Military ... the usual ordinary madness

(To Walter Raleigh)
23/09/19

The military world is the most complicated thing one can imagine; it is a scent that can be perceived already in the difference of the looks of those who have starlets for some time, and of those who would like to wear them.

One of the most complex aspects lies precisely in the motivation, or rather in what should be one vocation, a priestly term which, however, at best, is suitable for recruitment only with a pale approximation; among the enlisted, who holds better stress and disappointment are not those who have profound ideals, immediately disappointed, but those who look at contingencies with pragmatic realism.

Let's be clear, you can't live on romanticism, but certainly the lack of more abstract aspirations cannot fail to affect, especially when you are in command positions, and you decide about the fate and life of people. With the infantrymen you could even joke once, with the saints, not: how things change! The proverbial terms have drastically changed, and the certainties of the past have given way to lability and insecurities that cannot but leave their mark.

Let's face it: the military, in any latitude, has never enjoyed any particular popular affections. Let's look at our country: once united it has long identified itself in the lantern of the Carabinieri who, both in peace and in war, represented an imposition, a discipline to subject the conscripts who, from Lissa onwards, if they could have freely chosen, might have opted to continue their existence as fishermen, peasants, bourgeois ; not to mention the campaigns conducted by the Departments of Bersaglieri in the South following a plebiscite that, so unanimous, perhaps never was.

The experience of the Fascist period has attempted, with disastrous results, to intervene on a DNA absolutely devoid of any bellicist or nationalist gene, reaching instead peaks of grotesque apologies.

Faults? Of all, starting with those of a transformist political class that has never known how to instil any sense of homeland in a people that has always made individualism its creed, and of the political closeness of a de facto authority foreign, and that from his pulpits he has never failed to direct ideas and convictions, in a mixture of the sacred and the profane.

But the military also have responsibilities, and many, and serious. According to some aphorisms in vogue, the military are like children who, hopefully, soon become adults, or are in any case like subjects who, in their inability to provide certainty, are comparable to doctors, for whom nothing is healthy, or to theologians, to which nothing is innocent. Moreover, if Clemenceau himself firmly asserted that the war was too serious to leave it to the generals, there will have been some foundation (and maybe there is still).

By now you will have understood it: we will not talk about weapon systems or strategies, but about something more complex, we will discuss humans, of those who, wearing a uniform, represent the omnipresent element of the organization, of a living organ, extended, sensitive, extremely vulnerable as is the skin for a living being; a organo often overlooked, abandoned and cowardly spendable in the Russian steppes, in a pleasant and tragic Greek island like Cephalonia, in an armored vehicle threatened by IED in the Middle East, or more simply in a subway stop or guarding a garbage dump, worthy substitute of the now obsolete and stale gasoline can.

The time has passed when it was enough to have been a military man in Cuneo to be men of the world: the problem is that not everyone, especially within the organization, seems to have been wise about it.

Who's in charge here?

Time has passed but, despite the inevitable evolutions, what is still lacking altogether is the enhancement of what, in the field civil, was defined as human capital. We are therefore not talking about benefactors or characters devoted to sanctity, but of enterprises created for the realization of profits for which the commitment of the staff is fundamental: it is not a matter of romantic affection, but of prosaic revenues.

So, if it is true that the apicalities of the state organization attempt to imitate the modus operandi of high private managerial skills, why do the more backward aspects stand out?

There exists or not the capacity, and above all the want, to exalt the set of knowledge, skills, abilities, and planning acquired by its staff in order to achieve the set objectives?

In summary: le Greek they are really capable of it, they want to be able to do it, or we have to wait to find ourselves once again in front of De Niro / Al Capone who addresses the agent Ness telling him that it just talk and badge?

Frankly, it does not seem that the management lever consists of the human capital has been understood and elevated to the same dignity as the others (financial resources and economies of scale). What is dramatically missing, in the face of anglicisms to the page that identify in the Strategic Human Resources Management the key to the success of personnel management is understanding the intangibility of the value of this capital, pace of all the courses of high level harbingers only of captivating and multicolored sequences of badges to wear, courses often not formative but purely selective according to variable paradigms not always equally rewarding, and that seem to stigmatize the golden rule for which any attempt of improvement can be recognized only if performed by predestined subjects and not always so deserving. But then, who decides if not the leaders?

