Total Pageviews

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Point of View

Life is about change; some changes though, cling to you and alter your reality. One of these is that transition between military and civilian lifestyles. It is in the transitions that we find these thought processes in conflict. I saw this first hand when I went to boot camp so many years ago, then again when I got out of the Navy, and yet again when I returned from this last deployment. I was confronted with a change of thought in a dramatic fashion. It is in these moments that we see the difference of mindset between the civilian and the veteran. The first time this was apparent to me was when I acquired a job after eight years of service. The process of applying for the job held its own set of difficulties, and functioning in the role that I was hired for posed an even greater challenge.

My first civilian job was that of warehouse manager for a retail pet store. One night, while unloading a truck, one of the associates damaged a bag with his forklift and kibble was poured out on the warehouse floor. I calmly handed the young man a broom and instructed him to clean the mess up. I was greeted with a phrase I had not heard in years. "That's not my job." Needless to say, I lost my mind and the resulting conflict between me and this young man resulted in both of us losing our jobs, and though no charges were pursued, it ended in physical confrontation. This was a very direct example of those conflicts in mindsets.
First I want to explain that both mindsets have value, but that value is situational. I think we would be better served in understanding the baser motivations between the thought process that separates these two, and how they deal with a few key issues. The scenarios we are placed in are dealt with differently in a powerful contrast. Some things that vary are how work is dealt with, and how conflicts are resolved. Understanding those roles and relationships can assist in the metamorphosis from one path to the other. In understanding the needs and goals, it should help with a smoother assimilation of the life skills required to function under the particular mindset.

In the military, many scenarios you are put in require rapid decision making skills. Quite literally decisions are life and death. It is this simplistic approach to things that carry over to all aspects of the life of the soldier. You follow orders with as little question as possible because seconds of hesitation can be the difference between your life or the lives of your teammates. Identity is directly attached to a chain of command and your placement within that chain. Many develop a healthy mindset of resolving conflict by deferment in these situations. You defer to the judgment of those above you on the food chain. Your concerns are also focused and many distractions are removed. Basic needs are met by the military so that you can focus on one purpose, the mission. In most matters, your decisions are accepted rather then made because you do not have the luxury of time.

In the civilian world, you are afforded more worries and therefore have to consider more factors. There is more concern and you have to factor more into the construct of yourself rather then a team mentality. You have to provide for your own shelter, food, and entertainment. Your interactions with people are typically more of an exchange of information rather then direct guidance. While situations are not as extreme as life and death, choices you make can have a dramatic impact on your quality of life. Things need to be measured and considered with greater care, and with less urgency. At the end of the day, you are responsible for yourself on a deeper level. While you can draw on your community for guidance, they will rarely take responsibility for you and your needs.

In conflict resolution, the military looks to resolve things quickly and move on. In the civilian world, you can use more thought and seek diplomacy and compromise to find common ground. Threats to your well being could be more direct in the scenarios the soldier needs to deal with. If a guy has a gun, odds are he wants to kill you, so you kill him first. In that, the problem is solved. Even in a similar situation outside of the military, it would have to be dealt with greater thought and foresight. If a guy has a gun and is coming at you on the streets of Denver, you are not allowed to just shoot them. You have to think about the consequences to your job, home, family, and the perception of law. Even if resolution by violence is the solution, you will have many more issues to deal with afterward as the deeper issues behind the conflict are explored.

While both trains of thought have value, that value is situational and you need to think about the situation you are in and understand which process is applicable. When I engaged in a physical solution with the young warehouse worker, that was not acceptable in the civilian word. The results reflect on the negative view of the use of force in the normal community. While my actions would have been perfectly acceptable in the military world, they would have been implied rather then executed, though. In the military the subordinate would have just completed the task of sweeping because of the chain of command thought process and the implied punishment that would result from his rebellion. Those punishments could vary from additional task, jail time, or even a death sentence.

This paradigm shift can be summed up simply. When you are in the military, you need to think more of a group dynamic and with urgency. Conflict is to be removed as quickly as possible with thoughts focused more on ease for the group. In the accepted societal norms you are given a greater level of personal responsibility, therefor you have to look to your needs and not just the needs of the group. The differences are flipped in both mindsets in regards to the micro and the macro. In one you think of the big picture and look for mass reactions, and the internal view is limited to personal resolutions. While the majority of people reflect on the effects of the big picture on themselves. In the latter it is a more personal point of view and requires much more thought. 

No comments:

Post a Comment