Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Joe Glenton and "The Choice" (Radio 4)

I listened with interest today to Joe Glenton being interviewed by Michael Buerk.

Former Lance Corporal Joe was an objector to the war in Afghanistan. He also suffered from PTSD symptoms following his deployment, which were inadequately addressed by the military. As a result, he took the decision to go AWOL, and returned to the UK later to face court-martial and a spell in military prison.

Joe explains that his main driver was his ethical objection to the war. It's also plain that the army's response to his PTSD was derisory. This brings to mind the classic military approach - as on the battlefield, they patch 'em up and send 'em out again. Only with psychological wounds, the treatment is much more difficult (emotional) so it's best avoided (or at best, medicated away). But the theory is the same. We don't want emotionally needy (literate) people in the ranks; we don't want politically aware (thinking) people, either. The job is to go and follow orders, and maybe get shot at. So people like Joe find an unwelcoming home in the military.

Classically, the military life can be seen as a massive Parental system. Its heirarchy and ethos greatly favour a non-emotional, closed-off approach to the world, because "it's the job". The recruits (moved into a Child role) are taught to suppress their feelings, and emotions are devalued culturally. If this comes into conflict with the truth of one's core self, then a problem is inevitable. I've also seen problems arising in relationships between forces-people and their non-forces partners, because the emotional toolkit needed to nurture a healthy relationship with that person isn't available.

It seems to me that Joe was (is) a thinking, feeling human being. Looking for a thinking, feeling response from the institution that is the military, small wonder he felt like he was talking a different language. What followed was the sense of disappointment and frustration that comes to us all, when we experience a need that isn't met by an unresponsive 'other'.


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