Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Emotional Reticence

So, I've had a number of questions from friends and family about when exactly I will be finished with this particular time in Iraq.

I usually respond to these queries by, well, not responding at all, or at the most obfuscating any empirical answer. Although in some part this is a standard OPSEC issue, it also gets at the inherent superstition involved with being in a war zone. In addition, this inherent superstition also explains my other elements of what I call emotional reticence - my personal lack of much emotional affect, not only when I am here in Iraq, but in general over the last eight years (and, to be honest, some time before that, but that was due to a different sort of PTSD).

Although I can't say with any empirical certainty, I suspect that many soldiers experience a similar response to their own deployments. We grew up on war movies, most soldiers can quote Full Metal Jacket from memory (and most drill sergeants and privates at Basic do so at length), have seen Saving Private Ryan more times than 40 year olds have seen Star Wars, and are inherently aware of the tropes involved in these movies. As such, we know a number of things:

1) Most people who survive combat do so because of luck
2) You can cut your odds a bit through training and preparation, but at the end of the day you didn't get hit by the incoming because you just happened to choose that moment to get out of your chair.

Now, a lot of "luck" is also the Confirmation Bias, but that doesn't change the fact that soldiers believe it. And the things we believe define our universe.

Which is why you will find many soldiers following the rules on How To Survive a War Movie

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The comments are always better

than the original story. I think that one of the reasons I haven't blogged much in the past couple months is that I've just been commenting in the comments sections of articles I read instead of posting my thoughts here. There are other reasons, as well, such as a distinct lack of time and, frankly, internet access. But, I think that when news sites and opinion sites started allowing for readers to "join the conversation" they have essentially coopted a lot of the blogging which average people like me would usually do on an issue (Facebook too - it's a lot easier to just paste a link to facebook and make a snarky one-sentence comment about it).

In this instance, however, I would like to point anyone to a recent Mother Jones article about the lack of workers applying for an unskilled labor position. The comments on this story are much more amusing and interesting than the story itself, primarily because of a wonderful sidetracking series of comments in which the commenters argue over the relative merits of the words "assorted" versus "miscellaneous" as it pertains to shopping for donuts. The most interesting thing about it is that with the exception of a few choice insults, the argument is pretty well grounded in definitions, both of the words themselves, and the appopriate use of each.

This thing is freaking my out