Why is Everything “Institutional”?

I spend a great deal of my time wandering the internet in search of information. Sometimes it’s news articles to keep up to date with current events. Other times it might be podcasts trying to get another perspective on a particular issue. If I’m perfectly honest, a lot of it is simply watching YouTube in an effort to pass the time. Regardless of how those efforts turn out, I inevitably come across something from the news media that makes me shake my head in disgust.

For today’s post, it was an “independent study” that found that the Virginia Military Institute exhibits “institutional racism and sexism”. According to the group, the Institute has no specific rules or regulations that allow or encourage this type of behavior, but the people there still engage in activity that displays a “culture of hatred”. As one might expect, they recommend a radical reform plan to the entire program there and close supervision of the process to ensure that the Institute is making the required changes.

You’ll notice a lot of quotation marks in this particular entry, which makes my position on the matter fairly clear. As a former service member, I have a hard time dealing with people who step into a situation that is completely foreign to them and imagine that they have any qualification whatsoever to determine what is appropriate behavior in that specific environment. Inevitably, it is the “touchy feely” people who go into these places with no reasonable point of reference for what they’re looking at and make sweeping judgements based on their own view of what is acceptable.

What these people don’t understand is that the military is not the place you want to start removing aggressive behavior. The men and women who volunteer for anything related military service are being groomed for a very specific purpose: to overcome the dangerous obstacles placed before our nation. To do this requires a hard hard and an unbreakable spirit. There is little room for weakness or understanding or adherence to popular opinion. It is about the fight; nothing else.

Understand that no reasonable member of the military, including those of us who have moved on, would ever advocate truly evil behavior. There has been obvious examples of inappropriate behavior in the name of military training that was used as a cover to allow bad people to behave in horrible ways. This rogue activity is unacceptable in any organization and should be stopped, especially when it involves physical violence.

Where many of us disagree is when it comes to what some people might consider “emotional abuse”. Of course no one wants to be subjected to harsh treatment or unfair bias or any of the negative things we all want to avoid, but the entire point of military training is to prepare us for an environment that cares nothing for our feelings. In a combat environment, the enemy has no concern for offending you. The stakes are simply far higher than that; they aren’t interested in your feelings, they want your life.

One might be tempted to suggest that not all military members will see combat, thus it is not appropriate for all to be subjected to this type of treatment. However, what this does not consider is that the best militaries in history have been the ones where every member, regardless of their duty, is prepared to pick up a weapon and fight. Without emotional toughness, this simply isn’t possible. A weak person is an ineffective person.

In the end, we know what we want from our military, and they are experts at producing the kind of people who can accomplish that mission. For us to step in trying to make changes as observers looking in from the outside is foolish and irresponsible. It weakens what has been the finest fighting force the world has ever seen and undermines everything that so many laid down their lives for over the last two centuries. Should we accept hatred in our military? Of course not, but we must learn to see the difference between hate and tough leadership.

What do you think about military culture? Is it dated and bigoted, or is there some usefulness to the way the environment works? Have you experienced it for yourself, or can you only stand on the outside looking in? We tend to judge what we don’t understand without having all the facts, and many times it is important to gain a bit of perspective before we jump in feet first trying to fix something that might not be broken in the first place.

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