Earlier this week, I was informed, a group of soldiers visited the old people’s place my father is staying at, back in Israel, and did its best to cheer people up. Everyone seemed happier as a result of this activity. I, being the Ocher Israel that I am, was left wondering: why did the soldiers visit the old people’s place?
The immediate answer, already given, is to cheer the old people up. Which, given that it seems to have worked, is great. But still, why soldiers? Aren’t they supposed to be doing military stuff instead? I’m pretty sure none of them were conscripted to the cause of cheering old people up.
The discussion can move on into the direction of the old people place’s visit doing good to the soldiers, too. It can help their morale as well as act as some sort of a group cohesion activity. But still I will ask, what do these have to do with a visit to an old people’s place? Wouldn’t the army be able to come up with better ways to achieve the same military goals?
The discussion can continue for a long time with some valid reasons for a group of soldiers visiting an old people’s place raised in the process. Yet, I will argue, there will always be a certain shadow over this discussion, because we should all know the reason why a group of soldiers visits an old people’s place. And this underlaying reason is all to do with the militarisation of society.
In other words, the army needs to be seen out there in places deemed unnatural for soldiers to be at in order to be perceived as the people’s republic army. If the army’s goal is to achieve such a level of popularity and acceptance (as opposed to, say, merely defending the country), then sending soldiers to visit old people’s places is probably one of the most effective ways for it to achieve its goals. Eclipsed probably only by visiting schools (oh, but they do that already, too).
Israel is not alone with this exercise. As part of his election campaign, now PM Tony Abbott promised to let the Australian military deal with “stopping the [asylum seekers’] boats”. Clearly, there are lots of politicians across both countries who consider the militarisation of their society a positive thing.
I don’t. I’m with Herzl, the first Zionist ever, on this one:
We shall restrict our professional soldiers to their barracks.
Image by Yossi Gurvitz, Creative Commons licence