Culture Military

Why I bleed oriental blue (it’s not what you think)

Sure I live in East Asia. And have for the vast majority of the last decade and a half. Sure I take my shoes off at the door. Sleep on the floor. Bow to everyone. Eat raw fish with sticks — what we’d call “bait” back home.

Comes with the territory.

I’ll never blend in. Too white. Too hairy. Completely different brand of apathy.

The United States Army Military Intelligence Corps motto is “Always Out Front”. That motto — as with most — carries with it many and varied subtleties and nuances of meaning. (And I, personally, have always been a fan of it being in English.) As an Intelligence Professional, I have to be in front of information coming in… ahead of situations developing. On the battlefield (or “operational environment”, since Intelligence isn’t a wartime-only profession), I have to be “out front” of the maneuver elements, in order to collect that info coming in, so THEY can be ahead of developing situations.

There are a lot of “blah blahs” and “yada yadas” that need to be placed into all that bullshit here and there, and maybe at least one “hooah”… But in the end, I’m a believer.

In a lot of cases in life, being a believer or a make-believer both pan out the same way. But the end result here is that I chose a path that was wrought with two primary mission essential tasks: Understanding shit, and articulating shit. And by now, I can do both very *very* well.

An MI troop’s job is to collect, process, and convey intelligence information to decision makers and primary operations personnel (the “customer”) so that they can make informed, responsible decisions and take informed and responsible courses of action. Right? But… walk with me here for a minute or two, while I bleed all this oriental blue on you.

The MI Corps colors are Oriental Blue and Silver Gray. Various pins and emblems and trinkets will have either silver or gold. But the blue stays the same.

I haven’t worn an MI-relevant uniform in very many years. But I am no less honed in my MI skills — because I still use them, and I still live them. Remember, those basic skills up there: understanding and articulation. It doesn’t matter if I’m teaching, consulting, collecting, questioning, investigating, exploring, writing, poeticizing, or driving down the road. As an MI troop at heart, I am fully armed and operational even when I’m alone, naked, in an empty room. (Full disclosure: That happens.)

I *am* always “out front”. Ahead of the students’ questions. Ahead of the clients’ problems. Ahead of the sources’ trepidation. All of those jobs and activities listed above necessitate the understanding of information you then MUST convey. Even the active collection shit requires that I lead the source in a certain direction. Which requires that I know what the fuck is going on, and where the fuck I need said source to be in terms of telling me more shit that I need to know so I can understand [even more shit]. It’s an amazing and terrifying maelstrom to be sitting in most days.

The basic equation mentioned above is the MI troop finds and knows the shit, then gets “the shit” to the customer (decision makers/operations peeps). If I’m a Math teacher, my customer is the student. If I’m a consultant, my customer is… well, my customer. If I’m trying to articulate some complex shit through 17 syllables in a haiku (or any other deliberately limited poetic structure), I better damn well know what I’m trying to say, and how to say it.

But the tools I need to use to *do* intelligence also happen to be the tools I need to use to *be* intelligence. Doing intelligence work is typically tedious, thankless drudgery. Rarely risky. *Being* a fully dyed-in-the-wool intel geek is baller as fuck. How can it not be baller to have the cognitive tools to be able to observe or seek information about your cosmos, process that information in appropriate context, and be able to actually sit down with a 5th grader and explain it?

There is a falsely-attributed Einstein quote that reads something like, “If you can’t explain it to a six year-old, you do not truly understand it.” Totally not an Einstein quote, but still a very relevant point. And having spent the majority of my adult, professional (and sometimes completely unprofessional) life dealing in and with different cultures than my own, I can tell you that a non-native English speaker may essentially be a “six year-old” when it comes to certain things about English. Same holds true for a senior Field Grade Officer who may not fully understand how or why you know something you are briefing them on.

