Friday, 1 January 2010

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

My own personal day of infamy: the day I joined the army, the Israeli one. What a way to celebrate the start of a decade!
There are several reasons why I carry tons of grudge towards my army service. For a start, at the personal level, it represented a complete waste of four years of my life. Very good years of my life were spent doing stuff I could have done without.
But it's not just me that could have done without my army service. The entire affair was pointless even before it started. For most of my army career I was stationed at the West Bank, where the first years of my service were dedicated to supporting army bases around Palestinian cities and where the last years of my army service, following the election of the Rabin led left wing government in late 1992, were dedicated to dismantling those bases (to one extent or another; the process took time). It's not just my own personal experience that indicated futility: During the first years of my army career Palestinians were woken up in the middle of the night by the army to "help" remove Palestinian flags that were hung here and there and everywhere; after Rabin, those flags became legal and suddenly they could just stay up.

The more interesting question is whether I would have joined the army given my current views, views that don't think too highly of Israel's policy of occupation (to say the least). I have to say I'm very glad this question is irrelevant, because the way I see it my current views would have either led me to jail for refusing to join the army or would have caused me to do something I really didn't want to do.
Thing is, my contemporary views are not that different to the views I've had when I did join the army. I really didn't want to join then, either. What is the difference between now and then? The difference is in the conviction and the lack of fuzziness. The difference is that I've had the maturity gained over twenty years of experience to have clearer views. The point is simple: There are some very good reasons why the army recruits people who are still in their teens; these are people who are highly impressionable and thus easier for it to shape into its preferred mold.
The bottom line is that as a soldier, I did what I did mostly in order to be a good team member with my fellow soldiers, knowing all too well that our actions did not have much of an effect on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Yet I would have been that much happier if I was able to dedicate my time to causes I actually support instead, even if these were selfish personal goals like studying, working or traveling. Things that normal teens do, as they should.

2 comments:

wile.e.coyote said...

it is really interesting to see what have happen if you (in your very old age) were called to serve the army reserve in case you were still living in Israel.
I assume that if you were not moving to another country, you would not get such sharp thought on the Israeli army, as people that live in Israel usually are not exposed to a lot of views and hence very pro-army (the Israeli one).

But I assume that you as a cat that take care of himself before others (familiy excluded), would still be a good boy and unless magicly find some madical reasons would still serving the blue-white flag
In the last few years, I spend few army days with people with the same thought as you have, and they were all wearing green

Moshe Reuveni said...

As the post says, from this side of the world the question is quite irrelevant. You are definitely right that seeing things from the outside changes one’s perspective; that is exactly why I am a big time advocate for travelling. But as for the specific question at hand, I will let you come up with theories as to what I would do while I bask in the summer sun and the privilege of not needing to dedicate neuron activity to answer the question.
You see, I have already faced this conflict and the solution I have found to address it turned out to be quite satisfactory.