Editor’s Note: This column is based solely on the author’s individual opinion and does not reflect the opinions of the Minaret staff nor the University of Tampa.
There is a Swahili proverb that goes, “Bend a fish while it is still wet.”
It is usually used when referring to children, meaning the best way to teach them is when they are young.
The military seems to have understood this very well.
Although military drafts were banned back in 1973, it is not hard to see instances where military service is heavily persuading and aiming for young people.
The army openly stated that it was looking to attract and recruit more young people.
The military in any country has a function and purpose and it is vital for a country’s stability and security. However, the people who work in the military should do so out of free will and choice.
For the service to be out of free will and voluntary, a person has to be old enough physically and mentally to make such a decision and to understand exactly what they are getting into.
I was perturbed that the minimum education requirement for a person to be recruited into the U.S Army was a high school diploma, while the minimum age requirement was set at 18. Even this requirement has been over looked at times by allowing 17-year-olds to be deployed.At the age of 18, and even with a high school diploma, a person is too young to be recruited into military service.
They are young and still fresh. They are yet to be exposed to the real world, or even college, which is a diluted form of the real world. It is during the 18-25 age bracket that a person develops and tests their beliefs, it is at this time that they explore who they are and what they are about.
It is in college that these beliefs are formed, fully developed and make up a person’s character and personality.
People get to see a greater extent of what they hear about, they get to experiment with the process of making a decision by themselves and dealing with the implication of the decisions they make.
This is clear when observing the choices made by a freshman at college, compared to those of a junior or senior.
As a person is exposed to more, they learn the difference between good and bad and right wrong; it is these that form the basis of what a person chooses to believe in and the path of life they choose to take later in life.
The main problem with trying to recruit people who are young and mostly fresh out of high school is that they are not fully aware of what they are going to do. Some people’s main motivation for wanting to join the army is the allure of adventure and being exposed to guns and actually being able to use them. A young man is willing to lose his life for a cause that he may not even fully understand.
They are told the stories of glory without realizing that dying for a cause is not always good, especially if the cause of the conflict was simply a desire for power.
Dying in war is indeed something, but what difference does it make if others will die in the same way and the purpose for the war is simply to invade a sovereign nation or steal its resources?
Does it really make a difference if after your death nothing changes about the war, and it continues in the way that it has been? Or has your death simply become a statistic in a person’s search for more power and resources? The argument for military service is that it is a service to one’s own country, and if they love their country then they ought to do it.
To a young man or woman who is yet to know and experience the evils of the world, this sounds like a good reason to join the army.
That’s the problem. With young people, it is easy to influence their way of thinking, to convince and persuade them that military service is good.
Even when drafted, it is much easier to persuade a young 18-year-old that they ought to kill someone because it is okay than to convince a 25-year-old that the same act is okay.
Young people are quicker and more aggressive at defending their decision to join the army as opposed to veterans who will tell you the thick of what it really is, without all the puffed up promises of glory.
There is a certain vulnerability that comes with young age, and a fragility that allows them to easily submit to authority even when they are asked to do things that they know by instinct to be wrong.
It is easy to shape young minds to certain ideologies about war, conflict and how it can be dealt with.
This is the concept of bending the fish when it is still fresh.
Camilla Chebet can be reached at email@example.com.