Point is, know your audience or customer. And tailor the message so that they most efficiently understand it. (This is why I have *zero* (0) fucking respect for Noam Chomsky’s work; complete technobable.) If you are trying to over-complexify some piece of hot info to make yourself sound smart, it makes no fucking difference whether you are or not… you’ve failed in the simple task of conveying information to a customer who is not privy to your level of experience or knowledge on that matter. Congratulations. You’re tho thmart. Trying to code info to a specific receiver is different. But no one in academia anywhere should ever be doing that shit in a pedagogical setting.

This is the root of why I use the word fuck a lot. It simplifies absolutely anything you’re trying to say. Street-levels it. Or, as we would say, Joe-levels it. (Joe being the troop who needs the info and doesn’t need SAT words in the brief — not that Joe is stupid, but that is not the forum for fancy booklearnin’ talk; KISS.)

But no matter what (not that I’ve tried that hard), I can’t escape my oriental blue soul. And… I don’t want to. I’m not Cypher. I don’t wanna go back under. I want my eyes peeled the fuck open and both barrels of knowledge emptied into them — and I will go looking for it.

I will always take the red pill (even though I bleed blue, damn it!). I will always eat the apple. I will always trade my eye. I will always risk being chained to the mountaintop.

Curiosity killed the cat, sure. But cats also have nine lives. So that is a shit ton I get to learn the hard way. (And I still have a lot of lives to go…)

 


 

Understand and articulate
The core of this craft
And the crux
Go now
Know
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clluelo
Member
clluelo

As soon as I could make myself understood I needed to know everything . I always asked why and what . I feel what you are saying , I will never stop gathering information . Even when I am on the beach in Pedasi watching the whales

JoyB
Guest
JoyB

Theo, I’m so glad to see you writing more and more here. Your personal brand of personal snark has been missed. Sounds like there’s also a sales aspect of intelligence- know your customer and tailor your reports to them especially the language that you use? I agree with using simple language, it still gets points across without looking uppity or pompous, for the most part. Though I will admit to laughing up my sleeve at a man whom I know to pepper his speech with large words that are completely out of context and occasionally mispronounced.

Mason
Member
Mason

Well, I have always enjoyed what you communicate, so I am gonna hang out, and keep absorbing it.

Miche
Member
Miche

“I am fully armed and operational even when I’m alone, naked, in an empty room. (Full disclosure: That happens.)” <<< This. This isn't what I set out to read, but when I stumble across stuff like this, I double-take, laugh, move forward, come back to it, shake my head and laugh again, and it totally opens the door to set aside what I think I know about life, because pretty much anything else that's unexpected and set out on the table is already fair game to learn.

yankeepapausmc
Member
yankeepapausmc

…I too would never blend in…not in that part of the world. I’d probably do something considered “gauche” without even being aware of it… (Along the lines of opening a combination sushi restaurant and bait shop.) Most Westerners don’t know enough not to use a handkerchief… (“Do you return your other body wastes into your pockets?”) …Still, the old cliche… “If you are stuck with lemons…” Not being a local makes you stand out… but (with only a bit of misdirection) also makes it easy for locals to underestimate you. (If you can’t be invisible, appear insignificant…) “Pretend inferiority and… Read more »

Mic-Mac
Member
Mic-Mac

Absolutely love your writing. ALL OF IT!!!!

Annica Jakobsson
Guest
Annica Jakobsson

A great read! You nailed the complicated part that is communication, the part I love about working as an interpreter. Know your customer and adjust to make it easy for them to understand the information. Easier said than done but when you get it right it’s so much fun! Also, I think many of us would like to hear the story about how you ended up alone and naked in an empty room.

Darkwater
Guest

The are times when it is valuable to ponder the mysteries of life and draw perspectives that can open a consciousness of unrealized advantages. But here you speak of times measured by tooth and claw, and then people don’t have the time to consider your erudition: you have to speak to people in a language they immediately understand. I always drift back to my early days as a ‘Leader’, in an alert battalion when the bugle blew. I rattled off orders to those grouped around me in the near-dark, with each in turn replying with a snappy “aye-aye”. Except for… Read more »

GsGirl
Guest
GsGirl

I am still humbled to know that you are on this planet, Sir!!! Your sonnets are amazing.

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