Brain Dropping #83
“Theirs not To Reason Why,
Theirs but to do or die!”
I’m sure most people would recognize those lines from Tennyson’s “Charge Of The Light Brigade” the ultimate paean to mindless obedience. This form of destructive conformity is all too common in the modern world. Most recently we’ve seen it on Wall Street in the slavish, corrupt behavior of young over-zealous MBAs, following the orders of the fat-cats in three thousand dollar suits, selling “shitty” financial products, screwing their clients, without batting an eye.(See Senator Carl Levin’s interrogation of Goldman Sachs executives.)
We see it in industry where executives and their compliant underlings suppress dangerous flaws in their products, often resulting in serious injury and death. The Japanese manufacturer Takata did just that by burying vital information that their automobile air bags, when deployed, showered the driver with deadly shrapnel. For the most part everybody kept their mouth shut for years. Finally, two former employees blew the whistle. But it was too late for the several drivers who were killed.
We see it in the military where the common soldier is sworn to obey orders, no matter how absurd, given by beribboned officers who have risen in the ranks by absolutely, always blurting “Yes Sir!” followed by a snappy salute. This abnegation of the human ability to reason leads to dire consequences. The sad tale of General Colin Powell holding up a vial of baking soda and warning of biological weapons, comes to mind.
It is ironic that it has just been revealed that for years the Pentagon has been keeping the wraps on an estimated six hundred or more lower ranking service men and women in Iraq, who were exposed to chemical warfare weapons such as the nerve agent Sarin or sulfur mustard. This criminal negligence in delaying treatment for soldiers exposed to these agents, coupled with the scandals concerning sub-standard care in our veterans hospitals and manipulation of disability standards to save money, is indicative of an alienated leadership devoid of integrity. I would argue that the cruel term “canon fodder” is applicable here in describing those who loyally follow orders into “the jaws of death” and, if they are lucky enough to survive, are abandoned by their leaders.