So, what was I saying?
Yes, the army experience. I must finish with this topic because I have new things to say about my latest trips to Shanghai and Napoli. I was checking some notes that I took one day about what I shouldn't forget after the army. Most of them where about incentives and how the army achieves its so difficult objective: to turn normal people into heros that are ready to throw themselves in the battlefield when ordered to do so.
From my experience, the key for this to happen is the complete destruction of the self. It was very interesting for me how the whole system was built in order to turn people to lifeless musical instruments ready to play any tune ordered by the director of the orchestra. Or actually to play always the same boring one :-)
I don't know from where to start. Insulting (mentioned in my previous post) is just one of the techniques. There are so many things that I already knew theoretically, but I was so surprised to feel the power that they had on me and the rest of the soldiers. I will start from the first day.
The very first lesson you learn from the very first moment you enter in the camp is this: You belong to the army. First, you give in immediately your civilian identity card and they take a photo of you with army clothes in order for your army identity card to be created. Then after they check all your belongings, you leave the small bag that you are allowed to bring in the camp in a small room. (Locking your bag was one of the army survival courses transfered from generation to generation and what was meant to be my nightmare for my whole service. Locker for the boots, locker for the small bag, locker for the big bag, locker for the gun. All these lockers (I had 7 in total) were driving me crazy. Every morning I spent 10 minutes before I woke up to organize what I will have to lock and unlock and in which order -I will come back to this at a later post). But the funniest for me was that after we entered the camp and we were waiting for our new photos, the general of the camp gave a talk to the parents alone. It was very symbolic. Our new father was explaining what will happen to us to his predecessors. I don't know if you can imagine the moment. Anyway, I found it very funny, and symbolic.
The second lesson was grouping. For every process groups were created and a responsible person was assigned for each group. Grouping is one of the most interesting incentive mechanism. Besides the numerous adhoc groups, there was a permanent organization in groups of 12, 24, 48, 200, 600, and 1200 soldiers (I don't know the names) all with different leaders and co-leaders. The leaders of the first 2 were normal soldiers chosen by chance or age. I was very lucky not to be chosen although I was the oldest. I still don't know why that happened but I realized how good this was when I became a leader for the second part of my service.
Except for a mechanism to share responsibility and control, grouping is a very interesting motivator. For some reason my group was the best :-). It could be a matter of chance but I really think that there is a strange psychological effect. In my group there were all sorts of people. A football player, a street dancer, a moto mechanic, a guy studying the "history of war", a graphic designer, a normal person :-), with an average age of 22. A similar mixture to any other group. But my group was the best. I felt so lucky that I would not have to be with all the other "stupid" guys that were in the other groups. I guess that this strong connection with the group members is crucial for passing your limits in difficult moments during a war.
Anyway, for getting our new clothes, a shot, and filling some papers we spent around 8 hours before arrving in our building. The entrance group was dismantled (I had already felt that this was the best group among all the entrance groups and it was a pitty that we wouldn't be together :-)) and now I met my new and permanent group in the dark. The lights were already off and we went immediately to bed because the next morning we had to wake up at 5 o'clock in order to get ready for our first morning report! (my permanent nightmare, even worse than the lockers). The energy of the room was so numb. I have never felt like this in my life. A room full of complete strangers that had just been separated from their families, friends, girlfriends, entering the unknown for which so many bad things we had been told since we were kids. Oh my god! Why am I here?
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