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Old Nov 30th 2012, 10:30 PM
MeMyselfAndI MeMyselfAndI is offline
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Default Social status and stress

Came upon this documentary today:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...&v=eYG0ZuTv5rs
Very interesting.

They used baboon monkeys and the British Civil Service But I can certainly think of another example of this: the Russian military.

There, you also have a very strict, vertical social hierarchy, and I don't mean officer's ranks. I mean, between the regular soldiers themselves.

At the top are the "alpha males" like with the baboons in the video.

In Russian military, they are called dedi, "old men". Soldiers who've served at least two-thirds of their conscription time.

How they assert their status and authority and treat their subordinate conscripts actually differs by ethnicity. They all stage photos of themselves where they are shown in a clearly superior position to that of the other soldiers, and they copy these and send some home and hang others on their bed and post some online, as a symbol of their power and dominance. Ethnic Russian dedi shave in their subordinates' hair the acronym DMB (stands for "dembel", demobilisation) and the year they will be demobilised

perhaps as a message to loved ones, I am fine, I'm ded, I'm on top here, and I will be home that year.

Those from small ethnic minorities feel a need to represent their particular little nation. Many perhaps also miss home. This is why you find the names of their Republics or ethnic groups written on their subordinates in photos they send home and post on the Internet

("Yakutia", left; "Dagestan", right) But, contrary to media-driven stereotype, minority dedi in fact are nicer and treat their subordinates better, then ethnic Russian ones. They do not shave words into their hair, they just spray them with shaving cream

Contrary, again, to the myth perpetuated by organisations like Committee of Soldiers' Mothers, dedi very rarely, extremely rarely use violence to assert their power over other conscripts. There is simply no need for it. They exist, as a caste, with the backing of officers, for whom this is convenient as a method of toughening up the soldiers (turning from boys to men lol) and also effective in maintaining order and discipline in barracks or on warships (for the Navy). As such, they have a far more effective means of isolating and silencing dissenters: collective punishment. One guy gives a ded trouble, he can run his entire platoon to exhaustion on the training course

or restrict them from the good food, keeping them on some horrible slop for days. Their power is de jure informal, since they technically have the same rank as any other soldier, but de facto, they hold many privileges (sleep on top bunk, eat better food, and use a bathroom with an actual toilet, not just a hole in the floor that is available to other conscripts

etc) and can be more powerful in some units then the commanding Sergeant. And most of the new boys who come in, their older brother or father or whoever have served and explained the system to them already, so they know what will happen when they arrive, and mostly everybody just conforms. The ded is Tsar and God, that is it.

And, to be fair, mostly the dedi are good men. I read that when the 58 th Army went into South Ossetia, engaged the Georgians, the deds ran into battle first, leading their less experienced soldiers, and even taking bullets for them... After they served their full mndatory term, they become dembel, the highest status a soldier can achieve, they are either discharged, or can stay on contract, if they wish, voluntarily. More and more do, these days.

After the dedi, come the cherepa, the skulls. Second in command of a ded, the "skull" must have served at least half his term. He has the privileges of a ded, including the bunk, the food, and the bathroom key; and can give orders in his place to the lower caste conscripts if the ded is not around. An assistant, essentially.

Then, you have the cherpaki or sloni. Soldiers who served at least 1/3 of their time. As a cherpak, you get to sleep on the top bunk, but you do not get to use the higher caste bathroom, and must eat the same crappy food as the others. These are the grunts, who often must carry weapons for the higher caste soldiers, etc.

Then come the salagi or dukhi, the lowest caste, fresh new conscripts. As a dukh, you are nothing. You are garbage. You are less than human, and are treated accordingly. You sleep on the bottom bunk, use the hole in the floor, eat crap, and keep your mouth shut unless spoken to first. You clean the floors and such


There are initiation ceremonies for moving up the ladder to each caste, involving the soldiers being whipped with a leather army belt, or, on some bases, a stick

with the number of strikes corresponding to number of months served.

So, basically, a baboon-type social structure

Only difference is, you can move up as you serve on and on. Frankly, you just have to survive the first 3 months or so, after that, you're good. Some new conscripts come in, and they are sportsmen, boxers or something, tough guys. They think they can go up against the established order and become cherpak or even ded right away. That's where it can get violent

as the current ded must defend his place in the hierarchy and must beat the challenger to keep the respect (or fear) of the lower caste soldiers. Same as with the baboons too

What they said in the video about more stress the lower you are on that social ladder, very true over there on the bases and warships.

