Sunday, October 31, 2010


The Peter Principle says each person is promoted to their level of incompetence. It is a deeply cynical fear of man, pride and arrogance idea. Like all cynicism it misses the irony that cynics lack faith in their own cynicism. Interestingly for a British soldier being anything other than cynical is considered odd. It's true. If you doubt me try this experiment. Tell a work colleague, preferably a peer or commander that you really appreciate and value their service. Be sure to look into their eyes when you do and tell me that you don't see bewilderment. Cynicism is a lack of faith in mankind, his intentions, motives and abilities and it's growing. Is this intriguing?

Cynics have the privileged and exalted position of being able to see mankind from a lofty perspective. They see that people need to sort out their consciences to find better motives and intentions and thereby improve our institutions. Here is a great example from a website of a comrade in arms, who I admire for his energies but would love him to see his piety:

"My contention is that by concentrating our efforts inward, we will develop leaders of known moral character, with the ability to critically view their environment and make decisions consistent with the values of the nation and the Army and that advance the commander's intent and mission accomplishment. They gain the understanding of why they make the choices or decisions they do and then possess the character to stand by them once made, or adapt them when they become aware that they will not work."

If the condition of the world, if the consistent failure of institutions and empires are symbolic of mankind's inherent rot, corruption and tendency to greed, how will looking inward be of any benefit? Of course, in a culture of strict fundamental secularism, suggesting that we look beyond the material world is the preserve of primitive religions, and not for inclusion in serious dialogue regarding Army leadership. The latest manifestation of this secular atheistic religion is the radical environmental movement that has emerged from the 300 year Age of Enlightenment experiment. Its religious shrines litter our countryside in the form of huge windmills. Daring to challenge the secularist scriptures by suggesting that our thoughts, behaviour and lifestyle are accountable to anything beyond our personal rational and common sense, risks accusations of intolerance by making exclusive claims - And believe me the accusation is accepted because this is complete exclusivity!

My point is to illustrate that we are dealing with competing truth claims. The proposal that good morals can come from introspection is classic eastern religious philosophy. This philosophy is increasingly popular in western cultures. Mankind is essentially good, it just takes enough exploration of a personal paths and peace and harmony will follow. This compliments the idea that there are multiple paths to enlightenment however, to see those paths you already have to hold the high ground. Do you see the dichotomy? These are truth claims in a maelstrom of competing truth claims.

Corporately in the military, we had a broad consensus about the truth. We still benefit from that legacy with our commissioning scrolls recognizing God, our units still having Christian church services and parades, and Christian pastors still being directly employed by the military. However, these components are being marginalized by a new religion that says there are no ultimate truth claims, all judgement and retribution has to take place in this world, mankind's laws and institutions can fix our broken world. We are on a dangerous path believing that the ultimate truth our fathers fought for are wrong, that our more evolved world perspective allows us to see clearer. The deserts and mountains of Afghanistan are littered with the dried bones of men who believed that they had a soul and that soul had an eternal purpose - to love one God. Many believed that there were false gods, prophets and theories and sacrificed their lives to protect their wives, children and families from the lies that would enslave them.

We each see deceit, lies and corruption in our lives each day, let's face it we are even capable of lying to ourselves. What greater evidence that our hearts are deceitful do we need? Is it not therefore sensible to see that there can be only one truth, greed will lead people to lie to you and that any suggestion that you can fix things, that your actions can merit your enlightenment/salvation/happiness are likely lies?

1 comment:

  1. Which is why in many ways I find the British inclination to be forgiving, to hesitate from complaining, quite so ridiculous, amusing, and fun to be around. To be unconventional around here you have to be some mildly different that it's an entertainment in itself.