Why do young men rush in to join up when war breaks out? As I said before, it can be a relief from a humdrum job. But they have other reasons. They want to defend their own country. We are territorial animals. Men like to get together in groups and indulge in male chat. Women, too, form groups but it is not as important for them and they have different topics. We are all of us social animals. Nevertheless, there has always been a number of outsiders in both sexes. I know what that is like because I am one of them. I have always worked for myself and avoided groups. I do not like being told what to do, nor do I ask for advice. I have confidence in my own judgement.
However, I am always open to new ideas. I am good at changing my mind, often at the last minute. If I had been a man I would have rushed to enlist when World War 2 broke out, but I was only ten years old.
People like me are usually engrossed in a special interest of their own. They include all creative people who put their greatest interest first. Nevertheless, I am and always have been looking out to find like-minded people.
When I look back at my life I realize that the few friends I have made have all been what you might call eccentrics. When I get deep into a book or writing or merely noticing what is going on around me wherever I might be, I enjoy being on my own. An old Italian friend once said to me that when we are alone we are in a numerous company. That is if we have got to the point where we understand ourselves and respect ourselves very well. Such people rarely feel lonely.
However, I would join in a group if I knew one where I could remain myself and be part of something. I am thinking of being in an orchestra, where all use their own talents and contribute to the whole effect, without having to give up their power at all, because a conductor is necessary and is respected. But I couldn’t do that because I am not a musician.
I believe that what draws people of all kinds together is when they are in great danger but have the power to do something about it. My husband was an officer in the army and he said it was one of the best things in his life. What interests me is that such men choose to be ordered about in many kinds of ways but they subdue themselves to it from choice. They know they must learn to be obedient to an order automatically. Such obedience means that the men react very quickly. Quick reactions to an order can save their lives.
Surprisingly enough, learning to be obedient in the army seems to have the effect on young men of disciplining themselves. Having read a brilliant book “Defeat into Victory” by Sir William Slim about the Burma Campaign it was heartwarming to read how men and officers worked well together and respected each other. Moreover they used their initiative if they got separated from their unit.