The Discipline Game
“Top of the sand dune. 30 seconds, go.”
“Back to me. 18, go.”
“Sand dune. 27, go.”
“Me. 16, go.”
“But we got here on time!”
Sand dune. 15, go.
Next to the dumpster. Around the auditorium. By the tent. The 3 meter climbing ropes. That guard tower. The 6 meter climbing ropes. Facing the commanders’ quarters. The small bush on the hill next to the bush that looks exactly like it.”
In basic training, aimless running is as regular a life function as eating, sleeping, and complaining. You run if you don’t get there on time. You run even if you do.
Commanders time every action in basic training to teach soldiers to approach tasks head on, with precision. But the timing takes on a disciplinary dimension, and to suddenly have your life controlled by the second is to also acquiesce to unfamiliar authority: that 19-yr-old you met this morning? He now controls your every move.
From day one you’re made to understand that you belong to your commanders and you do what you’re told- no matter how strongly you disagree, tired you are, or if you personally happen to be old enough to have been Commander Sasson’s baby sitter. That permission must be asked for everything- e.g. wiping your nose while in formation, taking a piss, smoking a cigarette etc.- is a way of ensuring you realize you’re not in charge anymore.
This de facto relegation- “distance” as it’s called- is not an easy transition- not for me and especially not for the Israelis, many of whom have never been subject to real authority before.
But insanity can be avoided if you remind yourself that the collective punishments, mind-numbing assignments, doing stuff just to do stuff is all a game-their way of molding soldiers out of citizens. Soldiers follow orders, as frustrating, mundane, or senseless as they are or may seem. And although it truthfully does get to me sometimes (side effects include me wanting to dunk commander Sasson’s head in a vat of chummus) it’s important to keep this idea clean from the garbage cans I’m rinsing out, cigarette butts I’m picking up, or toilet seats I’m scrubbing down.
So how do you do it, Meir? How do you keep your conscious clean after it gets stuffed in a charah-filled mishmaat pie? Kk, I’ll tell you.
(Yep, just had a conversation with myself. That happens when I have a blog.)
Truthfully, I try to make things fun for myself, cuz that’s pretty much all I can do. And sometimes, the work is even done for me, like when our Drill Sargent- or Mifaked HaSamal- first introduced himself by bursting out of the commanders’ quarters huffing like a drunk orangutang, hat masquerading his eyes, fists clenched in constipation, mouth twitching like a yeshiva boy about to wage war on a 15 shek falafel. Everyone nearly pooped their pants in fright. I almost peed my own in laughter.
Do I sometimes feel too old for this stuff? Being a 23 year old college grad sent back to major in inanity? ‘Course. But being able to laugh things off, having that sense of mind that we’re supposed to be flustered, exhausted, and ‘intimidated,’makes the discipline game all the more playable.