Friday, September 14

Grounds for Divorce

Regardless of having reason, motive, seeking out truth, upholding honour, adhering to logic or just simply knowing beyond all certainty that you're in the right, there is never any justification for insubordination in the army. None. Never.

The tighter the blinkers, the straighter and steadier the progress. As a young Legionnaire I was nothing if not subordinate. Yes Sir, No Sir, Three Bags Full Sir - there really wasn't anything to it, all this Legion Lark. So I thought. So I still do. Instead of believing the Legion to have become increasingly more difficult as time goes by, I've decided that it's rather we, as human beings, that make things more difficult the longer we have to play around with them. Complicating things is one of our species' proverbial passe-temps préférés, and an increasing seniority among the rank and file here in the Legion provides a perfect case-in-point.

Your service record counts, sure. Results in various training courses, fitness levels, they all go towards a favourable impression of what one "imagines" a Legionnaire to be. But at the end of the day, it's the "note de geuele" that REALLY counts. Basically, how much you're considered an affable, competent soldier by your superiors. Pull-ups don't count. Running doesn't count. Levels of French do (otherwise how else could one make such a favourable impression). And so gradually an image of one as a Legionnaire is built from the ground up. Be a dickhead who works hard, enjoy respect. Be a nice guy who can still be firm when required, same. Be a sissy pushover who wreaks sly shadowy revenge (most likely in the form of larceny), be reviled but essentially impossible to publicly (and physically) condemn. And the stereotypical depictions go on and on. Now it's undeniably advantageous to have a pleasant working relationship with one's superiors, but that line can occasionally be crossed whereby the subordinates become a tad too comfortable. Ending up in cahoots with easily coerced superiors isn't the inevitability in this scenario, however. Rather the surprising development sees one become increasingly irritated by overly-accommodating bosses seemingly encouraging a loose, uninterested approach to daily duties. Once it doesn't impact them, they couldn't care less. Surely, this isn't how an army should be.

The temptation to lash out at an inanely boorish commanding officer can sometimes push one to one's very limits. The tongue ploughs into a clamped jaw, almost liquidizing itself through gaps in violently gritted teeth as a volley of venomous vulgarities screams to be let loose on the unsuspecting ears of the imbecile before us. With a fast-approaching exit from this military life looming ever larger on the horizon, the temptation borders on the grotesque. Silent diatribes are formed in front of the bathroom mirror as fluorescent lights flicker overhead, night-time providing the ideal moment for climaxing emotions to articulate themselves spectacularly beneath furrowed brows. The diatribes remain silent of course. It's one thing to rant and vent in private, quite another to risk the remainder of a hitherto successful military career and the essential Certificate of Good Conduct awaiting legionnaires at the end of their 5 year stint. Some might say it lacks balls, others might counter that it shows brains. Others again still struggle to distinguish between the two. 

Either way, it would be foolhardy to risk the past 4 years' hard work for some deluded idea of (re)establishing principals. You come to the Legion to get pissed on. I know I did, standing in the corridors of Fort de Nogent on the first day, expecting a gigantic thump in the solar plexus that never came. Always thinking that whenever they'd scream "Get up" at the end of a marathon push-up session, we'd just drop right back down in to the mud again for more punishment. But standing we remained. The danger is in overcoming the state of stress and tension, settling into a wafer-thin complacency ready to dissolve upon the slightest reminder of the constant, underlying reality here in the Legion. On this particular journey, we're all just riding bitch, clinging desperately to the faded denim coat tails trailing in the wind. At no point, absolutely NO point whatsoever will we get to change places, grip the handle-bars and steer our own course. No chance. None. Never.

The only solution is to get the fuck off and go buy your own bike.


  1. I hear you! Just hang in there, it's not that long until you can 'buy your own bike'. And drive it any way you want :)

  2. You should consider that a feature on your own bike should probably be a book deal.