On conscription

November 22, 2010

The news today that Germany is to abolish Military conscription triggered a memory or two and a reminder of an idea. I belong to the generation whose parents served in WWII but who were born too late to be required to undertake what was known in the UK as National Service. Now there is a bellicose right wing approach to this issue with which I do not wish to be associated in any way; its a variant of the idea that a period of brutalization will be the making of younger generation considered to be dissolute and lacking respect.

With that qualification made I think there is a case for some quasi-voluntary form of service. I know I benefited hugely on leaving University from being thrown into social justice issues in Australia, Africa and Latin America. Those experiences broke any illusions and forced me to see things from the perspective of radically different cultures. So I wonder if there is case for a programme in which young people (old enough to know what they are engaging in, your enough to have a sufficient openness to being changed by the experience) performed some functional role in one, or ideally two alien cultures for at least six months each.

I think that might do more to allow people to take a more international and human perspective that most other methods.

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