I guess it's simply human (and ape) nature.
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Old Dec 1st 2012, 11:31 AM
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Default Re: Social status and stress

Yes, humans as a group will always seek to create a social status heirarchy - with the result of creating stress for the lower levels.

Some methods are more crude and harmful than others. That found in the Russian military is probably the most toxic example.

Btw, the US military has spent the last 30 years trying to eliminate that kind of behavior because it is so counter-productive to the military mission.
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Old Dec 1st 2012, 11:54 AM
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Default Re: Social status and stress

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael View Post
Yes, humans as a group will always seek to create a social status heirarchy - with the result of creating stress for the lower levels.

Some methods are more crude and harmful than others. That found in the Russian military is probably the most toxic example.

Btw, the US military has spent the last 30 years trying to eliminate that kind of behavior because it is so counter-productive to the military mission.
I hope it is counter-productive. If it is, then that means that the military, (and I hope other professions) is (or are) a place where mutual respect is self-rewarding. I believe it is.

But there is also a good-cop bad-cop strategy among leaders. A nasty leader is rude to the subordinates, and then a nice leader comes along and speaks words of encouragement to the subordinates, making the subordinates want to work very hard for this nice leader who is so different from that nasty bad cop, and then the two cops shake hands behind the scenes, on mission accomplished.

But I certainly hope that respect to subordinates is always productive and that rudeness to subordinates is always counter-productive, since I think rude bullies should be made to see that being a rude bully doesn't pay.
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Old Dec 1st 2012, 11:57 AM
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Default Re: Social status and stress

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Originally Posted by NickKIELCEPoland View Post
But I certainly hope that respect to subordinates is always productive and that rudeness to subordinates is always counter-productive, since I think rude bullies should be made to see that being a rude bully doesn't pay.
That's the tricky part. Because of institutional supports (such as seen in Russian military), it is self-serving behavior. Meaning that the bullies certainly profit from it. The problem is that the overall effectiveness of the organization is reduced and that's what concerns the US military and why they are trying to eliminate it.
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Old Dec 1st 2012, 07:44 PM
MeMyselfAndI MeMyselfAndI is offline
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Default Re: Social status and stress

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael View Post
That's the tricky part. Because of institutional supports (such as seen in Russian military), it is self-serving behavior. Meaning that the bullies certainly profit from it. The problem is that the overall effectiveness of the organization is reduced and that's what concerns the US military and why they are trying to eliminate it.
Yes. And one thing, in my personal opinion, that creates a big issue is, when conscripts finish serving their regular required time, become dembel, and they are given the contract option. Many take it

in fact, it is becoming more and more popular. One reason is, after serving all that time, many young men do not even really know what they would do outside the military, it becomes their home, they do not want to leave, believe it or not, even after all that horrible bullying and abuse

But it also because as it is right now, in most military districts, conscripts and contract troops are not separated. Often, you sign your contract

and you can simply return to your present base and unit. You can, essentially, be a ded forever. Not everybody wants that, of course, some do try to actually earn higher real ranks, become officers. But others like it that way, be the Tsar of the Barracks, for at least a couple more years.

What this has resulted in today, are cliques of contractors who try to place and keep themselves even higher on that social ladder. Like, the dedi of the actual dedi Often what then happens is, of course, the conscripts do not like this, especially since they may also be envious of the contractors' salary (35,000 rubles [$1,167] per month against 2000 rubles [$67] for conscripts).

So, you have conflicts, violent ones.

The government keeps these things quiet, but we know, for example (thanks to the Soldiers Mothers, okay, they are good sometimes ) that back in August this year, Baltic Fleet Marines were called on board corvette Stereguschy

to quell a huge brawl between several dozen sailors, contractors on one side, conscripts on the other. 10 sailors (mostly conscripts according to the Mothers) were badly beaten. It is believed they tried to stage a coup-de-tat against the contractors, but lost the fight.
http://www.ntv.ru/novosti/323638/

And that is, by far, not the only incident like this... It is said there is now a mutual resentment between conscripts and contractors in all branches of our military... Government screws up yet again...
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Old Dec 2nd 2012, 10:01 AM
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Default Re: Social status and stress

Yes, that preferential treatment for one special group is very popular with that one special group - but very bad for the overall discipline, morale and effectiveness of the service.
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