The macho culture is going to kill us

What does it say when the people who attend the elite West Point military academy from which the nation’s future military leaders will emerge do not have the sense to not indulge in what can only be described as pointless and dangerous acts of incredible foolishness?

An annual pillow fight by freshmen cadets at the U.S. Military Academy turned bloody this year when cadets swung pillowcases packed with hard objects, injuring 30 cadets, including 24 who suffered concussions.

Lt. Col. Christopher Kasker told the newspaper the annual fight is organized by first-year students as a way to build camaraderie after a grueling summer of training to prepare them for plebe life.

The Times noted one freshman posted on Twitter: “4 concussions, 1 broken leg, 2 broken arms, 1 dislocated shoulder, and several broken ribs. That’s one hell of a pillow fight. #USMA19.”

One first-year cadet told the paper that an upperclassman told him, “If you don’t come back with a bloody nose, you didn’t try hard enough.”

This is a problem of a macho culture in which any cadet who had the good sense and judgment and maturity, the very qualities one would want in a leader, had suggested that this is not a good idea, would have been derided as a wimp and a loser.

This ‘pillow fight’ will be defended as being tradition and thus sacrosanct and those who criticize West Point for indulging this kind of practice will be accused of contributing to the wussification of America and adding fuel to Donald Trump’s claim that America is now led by losers and that we don’t win anything anymore.

This is the world we live in.


  1. shaneevans says

    Hazing is hazing, regardless of whether it involves fraternities, sororities, marching bands, or the military. It needs to be banned.

  2. atheistblog says

    People think Enlisted soldiers are the less educated and thus more unscrupulous one, but the fact is ‘comparatively’, cadets and the officers are the more undisciplined one. They are the one makes bad decisions, including Petreaus, McChrystal. Army’s bravest and the back bone are the Enlisted.

  3. says

    This is one reason that as an adult, I was happy not to have been socialized as a typical American male growing up. Between my father’s distaste for anything less than a “real man,” and every-day American male culture (“act like a man”; “don’t be a pussy,” etc.), I know I wouldn’t have made it. Comparing a boy/man to a woman in any way is about the surest way to humiliate him.

    shaneevans, hazing wasn’t always as cruel and/or dangerous as it’s become, as far as Greeks go. I also don’t recall the purpose of any hazing, even in the military academies, that required injury, not just a risk of injury. Sounds more like prison!

  4. lorn says

    The old, and quite sardonic, joke was that allowing your self or others to be injured through stupidity or carelessness was considered ‘destruction of government equipment’ and a court marshal offense. It wasn’t, and isn’t but it can, because the cadets signed a paper committing themselves to a term of service, as an attempt avoid that commitment. While this interpretation has seldom been pursued there have been cases of people who had the cost of their medical care deducted from their pay, and had the terms of their service extended to make up for time on the disabled list.

    Of course these are young bucks and full of the stupidity of their age and times. But this is clearly a leadership failure. Where were the officers? Pillow fights, as with other ritualized forms of combat, are one thing. Pillows seem a bit soft for a nominal warrior caste. The preferred tools are boxing gloves and pugil sticks.

    Of course, as with anything else, the details count. Care has to be taken to limit aggression to formalized and ritualized forms and times while fostering the ability to creatively focus and apply aggression. Unauthorized modification of pillows with unregulated materials is clearly outside those rituals and forms.

    My gut-level response is admit they are not officer material. To boot those caught out of West Point and make them fulfill their commitment to the army as buck privates, where they can be properly supervised 24/7. That said West Point is, in part, about forming the undisciplined and untrained into disciplined and trained leaders capable of fulfilling a role as an army officer. History shows that some of the best and most capable commanders were screwups and misfits in early training so I think some circumspection is required when dealing with plebes.

    On the other hand, the officers in charge have, presumably, been trained and groomed and are the end product of the system so they can be judged more harshly for their failure to properly instruct, supervise, and guide their charges. It is a dereliction of duty.

  5. says

    How else are the young sprigs of the elite to learn the proper ways of beating on the weak and enforcing obedience with a hierarchy of power??! Without such rituals, our future oligarchs might have to, you know, think. And we know for a fact that such activities as thinking are un-American if not outright socialist.

  6. Nate Carr (Totes not an imposter D:) says

    Honestly, the academies need to die. They’re incestuous breeding grounds of cronyism and nepotism. The “best officers” come from the academies because the most successful officers are from the academies already.

  7. grumpyoldfart says

    Many decades ago ago in Adelaide, South Australia, the new army recruits had to travel by train to the army camp in Puckapunyal. It became something of a tradition for them to gather in the wine and spirits bar at the station and engage in a drinking contest before the train departed. Every now and then one of them would try to down a bottle of spirits in one go -- only to drop dead on the spot! The last three deaths occurred within a very short period and the railway station drinking contests were stopped.

    Recruits who actually made it onto the train had another challenge that was accepted by some of the more dim-witted recruits. They would climb out the back of a carriage, crawl along the roof, and back down into the front of the carriage. The trick was to miss the low bridges. Several youngsters earned their Darwin Award that way.

    Macho-men or silly little boys?

  8. says

    Several youngsters earned their Darwin Award that way.

    Well, you want to weed that sort out because they might otherwise become lieutenants. And, if they were really aggressive and stupid, they might some day become generals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *