What It’s Like… Vol 4. The Monkey and the Fire Hose

In my time in the military, I have dealt with a lot of frustrations
with rules. You may ask yourself, “Well then why the hell did you join
the Marines if you have a problem with rules?” to which I reply,
“Because…. go fuck yourself.” I do. I do have a problem with rules
and a problem with authority. I disagree loudly and often with a lot
of things but they are mostly the things that I view as arbitrary
rule-making. I understand the need for good order and discipline,
however, we in the Marine Corps make many, many rules that are aimed
at keeping us a step above the Army in appearance and conduct. I get
it. We are supposed to be a cut above the rest.

...*sigh*.. Goddamnit, Army.

…*sigh*.. Goddamnit, Army.

As I’ve sunken into the “special” world, my haircut has gotten
longer and my undershirt has disappeared. These are totally authorized
per the letter of the order but it drives people nuts because the
average Marine is never allowed anything but a high and tight (which
looks ridiculous and ungentlemanly) and would not be allowed to take
his undershirt off under his uniform despite how hot it is. We are
allowed to per the order, but the command says no despite common
sense. This is where the arbitrary rule making comes into play. The
Marine Corps as a whole likes to talk about standards. The fact that
my hair is approximately three inches long is within standards per the
letter of the law, however, I am often accosted by an irate Sergeant
Major whose veins are fit to burst in his neck and forehead and is
gnashing his teeth like a wolf with lockjaw flying pell-mell at me
with his hand in my face, fingers extended and joined into the shape
of a knife, screaming that I need a haircut. This is when I roll my
eyes so hard that I almost pass out and the conversation goes
something like this.

Sergeant Major- “Sir! You need a haircut on that nasty hippy head of yours!”
Me- “Sergeant Major, my hair is within the length outlined in the order.”
SM- “That’s not the point, sir! You’re out of standards!”
Me- “I’m pretty sure the order IS the standard.”
SM- “Sir! The standard is for you to look like a ridiculous
fuck-knuckle! You need to get a high and tight and put on an
undershirt or your entire platoon is going to get killed!”

Hooray for not making sense!

Hooray for not making sense!

Okay so I may have exaggerated that last part but only by a little. I
swear. We make rules within the rules. If you want the rule to be more
restrictive than the rules then you need to make those rules the
rules… That was confusing when I read over. I think I’ve gone
cross-eyed. Now these are only two small examples. I don’t want you to
think, “Good God, he is a whiner about some dumb stuff.” The big
example of this is stuff in combat like having to wear a heavier flak
jacket than makes sense on a patrol “because the command said so” and
then someone becomes a heat casualty in 120 degree Afghan heat. Or
when its -7 degrees on a field exercise and they tell us we can’t wear
gloves or a beanie because, “we don’t wear ‘snivel gear’ when the sun
is up!”

Me during training in Virginia.

Me during training in Virginia.

The best analogy of our arbitrary rule making is summed up in this
allegorical tale of the monkeys and the fire hose. Sit down kids. It’s
story time with Cap’n Chris.

So three monkeys are in a cage. In the cage is a ladder with a banana
on top. Outside is a guy with a fire hose. The first monkey starts
climbing the ladder to get the banana and the guy blasts him off the
ladder with the fire hose and then blasts the other two monkeys. The
second monkey then goes for the banana and the same thing happens. The
third then goes for the ladder but before he can get there, the other
two monkeys drag him down and beat the shit out him. One of the
monkeys is then swapped out with a new monkey and, as to be expected,
he goes for the banana at once but is dragged down by the other two
monkeys and they beat the shit out of him. This goes on and on until,
one day, all the monkeys have been swapped out and none have every
been fire hosed. As the newest monkey goes for the banana, the other
drag him down and beat the shit out of him. He asks, “Why the hell did
you beat the shit out of me for trying to get the banana?” and the
others look at him and say, “I don’t know. That’s just how we’ve
always done it.”

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One Response to What It’s Like… Vol 4. The Monkey and the Fire Hose

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