Military Can’t Find Fit Young People

The Pentagon, even though it’s shrinking the military, is facing a personnel crisis. In short, most of the young people are too obese, have too many tattoos, and are hooked on prescribed drugs, such as medication for “attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.” reports:

The major problem is obesity, reports military recruiters. But young adults are also being turned away because they lack high school diplomas, have felony convictions, and are on prescription drugs for ailments such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Still more do not meet the military’s appearance standards. New rules issued in March  forbid large-scale tattoos or more than four visible on a soldier’s arms or legs. Tattoos are forbidden on other parts of the body not covered by a uniform.

In addition, potential recruits are being turned away because of extreme piercings, such as ear gauges that create large holes in people’s earlobes.

As a result, the Defense Department estimates, about 71 percent of the 34 million young adults ages 17 to 24 would not be able to enlist if they tried, not counting people turned away for tattoos or other cosmetic issues.

Most, on both the “left” and the “right,” will complain that today’s young people are too selfish. If only they were more selfless and self-sacrificing, then the military would have better young people from which to choose. Or so we’ll be told. Calls for a military draft will strengthen, on the premise that “drafting young people will make them less selfish, and foster a sense of service and sacrifice for the nation.” You know, the kind of thing people like Hitler and Mussolini used to claim.

But think about social trends of the last 20 years or so. Public schools, which most children attend, have made community service a requirement. Progressive education fosters group cooperation and learning by consensus over individuality, objectivity and achievement — the latter of which are considered passé, incorrect, selfish and old-fashioned. We’ve reduced emphasis on things like winners or champions in sports; more and more states are providing free college (reducing the incentives for scholarships or high grades); and valedictorians (top grade-earner in one’s high school class) are increasingly a thing of the past, or at least an occasion for embarrassment.

The types of leaders — including the current President, Barack Obama — insist on a daily basis that we are all our brothers’ keepers, and that the purpose of government is to subordinate the individual to society. Despite a bad economy, Obama coasted to reelection victory among young people in 2012 with 67 percent of the youth vote. Apparently, most young people buy this ideology. Achievement is out, and the “ideal” of service and sacrifice — or at least appearing that way — is the undisputed ethos of our era.

Young people are “too” self-interested in a cultural and educational climate like this one? You’ve got to be kidding.

Contemporary parents, just like old-fashioned parents, stress the evil of selfishness and the virtue of all things self-sacrificial. Socially conservative parents in “red states” do so via Christian churches, while intellectual, more well-off “Progressive” parents do so via New Age gurus, leftist politics and constant calls for selfless service. At root, when you sweep aside the differing attitudes about sex, it’s all the same approach.

Our nation and culture is awash in the ideology of self-sacrifice and anti-individualism — politically, socially, psychologically and philosophically. Arguably, more than ever before.

So why is the military having such a hard time finding mentally and physically fit young people? You would think that a culture so stressing the need for “giving back” and anti-capitalism / anti-individualism would churn out perfect selfless specimens ready for military service on day one.

What’s missing from today’s culture is any sense of rational self-interest. It’s rational self-interest — rational selfishness (yes, selfishness) — which motivates people to be fit and trim, to care about the food they eat and how they handle the physical demands of reality. When you root out any idea of self-interest and self-responsibility in youth, you end up with a lack of these qualities in adulthood.

Psychiatry and education have bent over backwards to in effect tell young people, “You can’t be expected to focus your minds. Here, take some medication to make you concentrate. We’ll call it ADHD.” The root of self-preservation and rational morality lies in the basic choice to think, not just now and again but every day and moment of one’s life. If lack of attention, focus and purpose is merely a medical or brain-related disease, then why are so many young people still hooked, at age 18 or 21, on the medication that was supposed to cure, or at least alleviate it? If we teach them that they can’t be expected to manage their minds without medical excuse slips, then how in the world do we expect them to prepare for reality, to say nothing of something as difficult as military involvement?

As for tattoos, I have a theory. Maybe they’re an attempt to concretize one’s individuality. Maybe a generation of young people starved of the sense of self that only individualism, self-responsibility and rational self-interest can provide, are desperate to find some symbolic means of establishing what was denied to them. For many, the tattoo represents not just a stylistic preference — as in a hairstyle or clothing — which is temporary and can later be discarded; maybe it’s a way to make permanent a sense of self and identity provided them nowhere else in their culture. A tattoo is a way of saying, “Hey, this is my own identity, my own imprint, permanently enshrined on my body. And there’s nothing you can do about it.” After years of being told to hold hands, pretending to love everyone unconditionally; never make independent or objective judgments; never say there’s a “good” or “bad” or “better” or “worse” about anything; always place feelings above everything and strive for consensus in the group — who can blame them?

As our present political leaders deemphasize the military and physical self-protection in favor of other priorities — such as gradually nationalizing private industry and providing more debt-financed social “insurance” than the private economy could ever pay for — the gathering crisis in the quality of the military might not become obvious right away. Or maybe there will be a national emergency that drives the issue home.

But one thing is for sure. A crisis in the military will be blamed on “too much selfishness,” something on which both social conservatives and leftist moralist intellectuals are all too ready to degree. The most likely outcome will be a politically correct version of the military draft, for the same reasons our increasingly nationalist and socialist government rationalizes other measures: The good of society.

The irony and tragedy is how utterly and completely wrong both the diagnosis and proposed remedies will be. Because the truth is inescapable: Starve young people of rational self-interest and individualism, and the society they inhabit will eventually fall with them.


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