52% intelligent. 9% modest. More monkey than bear.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

a vacation in a foreign land

Never mind the thousands of lives and the billions of pounds thrown away in all of those pointless conflicts across the world, I’m worried about the amount of money that the British Armed Forces have thrown away in advertising over the years. Newspapers, magazines, cinemas, magazines.... no medium is too expensive to be used. Be like Frank, we are told, join the army. Travel the world. Meet lots of interesting people. Go windsurfing. Go skiing. Make great friends. Slaughter innocent civilians in a war with no objectives and no clear enemy. Oh hang on, they don’t use that one in the adverts. I must be reading between the lines.

Sounds great though, doesn’t it? But what kind of skills does one need to join the army? What kind of person are they looking for? Well, from what I can gather from the advertising, the ability to take off your sunglasses when you are roundly patronising some generic African villagers is highly prized. You’re officer material if you can pull that trick off, I’m told. Prince Harry is currently working on this particular exercise at Sandhurst as we speak, although I’ve heard that he’s really struggling to grasp it, but he has scored very highly in his classes on misogyny and casual racism, and should pass out with flying colours. Perhaps top of the class.

Maybe I should consider a career change?

Or perhaps I’d rather pull out my own intestines with chopsticks and stir-fry my sweetmeats to serve as a starter.

Why all the advertising though? Are they running dangerously low on cannon fodder or something? Is the average IQ of the survivors running dangerously high and in need of dilution by some new blood?

Why do we have an army again?


  • At 1:32 am, Blogger Flash said…

    I have never, ever understood the desire of people to join the Army.

    I have even less understanding when people express disgust at "our boys" being put "at risk". Err, hello? Did they join the army so that they could shoot people & blow them up? Yes, I think they did.

  • At 6:47 am, Blogger Michael said…

    Odds are, since the British get sucked into all the same messes as we Americans do, I'll say why we have a military.

    #1 to bully other nations.

    #2 to play police.

    #3 to bully other nations.

    #4 to occasionally use the mobility of forces to help people.

    #5 to defend ourselves from Canada... we know they've been eyeballing the upper half of Maine for a few hundred years.

    #6 did I mention to bully other nations yet? Cuz that's the main purpose.

    I'm happy I'm a peace loving hippy.

  • At 7:51 am, Blogger spinsterwitch said…

    Michael - you are so right about that #5, we Minnesotans know those Canooks want the little divit at the top of the state, but that island is ours, I say, ours!


    Seriously, though, here in the US it's often the only way that people can see to get a step out of poor economic situations (either rural or urban). But what's interesting to me is that the National Guard is now advertising aggressively because this war has so decimated the number of guardsman left here in the US.

  • At 8:49 am, Blogger Lord Bargain said…

    Never being one to eschew making a sweeping generalisation, the Army is formed of two distinct types of group.

    The officers who are all double-barrelled landed gentry or borderline royalty.

    And the cannon fodder who join the army as they are thick as pigsh*t and can't get a job working for anyone else.

    Travel the World? Balls. What a rubbish advertising campaign. When was the last time a friend of yours told you they were taking a year out to travel the world and when you asked them to provide a list of where they were going they said:

    Northern Ireland

    They might as well say:

    "join the Army. You're likely to die and the pay is buttons but it beats being a joyrider in Liverpool as you'll get a proper gun to use."

  • At 10:31 am, Blogger Bee said…

    Reminds me of a spoof army advert that Eric Idle once wrote - from what I remember, it went something like, "You'll get to travel the world and see many fascinating countries, as long as you keep your head down."

  • At 11:51 am, Blogger adem said…

    There was this old episode of Star Trek (with Captain Kirk) where they landed on a planet that was at war. But the clever bit was that they never actually went to physical war, a computer worked out the war and strategies and no one actually fought against each other, instead the computer (loads of flashing lights) gave a readout of how many people would've been killed and then those people voluntarily were zapped, and killed.

    No blood, no mess, the way of the future, and it's cheaper too.

  • At 12:53 pm, Blogger B1RDIE Num Num said…

    I have read quite a few books written about war and armies, mainly from the strategy viewpoint.

    The majority of the army is made up of people who can be coerced into signing up to be shot and to shoot back. There are, amongst them, a few that are not that dim and have just opted for an easy-job (kid u not)

    Right now, however, there is going to be a lack of volunteers, since we are in wartime, and its bloody clear even to the thickest idiot that if you sign up you will end up in iraq. Therefore, since we are indeed short of cannon fodder (i'm sure the casualty count is rising, and humanely speaking these people are humans with families and deserve a proper cause to fight for), we need to sign up more.

