Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What's so good about the morning?

Cadets in formation. From the Philippine Military Academy website
The case of Cadet Cudia has brought into public (a.k.a. civilian) discussion what values the armed forces value and how this relates to the civil sector of society. In this country, the civilian authority as embodied by the President of the Philippines acting through his/her civilian defense secretary, is supreme. The constitutional tradition we inherited from the Roman Republic says "Cedant Arma Togae" or Arms give way to the Toga, only means that civilian authority is supreme. However, the civilian unless constitutionally given the right, is not supreme over the soldier. Thus social media warriors cannot claim supremacy over the soldier unless the constitution gives them authority! Social media civvie warriors at best have their own duty and the soldier his/her own. 

Philippine Military Academy (PMA) mistahs say that "civilians will never understand". Perhaps yes, if only the real ideal of civilian supremacy over the army. A mob can never be supreme over the army. An electorate expressing its democratic according to the modes prescribed by the Constitution will  and will always be.

However it is a bit daft for mistahs to think that civilians will never understand what the honor code is all about. Honor is actually a simple concept if one values the collective rather than the individual first. British public schools have the similar idea of what the PMA has and any violator is "dobbed" in. In fact even in university, by following the honor code, you can dob in an erring prof! (This was the "dob in a Don" controversy under the conservative Australian government about a decade ago) And this raises a ruckus if one considers American ideas of academic freedom.

 I am for the moment a civvie and I fully understand these things! Anyone one who signs up for the service (boot camp!) has to have his/her behavior changed. The army doesn't need individualists but people who will subordinate their will to command. It is not just simple following of orders, but reasoned obedience to command. The orders must be clear, concise and complete to the last detail. Any SNAFU can lead to disaster and unnecessary loss of life. When I blew my top after reading Cadet Cudia's appeal on a social media news site, it was because it violated what being clear, concise and complete really means!

Behavior is changed from day 1. Regimentation begins and then follows the almost endless inculcation of plebe knowledge from important stuff like the definition of military discipline, military courtesy to almost trivial things like the right answer to "What's so good
about the morning?" at morning inspection.

And of course the Honor Code that even we in the Cadet Corps of the University of the Philippines high school and ROTC had a version of.

And of course not to leave out the important objective of developing "esprit d corps" from a bunch of misfits and losers!

The plebe is the lowest form of life in the army. Even the private who issues the army issues have more authority! One has to respect authority and best of all be courteous even to the goddamned private!

And the plebe cannot be seen or heard not to know, but always to find out!

But the plebe doesn't remain a plebe for long. He/she will be recognized in due time and who knows may end up like General Douglas MacArthur! Then he/she will be commanding all, from the goddamed private to the Generals! The General of the Army like MacArthur is courteous to the lowest ranking soldier to the Commander-in-Chief. My oh my, courtesy is a rare commodity these days in our society!

But to get to this stage, one has to perform his/her duty well in honor and to his/her country above all. To do it well and honorably for the country is to persevere in what you are doing.

The unfortunate thing is that this important military training experience is lost to many of the young people. It's like the Latin Mass, almost lost. With ROTC being made an option and universities and colleges not promoting it as well as the other civilian options for national service, young men and women have not a idea that there are times one has to subordinate the will for a worthy cause, like national defense or responding to disasters. Here we need the values of discipline and courtesy that enable us to perform our duty well under grace and pressure.

And we then realize what our authority as civilians really is all about! The challenge for the armed forces and most especially for the mistahs of the professional officer corps is to live up to the whole idea of being a soldier. The AFP has to clean up its barracks and to show it as spotless to the civilian supreme authority.

My dad sang to me the  old Army ditty when I first put on the uniform. "You're in the army now, you'll never get out!"

What never left me is the sense that there are times I have to reasonably obey command and to give commands and also that important value of courtesy which plebe knowledge defines simply as "an expression of consideration for others"

What's so good about the morning? Sir, you sir!

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