Friday, November 20, 2009

Death, Taxes and Change

As I forced myself to take a break from my economics homework (I didn't have to try very hard), I tried to remember how old I was when I first heard the comparison of death and taxes to reliability; I was unable to come up with an age, but I think I was pretty young.

It's ironic that we use two universally disliked items or ideas (the connotation of these terms almost oozes out into your lap) to describe something as being reliable. Yes, we can always count on death, and we know that there will always be taxes (politicians should be a separate species from the rest of us humans). Shouldn't reliability be a positive thing?

I submit that there is another item in our world that we can always count on: Change. It has been said before that the only real constant in this world is change. A certain politician even ran on a mere promise of change...What sort of person buys into that, when all they have to do is sit back and wait for inevitable changes? I like to call that the "shiny trinket effect," and it works well with voters. Change is indeed a constant, and it isn't always good.

I have a friend that joined the Marine Corps a few years before I did, and left active duty as a Sergeant. When talking to him one time, I mentioned what an interesting twist of fate it would be if he had stayed in and I ended up working for him in some capacity. Not that he works for me, but our roles would probably be much different if he had become my First Sergeant, or Sergeant Major. It then dawned on me that his departure from our Corps may have been a good thing, because he wouldn't like the changes that have taken place. It's odd that one of the more prominent challenges that a career Marine faces is being patient enough to put up with "progress."

I have often said to peers and subordinates that the job of the Corps continues to get more difficult as society continues down its path of degradation. As the morals and standards of our youth (and even adults) decline, the standards of the Corps remain the same. Our job of bringing young adults to our way of thinking, nurturing strong morals, and enforcing higher standards, gets harder every day. I often wonder if it's all really worth it, and then I see a young Lance Corporal or PFC that is just as excited about being a Marine as I ever was. It's like hooking myself up to some sort of emotional battery charger; it reminds me that the patience is well worth it. What about these various forms of progress?

It's now acceptable for Marines to wear flip flops as "appropriate civilian attire." Really. In addition, just try asking a 17 year old Marine if he knows what those loops on the waist of his jeans are really for! This type of thing probably sounds very trivial to some people, but the level of discipline that we demand of our subordinates carries over into many realms other than mode of dress. This is, however, not a new concept.

There is a quotation that I'm fond of using in one of the classes that I teach, and it brings things back into perspective a bit:
"I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint."

This quotation is not nearly as effective if you are unaware of when it was originally stated. This was first penned by Hesiod (often considered the father of Greek didactic poetry) in approximately 700 B.C. See? Nothing new here.

Every generation of Marine eventually reaches a level of maturity and wisdom that they feel grants them inclusion in an elite club: "Old Corps." How many retired Marines out there (or those that are no longer on active duty) have said the words, "When I came in the Corps...?" Yes; I know--We can't boil water in our helmets like you could. Noted.

My point is simple: Change will always happen, and we can't do much about it. Luckily, we have the wisdom to usually hang onto those things that we know we should not change. Today's young Marines have the same fighting spirit, drive to succeed, and esprit de corps that any previous generation had. I know that when I hang up my cover for the last time, I'll be passing the baton to an equally talented (even more so in many ways) and capable Corps of warriors.

Death and taxes indeed...

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