    The key, alas, is that the generals need to be more intelligent now. Wars are not really like the olde days, they are more like in the movies. So best to recruit Arnie type folks that can rush off into the buildings and clean out the snipers singlehandedly.


  • At 1:14 pm, Blogger SwissToni said…

    the current advert for nurses and doctors to join the Territorial Army makes me laugh. The medics in the TA are **always** called up in the event of a war. If anyone is daft enough to sign up now, they will be in Iraq before they know it. It's not quite the "few interesting weekends a year" that they make it out to be is it, more the "drop the rest of your life and get out to the gulf, doofus".


  • At 2:40 pm, Blogger John said…

    I like the TA one with the two women officers getting approached by the tossers in the pub - it reminded me of that anti-smoking campaign that had a gorgeous bird spraying her hair with fag-scented hairspray "to repel unwanted advances!"

    My brother-in-law is in the TA, and he's not thick - far from it - but neither is he overly delighted that he's pretty likely to end up in Iraq before too long (having missed the last three call-ups).

    I've never asked him why he's in it. Perhaps I will this weekend when I'm over.

    It's a ridiculous thing to say as times have changed beyond recognition, but I'm glad we had an army when Jonny Hitler came knocking.

    Jessop (Jack Nicholson): You want answers?
    Kaffee (Tom Cruise): I think I'm entitled to them.
    Jessop: You want answers?
    Kaffee: I want the truth!
    Jessop: You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives...You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.
    We use words like honor, code, loyalty... We use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use 'em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!

  • At 3:21 pm, Blogger Ben said…

    I spotted a T-shirt at the Leeds Festival a couple of years back: "Join the army. Travel the world. Meet new people. And kill them."

    Of course there's a likelihood of people who sign up to the army ending up in combat zones, even if they're not fighting themselves, but the sad truth of the matter is that many people feel that the military offers a much better life, wage and prospects than anything else they could do. If you sign up, though, you have accept the consequences - it's no use signing up and then being upset when you're sent to a war zone. Well, not, that is, unless the war you're being sent to is illegal and unnecessary...

  • At 3:22 pm, Blogger red one said…

    Indeed they ARE running short of cannon fodder. Apparently recruitment is down since the Iraq war, both here and in the US.

    Traditionally the British army recruits from areas of mass unemployment/closed down industries, except as Lord B points out, for the weird officers. I'm more inclined to apply the thick as pigsh*t tag to the officers, who are likely to have far more other options and opportunities than the ordinary recruits.

    Great cinema moment: watching an army recruitment ad in the cinema in the trailers for Robert Altman's film The Player. We watched A Bloke having a fun time seeing the world, surfing, abseiling or whatever and then the punchline comes - it's all because Bloke has joined the British Army. The audience booed. And this was in 1992 in the West End.

  • At 4:41 pm, Blogger John said…

    Imagine the awful epiphany. Bloke signs up for surfing, abseiling and the rest. He puts up the with 16 weeks of basic training. He hangs in there for the pay-off. He's shipped to Iraq. He crests a dune in Basra and turns to his mate to say "Hang on a minute, where's the beach?" but his mate's head has been blown clean off. That sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realise you made a bad choice.

  • At 4:44 pm, Blogger Shane said…

    I remember seeing an interview with a kid (about 16/17 years old) who lived up in Northumberland/Durham - former mining community. Asked what he wanted to do work-wise, he mentioned joining the army - 'cos there's no jobs round here'. The MoD (and I guess the rest of us) ought to be grateful for such kids' naivety - thank God for their lack of political education? Then again, I guess decisions towards military action would become seriously constrained with a severe shortage of forces personnel (/fodder).

    Your post and others' comments also reminded me of The Great War documentary Blackadder Goes Forth.

  • At 6:52 pm, Blogger the urban fox said…

    Interesting post & comments. What Lord B said though, "you're likely to die" - they have a far higher chance of killing hundreds than dying. "You're going to have to kill people" would be just as effective at putting me off the job though... Perhaps violent psychopaths should join up for a convenient outlet, and to make a living from something they enjoy?

  • At 9:46 pm, Blogger red one said…

    Fox - you are not really going to give Tony Blair a force of deadly efficient psychopathic killing machines are you?


  • At 11:53 pm, Blogger Lord Bargain said…

    I read a great anecdote of someone going to RAF Henlow and noticing that someone from Health and Safety had pinned a poster to the notice-board warning fighter pilots that alcohol will make them aggressive and violent and thinking "blimey, that's the last thing we want. Aggressive and violent fighter pilots...."

  • At 5:12 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    To Lord Bargin,

    The World According to Clarkson" by Jermey Clarskon, you mean?


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