While typing about mentors and remembering people who affected and changed my life today, I recalled different times in my military career, and the Code of Conduct.
The code is six articles. We carried a small book of the code around with us while we were in basic training, memorizing its contents. Even now, I think Code of Conduct and I respond, "I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense."
That is Article I, the foundation upon which all the other articles are created. But there were many people in the military that thought of these as words and not a code.
And why not? The American military is an all volunteer force but in reality it's an economic and opportunity draft. Many entering the military as enlisted aren't necessarily seeking to serve their country and preserve the republic. They're escaping their private hells.
Abusive relationships. No money. No future. No hope. The military pushes the antidotes to these things in their advertising. Have an adventure, go to school, be trained, be part of something larger, part of a team, earn money and save the country. The last zoomed in popularity after 9/11 but most people entering were still escaping something. There are few Navy SEALS and fewer Pat Tillmans.
My entry into the military was similar. I thought paths had closed. More, I didn't have adults to lead me. Yes, my parents are and were functioning adults but they weren't prepared to be parents. Both had too many issues to be parents. They'd never formulated dreams. They'd simply escaped their own problems, Mom through marriage and Dad through the military. Neither escape solved their problems. I don't think either really live up to their problems. Our society is good at hiding issues. We pretend that issues happen to others, hiding the yardsticks by which we're measured, leaving us all uncertain about how well we're doing or how well we're not doing.
That's what I learned while mentoring others in the military. Most were not ready to die for their country. They abhored the thought of being killed or captured. Each thought this was their own problem. They didn't realize it was a matter of being human.
But you talk. They talk and you listen. 'Friend' and 'comrade' aren't the right words for what you do. 'Parent' isn't either but nor is sergeant or NCO. It's a role that combines all these roles and formulates a new relationship. Some may call that the mentor relationship. That's the label often applied. Yet everyone knows that when something happens, that relationship changed. I needed to obey the orders given me, and I needed to ensure the orders I gave were carried out.
I never thought of it as mentoring. I thought of it as a gap in their lives that needed to be addressed. They needed help. I was there to help them but I was being selfish. Helping them helped me succeed. Success was what I wanted.
And it all worked. Their success was my success and my success was their success. We were teams, cohesive units doing what needed to be done to succeed. We understood our roles and our missions, and we trusted one another.
That's why it's sad now to see team bandied around as marketing slogans. As military teams, we modeled ourselves on sports teams. Yet that analogy has faded. Sports teams are more and more about the business. It is less about helping the team succeed so that you succeed and more about making money. Values, principles, honor and sacrifice are discarded for money.
We see this most openly in the skyrocketing CEO wealth as the rest of our workers lose homes and see their incomes and value as employees decline. CEOs call themselves leaders of a team yet they don't share the burden nor the success. They flat out state, we are worth more. Within my company, which is supposed to be so successful, the ideal of how a modern corporation should run and behave as a corporate citizen, distinct stratification occurs. The senior executives are rewarded on a vastly different scale. Developers and programmers are viewed as more necessary and that's translated into smaller ways of differentiation. If you're a developer, you may have a docking station, wireless headset and larger monitor. If you're not, you may not buy any of these things through the company. You can buy them yourself, for your own use but the company won't buy it. They need to save money. You may not travel; they need to save money. We are a team until they let you go; then they tell you it's not you, it's just business.
So much for teamwork.
We see this same split in the argument about paying taxes, running deficits, budgeting priorities, and how words and ideas are twisted during political campaigns. What country, what company, what person has truly succeeded in a vacuum? Take away the public structure and the public servants and what remains?
Then you ask yourself, who is that person in Article I? For what country and way of life do they fight?
What is it that they're guarding? Earnings per share?
Yes, I understand that businesses exist to make money and they do so by watching expenses and providing goods and services. I understand investors give them money for this purpose and expect to be rewarded for their investments, for having faith in the enterprise and taking a risk with their money. And I understand that money is the instrument used to buy the goods and services, and that it's all about supply and demand. Everything, in essence, is a commodity that can be bought and sold.
I don't accept it. I don't accept our diminishing emphasis on our values and principles. I don't accept commoditzing values and principles to be sold to the highest bidder, as we do more each day and year with freedoms and rights, as we're doing with water and air. Don't believe that? Talk to the protestors arrested for being on public property. Talk to the people who go to protest who are herded into what, in what is an amazingly arrogant, contemptible and blatent piece of spin, are called Free Speech Zones. Talk to the people whose water is being contaminated while the government does nothing. It's just coincident that fracking took place there, there's no causality established, nothing can be proven, and isn't our energy independence important? I don't accept that making money is the best reward or the most important reward for our activities. But money has become the foundation for all of our lives and decisions.
That's the most troubling aspect. For if everything is reduced to a monetary value, if all principles, values, freedoms and humanities become part of a balance sheet, then what is anything worth if you have no money?
That is the currency of revolution. When people reach the point that they believe their value as a human is worthless, that their life is worthless, than what is to stop them from surrendering their life to create a change?
"I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and the United States of America."
- Article VI.
All men are created equal. That's the principle which made my country free, and that's the principle for which I fight, not the free market place nor earnings per share.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com