Drill, Dancin', Marchin' <debate>

John McCreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)
Thu, 15 Feb 1996 22:19:37 +0900

Warren Sproule writes,

"I don't see the 'subjective response' of participants in
military drill as being of significance to the exercise...this would
an egalitarianism at odds with both armed servies hierarchical
and military culture *per se*"

Two quick points in response to this:

(1) I brought up subjective response because to me it seems at the
heart (pun intended) of why we're discussing drill vs. dance in
the first place. If we take Lynn's definition of dance as,
"rhythmically patterned movements, over time and
space,recognized as dance (here's the emic bit) by its participants, "
and leave out "the emic bit" we are left with only "rhythmically
patterned movements, over time and space," which clearly fits
both drill and dance, not to mention the daily behavior of
commuters on the Tokyo subway system. Drill vs. dance looks to
me like an emic distinction in our own culture, and if we look at
the evidence in hand from contributions to this debate so far,
there seems to be a lot of dependence on

drill=military=hierarchical, oppressive, coercive=something
detestable vs.
dance=civilian=egalitarian, free, spontaneous=something

underlying the first spontaneous reactions we've heard. These
have been countered by ethnographic examples, chiefly the
Hopi, in which something apprently recognized as dance by
those most directly concerned is neither free nor spontaneous.
But other examples are easy to come by, Asian dance is full of
forms that are rigidly specified, taught and practiced
hierarchically organized groups, in which felt spontaneity is
rooted in repetitive practice until the form is so thoroughly
internalized that the dancer doesn't have to stop and think --
precisely the sort of outcome aimed at by military drill (plus, of
course, a vast array of martial arts).

2) As part of the underlying oppositions described above, I
wonder, Warren, if it isn't difficult for some of us to hear that
well-executed drill can be a highly exhilirating experience, a lot
of fun in fact, instead of the onerous chore that our own values
expect it to be? And what may be worse that the feeling of
solidarity, of oneness with the group, that drill sometimes
induces need have nothing at all to do with its being egalitarian.
It has always been my suspicion that the Nazis at the Nuremberg
Rally were, among other things, having a blast. And that, too, is
one of the things the military aims at. If training begins with
what Vic Turner called "a community of suffering," it ends in
the triumphant rush of "Yes, we made it together." (Along with
daughter Kate, I have made it vicariously through plebe
summer at Annapolis, and I've heard the official explanations of
what she went through. I think I know what I'm talking about.)

On a quieter note, it may be worth taking a look at a personal
memoir of a year in Kyoto by Middlebury College English
professor John Elder, called, if my memory doesn't fail me
_Following the Brush_. The chapter from which the title is
taken describes Elder's study of the art of Japanese calligraphy,
his gradual discovery that the elderly master with whom he was
studying had no interest whatever in encouraging self
expression; the master's role is to set an example and demand
that his students emulate it. The role was everything that Elder,
a liberal individualist (and, I can say again from first-hand
experience, a highly regarded teacher) had thought he despised.
The rest is a little mystical. But then, after all, mystics too are
often highly disciplined.

John McCreery
February 15, 1996