Tuesday, 7 March 2006

Army Dreamers

As I told you a couple of days ago, we visited Werribee Mansion on the weekend.
When we paid for our entry tickets they gave us these stickers that we were supposed to put on so the big brother would know we paid for our tickets. In typical fashion, my first attempt was to put the sticker at a certain place in the front of my pants, but Jo did not allow such mischief so I just put it on my bellybutton. Later we met my brother, and he didn't put his sticker on at all.
It was Jo that noticed that of all the many people visiting the Mansion, my brother and I were the only rebels. Everyone else, which included all sorts of weirdos in addition to the type of crowds you'd normally expect to meet at a place that exhibits statues and has some nice picnicking facilities, proudly wore their stickers on their chests. An interesting observation.
I think the explanation is simple: We're Israelis. An Israeli's main fear is not to look as if he/she is being used by another. But it goes further than that: Israel is this place where people use and abuse any sort of authority possible in order to justify their preferred cause. Most of the causes are to do with religion and the Arab-Israeli conflict, and as a result you get religious nonsense shoved up your @ss from kindergarten onwards, to the point that most Israelis today will fight over the right to hold on to Jerusalem (while I, for example, would rather live happily on whatever territory I get; Jerusalem is nothing special - it's just another piece of earth, and worshipping it is what I would call idol work).
The peak as far as Israeli experiences go is the army. For three years, or for four in the cases of my brother and I, you get some stupid idiots who are people just like you and in no way better than you tell you what to do. The things they tell you to do are not particularly good, and as a result you end up wasting several years of your life on idle work. It gets worse when you do reserve duty, because then you are actually older and far more experienced than the people who tell you what to do; you're a B.Sc. and they're kids that just recently graduated high school and do not exhibit much of a regard to the fact you are just trying to live your life.
In order to survive that and remain sane you have to develop some sort of a defence mechanism. That mechanism comes in two main shapes: Questioning everything and an elaborate sense of cynicism. I already noticed that Australians are much more prone to doing what they are told to do than me; I tend to rebel and object. Some times it's just futile and senseless objection, most of the times it helps improve things when you ask the right questions. One thing there's no doubt about is the difficult times Australians have handling cynicism: they're used to taking things at face value, which is fair enough.
Still, I have problems getting rid of my memoirs of a soldier. On the night after the Werribee visit I dreamt I was called to the army for reserve duty yet again and felt really annoyed that every time I visit Israel I get called to the army, don't get paid for it because I no longer have any accounts in Israel, and have to postpone my return to work back in Australia due to the army's insistence. The problem there, though, is that this repeating dream is an entirely fictitious scenario: They cannot call me when I am in Australia, and in the almost four years since leaving Israel I haven't had anything to do with the army; but still, in those hazy first minutes after I wake up, especially after waking up from a bad dream, I still often find it hard to believe I am actually in Australia and that there is no army duty hanging on top of my head. Quite a nice surprise.
No doubt about it: The army was one of the main reasons why I wanted to leave Israel, and is still the main reason why I'm not overly keen on visits despite the fact that rationally I know that by now the risk of being called is extremely low and despite the fact I miss my family.
For the drive back home I had both my sticker and Jo's sticker on each side of my bum.


uri said...

Mmmm. People who are in no way better than you, telling you what to do. Yes, that can only happen in the army.

Although I would happily wear the sticker (I still have a ski pass on my old ski jacket), I do see your point.
But I’m not sure your cynicism has anything to do with being an Israeli. Even there (here) you were probably considered extra sic.
When people told me I was a terrible cynic, I used to thank them, because I honestly considered it a compliment, but that never went well.

And about rebelling – weren’t you sort of rebellious even before the army? Even when you were globally considered to be the poster boy for good behavior?

Moshe Reuveni said...

Could be; but if we agree that you, me, and my brother are "criminals", then what is it other than being an Israeli?