Sunday, July 21, 2013

Death by Chickenshit

In Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, probably the best book ever written on the Second World War, literary critic and WWII combat veteran Paul M. Fussell describes chickenshit:
What does that rude term signify? It does not imply complaint about the inevitable inconveniences of military life: overcrowding and lack of privacy, tedious institutional cookery, deprivation of personality, general boredom. Nothing much can be done about those things. Chickenshit refers rather to behavior that makes military life worse than it need be: petty harassment of the weak by the strong; open scrimmage for power and authority and prestige; sadism thinly disguised as necessary discipline; a constant "paying off of old scores"; and insistence on the letter rather than the spirit of ordinances. Chickenshit is so-called -- instead of horse- or bull- or elephant shit -- because it is small-minded and ignoble and takes the trivial seriously. Chickenshit can be recognized instantly because it never has anything to do with winning the war.
Today in Taipei thousands protested a young recruit killed by chickenshit. The Taipei Times reported:
Shouting slogans and holding placards bearing messages such as: “Give justice to the victim’s family,” “Ensure human rights in the military” and “Without the truth, there is no forgiveness,” the protesters also called for the inclusion of an independent third party in the investigation into Hung’s death.

Hung died on July 4, following punishing exercises he had been forced to do as part of his punishment while being confined to detention barracks.

In making the appeal, dozens of young male protesters sang military songs with revised lyrics criticizing the army officers thought to have been involved in Hung’s death, while others made a show of drinking bottled water — a reference to reports that Hung’s superiors allegedly refused to give him water despite repeated requests.
The Taipei Times estimated 30,000 showed up, while the police said 15K. The case has made international news. Several officers are facing charges, but really, what killed recruit Hung was chickenshit.

My son will likely go into the local military this year. I hope these protesters can create change.....

REF: In 2010 a recruit committed suicide after being similarly tormented by an officer. Here's a 1990s piece... things CAN change.
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Readin said...

You link to an article that seems to be blaiming Taiwan's economic problems on "neoliberalism" described as "laissez-faire policies".

However the same article says "When I entered the business world, what I found was this: Those major corporations that could get a sit-down with the premier passed their days comfortably enough that few were terribly worried about technological upgrades." This indicates that it isn't a free market. In a free market, access to the president wouldn't matter.

I suppose one could argue that a free market inevitably leads to crony capitalism as the rich buy access to political leaders. This would be similar to criticism of socialism that it inevitably leads to an oppressive state because of the massive amount of control and information a socialist state requires for implementing its policies.

However the charge of cronyism, while a looming danger for free markets is no more a danger for free markets than for any other economic system. Whether you have socialism, mercantilism, capitalism, or whatever, there will be a large incentive toward cronyism despite whatever laws are on the books. Indeed I would argue that cronyism is a bigger danger for socialism because a government with more power is more worth buying than a government with limited power.

Readin said...

In the article on "neoliberal" economics, it would be helpful if the author were to be more specific about what types of changes would be useful and why.

While Taiwan may attempt to have a free market economy, it has to adapt to the reality that it doesn't operate within a free international market. The article mentions the threat China poses to Taiwan, but doesn't mention that much that threat comes from China operating as a political unit rather than as a business.

When other countries, China included but others also, act as units in a non-free-market manner, Taiwan cannot expect a pure free market to be able to craft an optimal solution.

There are legitimate concerns about free markets, but I find that most of the time when I read criticisms of free markets, the criticisms are actually complaining about problems caused by government (either domestic or foreign) interventions in that market.

It would help if people who want government interventions could learn to use some basic principals. "Tragedy of the commons" is pretty much all you need to say to a rational educated person to explain why pollution laws are needed. Yet I almost never see the term used and libertarian arguments are left un-rebutted.

Mike Fagan said...

"I suppose one could argue that a free market inevitably leads to crony capitalism as the rich buy access to political leaders."

In that sketch, the "leading" of the free market toward crony capitalism is misleading: corruption is only made possible by the existence - and crucially for the small-government argument you would like to make - the extent of monopolized political power.