I’ve always been interested in the fact that gay people are not allowed in the military. Now here, and in this context, I am referring by “gay” to homosexual people*, rather than happy and bright people.** Although it would appear that the Army does have a specific problem with happy people. In the end, almost universally , most people who join the army seem to become quite boring. Just look at Iain Duncan Smith***
The thing is that it wasn’t always like this. Whereas we assume that gay rights are something that have arrived recently in fact they have merely been restored recently. Most of the blame for the destruction of gay rights stems pretty squarely from Victorian Britain.
In fact by barring gays from the military the army have routinely missed one of the greatest tactical advantages available to them since ancient times. IN fact it has recently been restored by allowing women back into the army. A prejudice that has been running even longer.
One of the first professional armies on record had had a tactical brainwave so striking that you really wonder why it isn’t available today.
All of the men in the Thebans’ “Sacred Band”, their professional army and therefore their best troops, were gay. All of them. And there were always an even number of troops because, you guessed it, the sacred band was made up of couples.
The theory went that while it was considered an incredibly shameful thing to desert your army it would be even worse to desert your lover. And also, you can imagine, it would make you fight a lot harder if it could save your lovers life.
The Thebans’ Sacred Band were the first army to beat the Spartans. At which point the Spartans huge go began to fail a little bit. Which just goes to show what a general can do when he thinks laterally a little bit.
I just wonder why nobody is doing this today?
* One of my great aunts once told me at a party how much she hated gay people. Why, I asked, did she hate them so? She replied that it was because she could no longer use the word “gay” the way she had as a child. It upset her deeply and was something she felt very strongly was their fault.
** This is not to say that being homosexual is mutually exclusive of being happy and bright. In fact you can do both at the same time.
*** Iain Duncan Smith is the former leader of Britain’s conservative party. He was universally considered dull and humourless. The only exciting thing was his attempt to emulate Franklin Delanos Roosevelt by naming himself IDS.