How will this toughen them up and make them ready for war?

Kids today, they got it too soft. No wonder they’re all going to hell. Not only do we no longer beat them, send them down the mines, into reform schools or into the navy at 12, but also we no longer humiliate them.

What’s that all about? How can we muster sufficient cannon-fodder for future wars when all we’re left with is a bunch of spoiled nancies? No wonder Al-Qaida laughs at us. 

There has been a long evolution to this softening of the moral fibre of the young. It began when they stopped strapping the snot out of them in school hallways, and I suspect this is the final straw.

You see, I just read yesterday that they’ve done away with the old-fashioned boy scout and cub scout uniforms past generations had to contend with and have replaced them with moderately modern garb that is not only representative (sort of) of life in the 21st century rather than something Kitchener’s lads wore at Khartoum in the late 1800s, but is also (get this) fairly comfortable and practical.

Comfort and practicality? I always thought that part of the sadistic motivation for Baden-Powell’s li’l group of paramilitaries was to deck them out in stuff that was not only horrible to wear, but was inconvenient and awkward to dress in, and then ultimately looked like shit, even in context of the 1950s.

I only mention the 1950s because that was the decade in which I was introduced to the awful world of ‘cubdom’. Judging by the looks of Annette at the time, I would have much preferred membership in the Mickey Mouse Club, but was granted no such option. Yes, the mouse ears were pretty ridiculous, but the bounty of Annette would have made the sacrifice worthwhile.

My father, a former boy scout leader, was a great believer in the virtuous of honesty, steadfastedness, the ability to light a fire in a raging windstorm and other sorts of nonsense, so he left me effectively no alternative but to join the ranks of the “Dib-dib-dib; dob-dob-dob” gang of motley urchins. Actually, to my astonishment, there were kids that actually liked being in the organization. Alas, I was not in their number.

I’ve already outlined how much I detested my cub days in an earlier blog, but I am here to say that arguably the thing I hated the most, aside from the Akela guy, old Mr. Knobby-knees with the wonderfully risible name, Rundle Woolcock, was the uniform.

And we were ordered to take our uniforms very, very seriously. Here’s what we had to put on, you runny-nosed lazy little modern cubscouts and scouts: A horribly scratchy sweaterish top, an immaculately pressed neckerchief that had to be folded only in the prescribed manner and secured by a thing called a ‘woggle’, mortifying woolen short pants, and knee-socks of the same abrasive material as the top, secured with little elastic garters with tags on them. Then you were set.

Now all they have to put on is a bloody T-shirt. How is that different from conventional schoolyard wear? Where is the humiliation in that? Modern adherents do not seem to get that humiliation is part of the mix. Makes a man of you, damn it! At least I believe that to have been what motivated weird old Baden-Powell whom, as an aside, was rather an admirer of the Hitler Jugend in the 1930s according to vicious but amusing rumor.

As I have said before, the cubs and I parted company in relatively early order. Maybe I just wasn’t man enough, but I was at least able to dress comfortably and to grow up to be an adult wastrel just like contemporary cubs and scouts will unless they reverse this ‘soft’ trend and demand that they ‘man up’ once again like in BP’s day.

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7 responses to “How will this toughen them up and make them ready for war?

  1. Hi Ian,

    I was a girl guide and here in the tropics the uniform is restrictive and hot. I fully agree. Where is the justice in all this? LOL

  2. The only thing I liked about the earnest world of Brownies and Guides was that awesome belt they got to wear on Brownie day, with the pencil and change pocket and what-all attached to it. (If you saw the great little shoulder bag I got at MEC last year with the cell-phone pocket on the strap and bungees for water bottle and iPod on the outside you’d realize that I haven’t gotten over Brownie-belt lust…)

  3. I never made it from the brownies to the guides, but I still remember that stupid ass song we had to sing at the end of the meeting:

    Good night brownies
    Good night brownies
    Good night brownies (yes, very imaginative, no?)
    And try to lend a hand.

    And there was this thing with toadstools and some call (an owl call I think it was supposed to be) – tawit, tawit, tawoo.

    And of course badges: badges for cooking, badges for cleaning, badges for sewing and badges for scrubbing the toilet no doubt. (insert eye roll here) – no badges for the cool stuff like building a shelter or start a fire. Hmmph

    And god that brown skirt/shirt/tam with an orange and white scarf was totally hideous. Fugly indeed.

  4. I enjoyed being a wolf cub (digged the wolf bit). Maybe it was less restrictive in Britain but I don’t recall a problem with the uniform. In fact, it was just a jersey onto which I sewed my numerous badges and a cap for attaching silver stars.
    I was a sixer of the Black Triangle (still remember the name!) and it was the worst six ever. I got all my badges and silver stars and Leaping Wolf badge but my fellow sixers were hopeless. I used to say to them “well, we might be crap, but at least we’re happy and having fun.” And we did have fun. My younger brother was a cub as well and after our meeting we’d walk home together through the streets of Leeds in Yorkshire, stopping to pick up a bag of steaming hot chips.
    I also think one big factor why I enjoyed cubs was because our Akela was a woman and she was a decent cove. Nuff said.

  5. Andrea: I don’t recall cubs having cool belts. Hmm, maybe I missed out on something.
    Jazz: Your recollection of Brownies was highly amusing, and you recall a lot about it, you do. But, those uniforms, I must say, in the words of Bart Simpson, they are “u-u-ug-leeeeee”.
    DD: Your recollection of cubs is much more agreeable than mine. But, of course we didn’t have a female Akela, that might have been fun. It sounds like you had a great deal of enjoyment, but out here in the colonies I just recall it being rather wretched.

  6. I was quite proud of my Brownie uniform. I once posted my second grade class picture and there I was all jaunty and cocky in my little Brownie uniform. All I remember about the whole thing was getting snacks and then playing with my friends in the fire station yard. It was almost more like afterschool daycare. I loved it. At home I would have been alone doing housework. It was a once a week vacation from the routine. And our uniform was cotton. Maybe that made all the difference.

  7. There is something more sinister afoot here…it is a Conspiracy of the Mothers of Scouts who no longer want to spend hours meticulously ironing (what’s an ‘iron’, anyway?) uniforms.

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