE MILITARY “BRAIN”


Reflections of a Navy Veteran
A Spoof

Around two and a half years ago  in September 2013  I was invited to conduct a workshop on “Blogging” at a Literary Meet (Pune International Literary Festival – PILF).

During the discussions  a smart young lady sitting in the first row asked me a question: ‘Sir, I have read your book of short stories and I regularly read your writings, especially your fiction stories, on your blog. I was wondering – how is it possible that you can think so creatively despite having spent so many years in the navy?

At first  I was stumped.

But I quickly recovered my wits and said, ‘Life in the Navy is so eventful  you meet so many unforgettable characters  you have so many interesting experiences  so you get plenty of material to write about.’

‘No, Sir. I did not mean life experiences. I am asking about thinking ability. Tell me, Sir – doesn’t military life affect the ability to think creatively?’ she asked.

‘I really did not understand your question – could you please elaborate?’ I asked her.

‘Sir  I was an army officer till recently  and I found the atmosphere quite stifling and restrictive  which inhibits creative thinking,’ she said.

‘Do you mean the military “anti-intellectualism” which suppresses intellectual activity – the “don’t use your brain – just do as you are told” army culture?’ I asked.

‘Yes, Sir – that is exactly what I mean!’ she said.

I smiled to myself.

She was echoing the thoughts of Liddell Hart.

Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart (31 October 1895 – 29 January 1970) – commonly known throughout most of his career as Captain B. H. Liddell Hart – was an English soldier, military historian and military theorist.

Liddell Hart who  while highlighting the dangers of “anti-intellectualism” in the army  had pointed out the reason why military officers lose their creative thinking abilities:

“a lifetime of having to curb the expression of original thought culminates so often in there being nothing left to express”.

There is a saying which applies to the Brain:

“Use it – or you will lose it”

I have read somewhere that there is a relationship between mental activity and cerebral blood-flow – and  like muscles  the brain atrophies from prolonged disuse.

Military Officers (especially Army Officers) are encouraged to do plenty of physical exercise to keep their body fit.

However – the anti-intellectual “just do as you are told – don’t use your brainmilitary culture inhibits the use of the brain.

The ramification is that while military officers keep their bodies fit by constant physical exercise – they neglect exercising their brain (especially the right hemisphere of the brain).

While a military officer may occasionally use his analytical left brain – his creative right brain” will fall into disuse and atrophy – and as the military officer becomes senior  he will lose the ability to think creatively.

The young ex-fauji lady officer had a point – living for a prolonged duration in a dogmatic “don’t use your brain, just do as you are told” strait-jacketed “anti-intellectual” insular military environment can certainly affect your creative thinking abilities.

Obviously  during her days as an army officer  the young lady had experienced this intellectually suffocating feeling – and maybe she had also observed the detrimental effect of the prevailing military culture of “anti-intellectualism” on the creative faculties of her peers and seniors.

Maybe she felt that this blinkered thinking army culture was constraining her creativity  and maybe that is the reason why she had quit the army before it was too late – in order to enable her creative juices to flow freely – and her creativity was certainly flourishing  as was evident from the inspired creative writing on her blog.

Well  I told the young lady that the intellectual culture in the navy was certainly more liberal and “broadminded”  and  in general  the navy milieu was conducive to creative thinking.

In fact  I found navy life quite eventful  and this probably gave my creative thinking ability an impetus  as there was never a dull moment in the navy.

After the workshop was over – I had a delightful discussion with the charming young lady.

‘I am sure you have have heard of OLQ – well “Anti-intellectualism” is an important OLQ (Officer Like Quality),’ I told her.

In jest  I told her that during my navy days  I always carried two brains inside me:

1. A fauji brain for regimented military thoughts

2. A creative brain for interesting thoughts where I could let my imagination run wild.

Most of the naval officers I met were cerebral types  but I did come across a few anti-intellectual specimens too.

In my next blog post – I will tell you about one such unforgettable character – an “anti-intellectual” Commodore I came across 32 years ago, in 1983.

Till then – if you are a fauji” (serving or retired) – do tell us if you have come across some “just do as you are told – don’t use your brain” “anti-intellectual” types.

Like I said – I met many such “anti-intellectual” types – and about one such specimen – I will tell you in my next blog post – in Part 2 of this article.

Continued in Part 2...

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1. This is a spoof, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. All Stories in this Blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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Abridged and Updated Extract of my article THE CRAZY COMMODORE WITH A PHOBIA FOR “MANAGEMENT THOUGHTS” written by me Vikram Karve on 19 November 2013 and posted online in my various blogs including in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal 

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