Quotes from WRI's Countering the Militarisation of Youth conference: Public discourse and Education

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Public discourse

They are constantly selling the idea that Venezuela is going to be invaded by the United States and in the face of this external threat...there is a permanent feeling of being on the verge of war or armed conflict...They always say that the United State wants Venezuela’s oil, however our president Chávez negotiated with transnational energy companies for 30 to 40 years. This means that that argument is invalid... - Rafael Uzcategui, Venezuela

World War I especially is toted as being the catalysing factor of Canada as a nation. Because up until then we had been simply a British colony. This argument that World War I and our participation in warfare – and our distinguishing ourselves in warfare – is what actually moved us to be sort of a sovereign, or a separate, entity. So there is a glorification of the soldier and of battle that is brought out... - Christel LeBlanc, Canada

They do advertise of course, because they have to persuade people “The army’s there to protect you – the army’s there to build the peace”...The media praise them a lot, and try really hard to make them look nice: “They protect us. And if they weren’t there on the border between North Korea and South Korea, who knows what would to happen to us.” You wouldn’t even recognise soldier-related things in the media ‘cause it’s so usual, and that’s why it’s more dangerous...TV stars and movie stars, if they’re male and if they are up to the age that they have to join the military, are really praised if they choose to go, especially if they choose the navy or the air force instead [a longer service], and any who doesn't do military service is gonna be damned - their career’s over. So I think that influences the young generation a lot, ‘cause they’re like the heroes to them right? - Garam Jang, South Korea

Some television series and shows are partly funded by the Ministry of Defence provided that the army can present itself positively in them. Solely positive aspects – for example adventure - are shown, so that people develop an interest... - Geart Bosma, Netherlands

One of the arguments that they bring up is that you need to serve the country to protect your own people against possible threats – threats which are not even identified. It's the hero element, in which you need to be a hero to protect your sisters, your brothers and everything. And another argument is that of discipline – to say they want to discipline young people because they feel they're involved in so many socially-negative elements within the community of South Africa. - Kaizer Tshehla, South Africa

Because there is mandatory conscription, there’s this feeling that everybody goes to the army – everyone has to do their part in society, and the moment that you don't, you're treated as a parasite, using the protection of the army just by living in the country, but not doing your part. The two biggest radio stations in Israel are owned and run by the army – that's what everyone hears. And every single news article that has to do with the army has to have a response of the army spokesperson, so if the army spokesperson is now not talking to you because he didn't like the last report that you wrote, you can't issue another. - Sahar Vardi, Israel

They’re also normalising the military and war, in the way that they talk about working at the military as a regular job... - Cattis Laska, Sweden

I’m not saying people shouldn’t feel pride or shouldn't feel whatever they feel. But there’s not much critical thinking going into that culture of acceptance of the armed forces. - David Gee, UK

Education

In our school we had a Reserve Officer Training Corps programme, which they say is not necessarily for recruitment – it’s for leadership, development and discipline but you get to play soldier. - Kelly Dougherty, USA

The Cadets [for 14-18 year-olds] is one of the other things that entices the youth to join the military, because they see the pride in them and their uniform. As a military man people show respect – people are afraid of you: “Hey, the military man is coming”. You have militia men who come and train them one or two days, how to handle the gun, and then the marching, and self-discipline. So by the time the students are at university, they have already developed an interest in joining the army. And at university we even went to the jungle. A week, with this kind of training – you develop so much interest that you wish to be part of the military. - Samuel Koduh, Ghana

It’s usually a pair of soldiers who come to the jobs fair for graduating students. They’ll be sitting at a desk, maybe with a display of the different sorts of jobs – interesting, fun, meaningful jobs - that you can have in the military. - Christel LeBlanc, Canada

Some teachers take the children to a military show, or to the show of the special police forces, where there are lots of weapons and...vehicles and stuff. And kids play and take pictures with guns and stuff. - Boro Kitanoski, Macedonia

I give lessons on peace in schools. When I speak to the teachers I often notice that they have a military definition of “peace” – namely that military missions are necessary for acquiring it. - Geart Bosma, Netherlands

In kindergarten you bring gifts to soldiers. And then later there's worksheets to teach children how to count: you have on one hand the numbers 1 to 10, and on the other different numbers of symbols like tanks and aeroplanes. You have to join them up. The most you see the military is in high school: you have soldiers from the Educational Corps coming in explaining to the children the different positions in the army, and teaching, and in the eleventh grade there is a week where the whole class goes to a military base and goes through kind of basic training – shooting...things of the sort. - Sahar Vardi, Israel