Conscription

04.01.04

What is it that I’ve resisted as I finished school and as I’ve entered the work force?  It is conscription.  There is that tremendous urgency that to get anywhere or to make money or even just to gain employment is to focus immediately and only as directed by someone else.  Which may only be problematic (in an idealistic sense) and not entirely objectionable (in a practical sense) if the point of this focusing as directed were really to efficiently create a specialist and/or make the best product/service.  But sadly, this focusing as directed is usually more insidious.  Usually, the most significant meaning of this focusing as directed — and its primary exchange value — is not the skill you offer but rather the subservience of the individual to the directives of those in charge of the enterprise.  This is what is exchangeable for praise, recommendation, promotion, and monetary gain.  Knowledge, talent, efficiency, people skills, are important, but not what is most valued and most fundamental — and can even be seen as threatening by some employers/professors.  If these assets are not put into the service of the employer/professor as directed — or are developed or put to use in the service of the client to the point where they implicitly highlight the employer’s/professor’s own limitations in comparison, then they can be seen as threatening and there may be no gain for the individual with the employer/professor — just peril.

Essentially, this is how conscription happens, whether in school or at work.  Rarely, if ever, is the development as guided (or not) by the employer/professor meant to really develop the young talent, and never merely for the sake of individual development, professional competency (not to even mention attaining elite professional performance), or in the larger long-term interests of the profession, let alone humanity.  Rather, none of these are the prime motives in too many instances, unless the employee/student is fortunate enough to work for those rare individuals who see and treat their subordinates as more than expedients.  Why is it that urgency, compulsion, imposition, and coercion are always so firmly entrenched in so much of human enterprise?  Why must we enslave each other instead of collaborating and enriching?

At any rate, why submit to this coercion?  Why accept a guaranteed boring, unfulfilling scholarship to the subservient middle?  And why not reject conscription, when rejection of conscription does not deny one the safe banality of the middle?  The middle is still accessible to rejectors of conscription because the coercers do not like to admit to themselves or others that they are coercers, preferring rather to be seen as the good guy/girl, the friend, the one not coercing.  The coercer’s excuse is always, “i don’t mean to coerce you, but it is the nature of what we do, and i don’t have a choice.” –though this is never spoken, only there to be read as the subtext of behavior.  Such sentiments are indicative of someone truly subservient, who once accepted being coerced, and who has failed to embrace his/her own agency.

Actively rejecting the coercion forces the coercer into an awkward position.  Coercers don’t like to think of themselves as coercers.  Rejecting coercion forces the coercer into the awkward position of either allowing the uncoerced to exist within the group, albeit as an outlier, probably making the coercer and those who have submitted to coercion uneasy because the outlier is a constant reminder that they themselves have submitted; or rejecting coercion can result in the coercer escalating the situation — that is, proactively coercing or demonizing/rejecting the uncoerced to force him/her out.  This is unpleasant for the coercer because his/her delusion of being the good guy/girl is exposed.  In conclusion, the rejector of conscription, the one who chooses to resist conscription, is still allowed in the organization — in society — and the middle and at the top — because of skill and performance, though he/she has opened the potential for either better or worse treatment — either persecution to rid the organization of nonsubservients, or conversely, the opportunity to attain a mythic and untouchable position within the organization — depending upon how the experiment in resistance turns out.

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