I do not blindly support “our” troops. Having just seen a video of the British Military Academy – one of the institutions that has most consistently caused trauma around the world for hundreds of years – do “22 push ups for PTSD awareness” against a backdrop of jingoistic music, it’s time to tell the unpopular truth. So here’s my 22 “fact ups” for bullshit awareness:
– the natural consequence of violence is psychological ill health
– I’m gonna say that again as it’s the heart of this. If you are associated with violence as a victim or a perpetrator (i.e., state sponsored terrorist – or regular terrorist) you are going to be more or less screwed up mentally. This might be expressed as anything from mild anxiety to full blown PTSD, suicide, depression, addiction, etc
– one more time. Violence messes people up.
– having an illness model of this where names like “PTSD” are given to the psychological consequences of violence is helpful in one way and better than previous “moral weakness” frames that existed and still largely dominate the military psyche. It is also unhelpful in that it can make these natural consequences look like unfortunate medical accidents. The military instructor can’t even say trauma actually, he just says “stress” like war is similar to a busy office
– the people most likely to be affected by trauma are those without weapons as helplessness is a major factor in onset of many conditions. The military also have other resilience factors such as physical fitness. While statistics are hard to get, the number of people with trauma symptoms in civilian populations in war zones is likely to be hundreds of times higher than in military ones IME. Perhaps our attention should go there?
– another factor in PTSD onset is meaning. If you are fighting wars of capitalist expansion and dominance – every war in recent times more or less, you are unlikely to feel good about it. One factor in why often soldiers feel shitty post conflict is that they supported violence to help corporations and the wealthy. Tough truth
– soliders are not monsters and are as worthy of compassion as anyone, AND they are however still responsible for the fact that they have chosen a career based on violence and this has consequences. This does not mean blaming them for PTSD but it does mean acknowledging their choices, and all our choices as a society. They signed on for trauma and we vote for their trauma
– I have family members across three generations that have been in the UK forces and worked with the militaries of several countries including Ukraine and Sierra Leone on peace building and trauma awareness. Those are some of my absolute favourite people to work with and have found much to be liked and respected there. AND, they have chosen a career based on organised murder and this ALWAYS has psychological consequences
– if you kill people and then feel sad about it who is the bigger victim? Even with care and positive protective intent, modern warfare is far more likely to kill civilians than combatants (see Iraq war death stats for example). To participate in warfare is a choice to be part of the killing of innocent people. This will screw you up
– soldiers may join up due to poverty-related limited career choices, or a genuine wish to serve others. In my experience the choice is most appealing due to excitement (war is a crazy buzz), perceived meaning associated with nationalism, status in their communities and camaraderie. None of these are a good enough reason to kill people for money. While acknowledging that people who join armed forces have perhaps been duped, they are responsible adults who in my opinion have made a choice to perpetuate violence and are now sadly suffering the consequences
– trauma leads to more trauma. War and trauma exist in a self-perpetuating cycle. When we see the violence encouraged by the ruling class we should consider they have been systematically given an attachment disorder by their upbringing. Similarly many soldiers come from trauma backgrounds and a cycle is playing out that could have been broken earlier
– we live in a traumatised immature and still barbaric culture more generally, and PTSD is a symptom of this. In a world where few have the emotional resources for a nonviolent response, and this is not encouraged by an anxiety-provoking economic system. War and inevitable PTSD is just an extension of this general fight-flight trend
– PTSD treatments exist and I would like to see them made available to all including military, ex-military and the civilian populations they have traumatised
– with all this virtue-signalling push-up stuff let’s be careful not to glorify violence and those that perpetrate it. Frankly it all feels a bit macho and selfie-focused to me. Why not share a picture of the 22 children killed in a recent coalition airstrike in Syria for example instead?
– not 22? The rest you can research yourself by looking into the hollow eyes of broken men and women, listening to the stories of rape and torture, fearing for your own life as men filled with hate aim guns at you, etc. I’ve done this from the slums of Brazil to Afghanistan, and didn’t feel like showing off doing push-ups afterwards, so excuse any cynicism or venom in this post. I dream of a world where people no longer need psychological help for the consequence of violence as we’ve ceased the appalling stupidity of it, so yes, let’s raise awareness of PTSD, and also of what causes it – the wars we participate in.