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Old July 24th, 2013, 04:32 PM   #1
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Military cult


This comes out of a conversation I had today. A woman told me of her cousin who wants to returned from serving in Afghanistan. Her cousin is very distressed because for medical reasons he is not allowed to return to his unit. He said he never felt so bonded to others before, nor so important, and he really wanted to return to that.

Then she went on to mention how service personnel are moved around and questioned if this prevented them from having relationships with people and feeling like a part of community with people who were not in the service. As she was talking it dawned on me all this sounds like a cult. The bonding the sense of importance, and the alienation from all but those who are members of the culture.

Does anyone know about cult psychology? I know when a person joins the service the first thing is to break down the individual and then mold him/her into the soldier. Isn't this what cults do?
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Old July 24th, 2013, 04:50 PM   #2

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Funnily enough the term 'warrior cult' does make regular appearances throughout history. The warrior cult of ancient Rome was particularly noticeable after the legions became a professional force. The soldiers developed their own society, and it seems they viewed the mainstream populace with contempt or suspicion.

Modern American soldiers parallel Roman soldiers in the sense that they often serve pretty much on the other end of the world as they know it. On the other hand, modern America is a society that respects, even worships its veterans and servicemen, when there is comparatively little evidence for such reverence in ancient Roman civilian society.

To determine whether the military is a 'cult' means we must define that word, and it is problematical since it is typically used with religious connotations. I think what you are seeing as evidence of cultism are simply techniques for building morale. 'Mind games' might not look very noble or attractive, but the military exists to do a job, and if playing such games makes soldiers more effective at what they do, it won't be changing anytime soon.
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Old July 24th, 2013, 04:54 PM   #3

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The shared experience of extreme situations tends to build bonds that last. This does not make it a cult.
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Old July 24th, 2013, 05:46 PM   #4

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On the other hand, modern America is a society that respects, even worships its veterans and servicemen...
In the 80s people in the service weren't held in very high esteem [and of course there are those stories of Vietnam vets returning]. It seems to have cycled back around to the other end now.
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Old July 24th, 2013, 05:57 PM   #5

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Then she went on to mention how service personnel are moved around and questioned if this prevented them from having relationships with people and feeling like a part of community with people who were not in the service. As she was talking it dawned on me all this sounds like a cult. The bonding the sense of importance, and the alienation from all but those who are members of the culture.
Well that's a new conspiracy theory. It has more to do with making sure soldiers have well-rounded experiences & filling slots that get emptied out by others getting out etc. You can't have someone doing 10 years in Korea or--as bad as some would like--doing the same in Germany or wherever. You also try to get an infantryman to do time in an infantry company then do a stint at battalion operations doing logistical-training-other issues and so on. Spots open up people move on etc.
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Old July 24th, 2013, 06:02 PM   #6

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No cult. I'm a vet myself. Think of it more like a clan, band or tribe. A very exclusive one. With its own language and customs. Mocking civilians, or saying they don't understand is very commonplace, as it should be. Im sure ex-cons have the same kind of esoteric thing going on, in a much different way of course.
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Old July 24th, 2013, 06:08 PM   #7
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The shared experience of extreme situations tends to build bonds that last. This does not make it a cult.
A massive plus 1 on that. Even though its been 40 plus years ago and some of my old buddies I've not seen in a couple of decades, all it would take is a phone call from any of them and I would be there.

Call it whatever you like, but you will know these people better than your own family because of a terrible shared experience.
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Old July 24th, 2013, 06:17 PM   #8

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Cult status suggests a blind obedience and a single ideology. There's too much complaining going on for that. Too many different personalities, value systems etc.
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Old July 24th, 2013, 06:19 PM   #9

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Reading the experiences of veterans (whether it be members of this forum, or veterans of the Civil War or World War I) sometimes gives me a wistful feeling.

As much as I hope I never have to experience the horrors of war myself, part of me almost longs for the kind of bonds it seems to create. Amidst all that carnage and death, seems to be some fertile soil for both brotherly bonds and even romance.
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Old July 24th, 2013, 06:33 PM   #10

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Reading the experiences of veterans (whether it be members of this forum, or veterans of the Civil War or World War I) sometimes gives me a wistful feeling.

As much as I hope I never have to experience the horrors of war myself, part of me almost longs for the kind of bonds it seems to create. Amidst all that carnage and death, seems to be some fertile soil for both brotherly bonds and even romance.
Honestly Salah, you can still experience most of these things without ever seeing combat. But, I'm sure actual fighting makes these bonds stronger. Never saw any action myself.
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