25th February 2001
Stint in the army more appealing to opposite sex?
By Rajpal Abeynayake
|A nation may be resilient, but can
its psyche always be moulded by the thinking of its privileged?
Recent advertisements on national television attempt to build an army on the theory that the shortest way to a youth's heart is through his genitals.
Perhaps it was done on the advice of an American military advisor, who said that the US marines are the most sexually attractive males in the country. If that was the case, the advisor was probably right.
But, the US marines gained that measure of primeval hormonal attraction over a period of time . The US marines are well paid and their macho image was not constructed through advertisements cooked up at Ogilvy and Mather.
The Sri Lankan tendency to entice youth to the army on the basis that a stint in the army will make them more attractive to the opposite sex, presupposes that these youth are in fact idiots. The advertisements actually presuppose that these youth think from below their waists.
True, it can be said that it is a crude way of reading the advertisements.
It can be perhaps said that the advertisements are not sexually sensitizing, and that they promote a certain nationalism, although on the basis of gender and the human instinct of bonding.
If Latha meets Sarath, the supposition is that the war will soon be won because they will swoon for each other with Sarath in a flak jacket.
But, the Lathas know that reality is different. That's why there are more Lathas in the villages these days, because some of the Saraths don't come back front standing.
Besides, most of the Saraths have their Lathas and vice-versa even if they do not go to Jaffna and fight. They don't need the army in order to plan to marry or copulate. The Sri Lankans are not that joyless.
It's this sort of rank alienation from reality that makes the come-hither advertisement of the army a disgrace.
Basically the advertisements encapsulate everything that is wrong and is going wrong in the Sri Lankan society, and by extension the Sri Lankan polity. The decision making elite is comprised of people who underestimate the intelligence of (what they consider) the moronic rice eating horde.
To the hoi polloi this strategy of the decision making elite is transparent, but laughing doesn't necessarily help. Perhaps crying does.
What the advertisements does is glamorize the war and there is no equivocation about that. A war that often sends boys back to their girlfriends in body bags is portrayed as a war that is a cradle for healthy relationships and liaisons between the sexes.
There is no quarrel with the fact that the army needs to recruit. Its a difficult war to say the least, and the army, like the LTTE, needs manpower in whatever way it can get it.
But, the genital route is probably the crudest and probably one of the most counter productive as well. The advertisements fairly reek of class compartmentalization and are an affirmation of the indifference of the establishment elite and its refusal to respect at least the basic intelligence of the underprivileged.
If soldiers should rape would the women be expected to be submissive because these are the men who are supposed to be the most suitable boys?
These are incendiary subjects, but even the Hela Urumaya need not be perturbed. Such organisations will probably recognise stupidity where it is manifest.
Besides, deception is no basis for heroism or valour - and everybody will acknowledge that war is no monkey business.
The genital campaign of the army reduces the war to the level of a street fight, or a beach fight, where the tough guys reign with their molls. The army as the Sicilian Mafia in other words.
Some of the other army recruitment commercials seek to represent the army as the paradise of the daring, but the commercials hold up the US army as the role model. It is Uncle Sam by proxy, which is no way to wage psychological operations in a war that is being fought in mud-caked terrain by boys who haven't heard of Rambo.
But the fact that whole circus and the carnival was originated, that someone actually conceptualized the campaign and commissioned advertising people to execute it, shows that the army doesn't necessarily think. It shows that lack of manpower is certainly not quite the reason why the army can't finish its war in a hurry.
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