Knatz.com / Stories / Hierarchy vs Conviviality / Army /
In basic training, Fort Dix, NJ, we’re awakened before dawn, dumped into the chill autumn yard, not allowed to don the clothing we’ve been issued unless it’s part of the uniform-of-the-day. Eventually we’ll be marched off to the mess hall for breakfast (or marched off to the firing range where no-longer-hot soup will serve instead of breakfast), but in the meantime we stand and shiver. I sneer my displeasure at some guy who’s a-chill near me: “I hate being outdoors on a morning like this.” “I love being outdoors on a morning like this”, he responds: “if I’m home, having dressed myself in appropriate clothes, got my long johns on, going hunting, with the right boots, the right gloves, and electric hand-warmers”. In another half year I’d feel the same way about going skiing: cold enough to preserve show on the mountain? whoopey! That had never occured to me: cold? dress for it! freedom, access to resources, that’s what we need. Ah, but this is the army.
So we stand there, shivering, as time passes. A hint of gray streaks the east. Shiver, shiver. And some other guy is in my purlieu. This guy starts pontificating on jazz! This guy is lecturing me. Me! He doesn’t know me. He doesn’t first establish what I know to determine what I might be beneficially told. No, he assumed total ignorance on my part, total righteousness on his. He fiats his own hiptitude.
“Jazz can’t be defined”, he declares, from on high. Bull, a papal bull.
“Pain, heard beautifully”, I declare, instantly, like a reflex, without thinking: the Muse had me square by the shoulders.
“Jazz can’t be defined”, this moron repeats. He herad nothing, earned nothing. I bet he listened the jazz the same way. I guess he, unlike me, belonged in the tone-deaf, stone-deaf, un-listening army.
In 1960 or so I’d told the draft board that I was a conscientious objector, a pacifist, a Christian. On a form, I told them. I told them I was an American, an individual, a philosopher. They just spewed more forms. That was 1961. Now it’s 2014. Now I’m in the VA system. The VA had to find some old papers of mine. None of my statements were there. There was no record of anything I’d said to the draft board, to the induction examiners, anything I’d said to the sergeant in Fort Dix … Lots of papers: on what they said; nothing on what I said. That’s “freedom”? democracy? law?
That’s civilization, with its severed churches, its illiterate spawn of schools, its anxious-to-please, down-on-its knees, press. Tone-deaf, stone-deaf.
OK, 53 years later: what I blurted wasn’t a definition; but it’s a great, a profound, image. It’s apropos: a distillation, an essence.
|Jazz:||Pain, heard beautifully|
Uniform of the Day
Fort Dix uttered the uniform-of-the-day so the average soldier would be comfortable during duty hours: indoors, in a heated building. We were shoved outdoors, pre-dawn, no heat: and weren’t allowed to do anything sensible to help ourselves: jogging… dressing …
One guy caught pneumonia, finally was hauled off to the infirmiry, died. I bet his family got a nice letter about service. I bet it told nothing of how he’d been exposed, helpless. Macbeth’s lackeys keep the records, tailoring a sycophant public.
I’ll link the story I hope I’ve told here where I had a fever: so they stripped me, refrigerated me, forced me outdoors to wait naked in the truck while the Spec4s drank coffee, before bouncing me over the ice to the infirmary. Lucky me, once there, I slept for three days: slept through a visit from my great buddy (now-Admiral) Kirk.