Is there a managerial capacity that can enhance intangibles? There are many doubts, and they are based on a consideration: how can a company produce revenues that, in the face of outward appearance, continue to be based on a rigid and static bureaucracy equal to the brainy one stigmatized by the film Brazil and ridiculed by Asterix in its 12 labors when put in front of the house that makes you crazy?

A rigid and punitive bureaucracy with some and extremely flexible and compliant with others, can it be valid? The question is purely rhetorical. Where is the development of the talent if perpetually harnessed to norms of the lowest level of regulation?

Let's say another very uncomfortable truth: on the part of the establishment there is a constant, creeping fear of being faced with capable, motivated individuals with prestigious titles often achieved at their own expense at institutions of value, but without the sanctity of anointing provided by schools and academies. That the academic training is valid can be true, that all those who undergo it are up to it, a little less; yet this organization of the Savoy brand, still pregnant although it is lived in the 2019, cannot accept it on principle, and prefers to continue to ignore human capital so much more valid than most of the elected, to be a danger to be avoided, and to the devil talent and capital especially if they question unwise and in any case unproductive choices.

We continue to be abrasive and ask ourselves if a private entrepreneur would adopt the same standard of judgment; we lean towards a decisive no, unless we want to relegate the entrepreneur in question to a well-deserved stay in the infernal circle of bischeri. According to points of view expressed by university studies, The worker is a talent that must be managed, but also valued. [...] And to be able to do it in the best way, "mental openness and ability to manage a resource" are necessary, an impossible mission, given also the permanent feeling of the staff to find themselves involved in a work model without sense and motivation. In all this, the staff at all levels - except for the elected - what lives, what does it feel? How can it relate to a management that sometimes discriminates and that, however, is more and more often conditioned by circles or, if you prefer, according to a manual Cencelli style I Repubblica, from cordate characterized by common regional city memberships such as to create even more restricted areas for the usual elected? How can we live a daily condition where the penalty imposed on those who only want to increase their added value to put it at the service of an organization that divides its members into children and stepchildren is it automatic and also leads to discrimination in employment? What can this state of affairs lead to, if not a war between the poor? Hooray on divide et impera, to the devil the one acies.

Crazy, vulnerable splinters ...

The repercussions of a management not attentive to the needs and aspirations of the personnel are not slight. Murphy's Basic Law, albeit jokingly, with its paradox that "If there are two or more ways to do a thing, and one of these ways can lead to a catastrophe, then someone will do it that way"Drastically brings us back to reality, and to one of the most tragic and hidden aspects: that of suicides among men and women in uniform, the so-called silent massacre, a massacre that presents very high numbers if we consider that the average figure of suicides among the population it is half compared to that of personnel in uniform.

The causes? Multiple. Inner sufferings, personal hardships, missed reunions that cause breakdowns of family nucleuses, economic problems, psychological supports lacking or however not seen as an aid, but as a risk for the possible disciplinary or registration implications, the marginalization consequent to the denunciation of irregular situations.

Where was the Command in these cases? Perched, ready to offer solutions that have the bitter taste of punitive prank. After all, what did the Comma 22 paradox say? "Those who are crazy can ask to be exempted from flight missions, but those who ask to be exempted from flight missions are not crazy ". Different considerations, both internal to the organization and political; the act itself is relegated exclusively to the individual sphere, as if to deny that the military is an integrated part of the system; in addition, in a country devoted to do-goodism without ifs and buts, how a post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from insertion into a conflictual situation can be recognized where the dormant society imagined the usual distribution of water bottles and medicines? Here too, where was the Command, where were the leaders?

Malaparte said that it is much more difficult to lose a war than to win it, because to win a war everyone is good, not everyone is able to lose it. We can say that, in the company of the staff, we devoted ourselves carefully not to disappoint the Tuscan writer.

Photo: US Army / web / ministry of defense / US DoD