The Perfect Soldier
What does perfect solider consist of? The first things coming to mind may be bravery, honor, or even pride. This seems to be the general consensus when asked this question, however in American society not many would be quick to use the word docile to describe a soldier. I certainly wouldn’t have used that to describe a soldier, initially my first thought of the perfect soldier was an insanely strong 6 foot something Taylor Kitsch from the film Lone Survivor fighting for the honor of his country. There are several accounts in which each soldier in this movie endures inhuman amounts of pain and physical damage. This seems to enforce the idea of the perfect soldier having honor or pride, but what drive the soldier to put themselves in that situation? In order to understand docility fits into the description of the perfect soldier we first focus on the word itself. To break down the word docile, we can first define it “easily managed or handled; tractable”.
Second we can think of things or persons that we would use docile to describe. This may vary depending upon culture, but typically we see this word used for more feminine or childish purposes. The word docile can also be associated with words like submissive or non-threatening. Now you may ask why even bring up the word docile when describing the perfect soldier. It’s simple, in order to become the perfect soldier, you must first be docile to succeed in the military.
In Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish The Birth Of the Prison he explains the necessity to focuses on how punishment from the state has shifted from the body to the soul. Foucault deems bodily punishment as counterproductive to the state. But however does place power over the person who can control the body. He describes the body of a solider as docile and something that can be governed. Through constant supervision, control of the operations of the body. Once control has been established this makes it easy for the fulfillment of the request. When searching for people to recruit, it is important to look for someone who is obedient. Some people aren’t humble enough to admit they are submissive or obedient. But in looking to define the perfect solider, these words must be used. Foucault explains that it is necessary to manipulate the body. Once the body is controlled everything else will follow.
The body becomes a target for the power, meaning that once the body is controlled, as a whole they become more pliable. He even describes soldiers as clay that can be molded into whatever that state wants. Once there is control over the body, it become easier for those on the front lines to understand and be full willing to give their lives for their country. Many may not understand, but once control is achieved there are many possibilities to what the state can have the soldier do. These movies and military propaganda are promoting this relationship between the state and soldier. Give the state your body and you can serve your country with the highest level of honor. The state can improve you through training and help you to the elite class of (enter any branch of military).
Now that we know what it means to control the body, would you define the perfect soldier a little different? This article was not written to devalue or disrespect the military nor those who have served or lost their lives in the military. This article is to expose the state’s interest of power over the body through Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish The Birth Of the Prison.