Friday, January 20, 2017

Humor in Uniform – The Military “Brain”

Reflections of a Navy Veteran
A Spoof

Around 4 years ago  in September 2013 to be precise  I was invited to conduct a workshop on “Blogging” at a Literary Meet (Pune International Literary Festival – PILF 2013).

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 on your blogs  especially your fiction stories – so  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 I 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... the smart young lady said.

Now  I was beginning to understand what she was driving at – so I said: “Do you mean the military “anti-intellectualism” – which suppresses intellectual activity – the military regimentation ethos of  ‘...Don’t use your Brain – just do as you are told” type Army Culture...?...

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  while highlighting the dangers of “anti-intellectualism” in the army  had pointed out the reason due to which military officers lose their creative thinking abilities.

He opined that:

“...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 brain” military culture inhibits the use of the brain.

The ramification of this regimented blind-obedience military culture is that military officers keep their bodies fit by constant physical exercise – but 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 spends more years in service and becomes a senior officer  he will lose the ability to think creatively.

The young smart ex-fauji military veteran lady officer had a point and she was implying that:

‘...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.

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.

Obviously – during her days in the Army – she had experienced that this blinkered thinking army culture was constraining her creativity.

Probably that was the reason why she had quit the Army before it was too late – in order to enable her creative juices to flow freely – and – now – as a civilian  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” than what she had experienced in the army  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 – with so many curious characters around.


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

I am sure you have heard of the term OLQ...” I asked her.

“Of course I know what is OLQ – it was drilled into us  OLQ means Officer Like Qualities’...” she said. 

“Well  “Anti-intellectualism” is an important OLQ – yes – regimented thinking is a vital Officer Like Quality – and – if an officer uses his right brain and thinks creatively or out of the box” – as they say – then he is doomed... I told her.

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

1. A “Military 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.

If you are a fauji” (serving or retired military man) – or a faujan” (military wife) – do tell us if you have come across some “just do as you are told – don’t use your brain” “anti-intellectual” types during your service in the military.

Like I said – the excessively regimented Army is certainly more “anti-intellectual” than the Navy   and most of the Naval Officers I came across were cerebral types  but I did meet a few “anti-intellectual” types in the Navy too – and about one such hilarious specimen – I will tell you in a subsequent blog post.

And – before I end – let me leave you with a famous saying: 

Military Intelligence is an Oxymoron

You agree – don’t you – the phrase Military Intelligence is a contradiction in terms – isn’t it...? 

Continued in Part 2... 

(Dear Reader: Remember I told you earlier – that – I met many “anti-intellectual” types during my Navy Days. 

About one such specimen – I will tell you in my next blog post – in Part 2 of this article...)

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1. This is a fictional 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 Revised 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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