EDUCATION Secretary Michael Gove today unveils a plan to bring a dramatic improvement to classroom discipline by introducing military-style cadet forces to every secondary school.
It is generally believed that the British armed forces are amongst the best in the world. This is at least partly because we have an all volunteer military. Do you really want the likes of me in the fox-hole next to you in “restive” Helmand Province – thought not.
Look, it’s really simple. I went to a comp in Ryton, Gateshead. Now I don’t know where the Navy or Army Cadets were stationed but just down the road from me were the Air-Cadets. I didn’t join (though I knew those that did) because it was like a hundred hours square-bashing for a ride in a Bulldog trainer. Now those that joined did it of their own free will and most went on to university or jobs or what have you outside of the RAF. Fine. That’s what they expected. I was also put off by Tommy Burns who joined the RAF Regiment. On a training exercise in Yorkshire he got to fire a GPMG so he caned it – 600 rpm cyclical until the barrel bent and set the grass on fire. He was shooting at a brick wall from which (Tommy Burns was not the sharpest pencil in the box) “Bricks were fucking off all over the place”. He also managed to damage a Spartan APC in a parking accident. This is why he was RAF Regiment (a “rock-ape”) because nobody this side of their right mind would trust Tommy Burns with an aeroplane. Then there was his dad, Ronnie Burns – a former para – who was to first approximation a malignant cunt par excellence. Hard as fuck mind. But mental, utterly fucking mental. The kind of bloke who if a minefield was in front would gamely tango across it. And I mean without orders.
Now then there was my mate Graeme. Now Graeme was in the ATC and when he was about 14 he was on maneouvres up in the wilds of Northumberland. Now he gets the short straw from the platoon sergeant and has to dig the latrine. Now, picture the scene (like something out of “The Honour of Israel Gow”) and he’s got the entire wasteland of Northumberland to stick his spade into and he digs up the bag of bones doesn’t he? So, County Coroner out at 4am (not happy) because the bones were initially unidentifiable. You can imagine what the cadets were reduced to at this stage. I mean it’s weird sisters up there at the best of times and Graeme has just dug up a placky bag of bones despite the winds wild lament. You know what it turned out to be? The bones of four greyhounds without heads or paws. Christ and all his angels couldn’t explain that one.
So what do I feel about the military? Well… One of my school chums left school at 16 and went to Newcastle College where he experienced epic ennui to the extent that he signed up to the Marines after a year. But Paul was a bright lad and knew exactly what he wanted. Anyway, in his first year he won “best shot with an SA-80″ and “most improved violin”. I had to write back and say there are few jobs where that double-whammy is even an option.
I didn’t ansewr my own question did I? Do I believe the military maketh the man (what of the woman?) No. Do I have anything against the military? Of course not! Do I have anything against conscription – oh yes! And so do the military. Would TESCO want conscripts to man the tills? No. Do you want conscripts driving multi-million pound tanks? Thought not. And no that isn’t aside from the moral issue. It is part and parcel with it.
Look, I have moral issues with the military except not enough to stop me if I’d had the eyesight to fly fast jets for the RAF (and yes, I so did, and so would you if you are honest). And here is the kicker. You put me jockeying 40-odd thousand pounds of jet thrust I would gladly bomb your silver-haired granny because when you have hands on throttle and stick morality no longer matters. Because at some point cool becomes king.
An Irish Airman Foresees His Death
I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.
Does that sound like the words of a warrior? Yes. A conscript? No. Whatever we do we do for that “lonely impulse of delight” is what it sounds like. Because when that comes it is truly epic. And it has nothing to do with Michael Gove. It is the fire inside that makes us what we are. It is nothing more than that and it is certainly not less than that.