BP #5- The Marines and The Ring of Gyges: A ‘Culture of Toughness’

Article Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/30/us/ex-marine-describes-violent-hazing-and-the-lies-that-covered-it-up.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fus&action=click&contentCollection=us&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=131&pgtype=sectionfront

Thomas Weaver graduated from boot camp at the top of his class in 2015. However, he soon became depressed. He couldn’t sleep anymore, and after being hospitalized was placed on suicide watch. He later told his father about the extreme hazing that went on in boot camp.  Drill instructors would often use extreme punishment, violence, and hazing and would specifically target minority recruits they didn’t like for harsher hazing.

Weaver recalls an account of a drill instructor grabbing a recruit by the neck and slamming him into the ground. He proceeded to choke the recruit whilst swearing at him. When the drill instructor stood up, he demanded to know if he was hurting the recruit or ‘making a corrective action’. Weaver remembers every recruit there, including himself, claiming the instructor was making a ‘corrective action’, as all of them were far too afraid to say otherwise.

Another time Weaver tells of a recruit making a mistake during a training exercise and how two instructors dragged the recruit to the woods and “beat him bloody”. Weaver himself was grabbed by the shirt on one occasion after accidentally bumping into an instructor. The instructor proceeded to slam Weaver’s head repeatedly against the doorway until other recruits intervened. When he attempted to report the assault, the senior drill instructor simply stated that he did not appear injured and should stay out of the instructors’ way. Several other instances of violence occurred between recruits and instructors, including a Muslim recruit being shoved into a dryer, and another that was repeatedly brutally hazed shortly before leaping to his death from the barracks.

Weaver’s account of the abuse that took place within the boot camp is an excellent example of a ‘Ring of Gyges’ situation. The ring of Gyges, briefly explained, is a mythical ring mentioned by Plato, that granted its wearer the power of invisibility. Given this power, the story essentially questions whether an intelligent man would still be moral if the fear of being caught and punished was removed.

These instructors therefore posses the ring of Gyges in a manner of speaking. These men and women,  who abuse their status and power, often think they are ‘invisible’– untouchable because of their status and therefore will face nor suffer any consequences for their actions. They use their position of power against any witnesses, and strike fear into their victims so that they will not testify against them. Their position grants them invisibility as they truly believe that they cannot or will not be caught.

The Drill Instructors used means of violence, force and verbal threat to defend themselves and even went so far as to use the other recruits to justify their actions when demanding to know if they were hurting the recruit or using ‘corrective action’. In several instances, these instructors would also tell the recruits they hazed, or any witnesses, not to speak about what had happened and what they did. In the case of the Muslim recruit being shoved into a dryer, the instructors smelled of booze and threatened the recruit to not speak a word about what had happened to him. This corruption shows that individuals granted the power of ‘the ring’, who are freed from possibility of being caught, will act however they please– defending their deplorable actions with threats of further punishment and physical harm.

Works Cited

Philipps, Dave. “Ex-Marine Describes Violent Hazing and the Lies That Covered It Up.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 29 Sept. 2016. Web. 04 Oct. 2016.

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