SAS: Rogue Warriors, produced and directed by Matthew Whiteman.

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Episode 1, Series 1, BBC 2 http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08f00s0/sas-rogue-warriors-series-1-episode-1

epistemology

noun PHILOSOPHY

the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion.

I recently reviewed a Channel 5 series, Secrets of the SAS: In Their Own Words. Other programmes have SAS tags in their title, or synonyms such as Special Forces. Scroll through channel listings and you’ll see them. Even I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, which I’d rather chew my way through a nest of killer ants than watch, has its roots in the do-derring macho male with a weapon and a cause. The SAS came to fore, front page news and televisual clips of  masked men abseiling down from the roof of  a  three-storey building and the noise of  stun grenades being heard all over the world, with the Iranian Embassy Siege in March/April 1980 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_p4DmuGyehc). The SAS were first to yomp across the Falklands in 1982, when the word yomp hadn’t been invented. They were British and they were ours and we were proud of them. The Falklands War was enough to put Margaret Thatcher, who was lagging in the electoral polls back into office. Wars are good at that kind of thing.   We look back nostalgically to the First World War, a small island nation, had a quarter of the population of the earth under our control paying fealty and homage to the notion of Empire, and another half of the world’s population paying for our imports, but now, although we had become an economic backwater and second-class nation these programmes are telling us we can be great again. We still had the men. But here’s another secret, when you’re watching a different and more popular kind of propaganda with the tag Benefit in it, the SAS is a meritocracy. Ninety-nine percent of the SAS are white, working class males. Losers by any other name. Benefit scum. Should be aborted at birth…[stick your own propaganda ITV, Channel 4 or Channel 5 tag from TV listings in here] When we celebrate the SAS we should be celebrating the idea of how a meritocracy should work and compare it with how the rich, one percent, and their middle-class cronies, profit by  dividing a nation and sinking like the Belgrano, the jewels in the working-class crowns, the NHS,  local authority housing and comprehensive schools’ system, not for glory but for their personal gain. Then look across the Atlantic at the billionaire bankrupt moron’s moron that has been elected President, who went to military academy, but refused to fight for America, and is the most powerful man on earth and most likely to end us all with the push of a button. So how do we frame a force of fighting men that are defunct as dreadnoughts when with new smaller weapons nuclear war is seen as being winnable?  The smart money, the Silicon valley super rich are buying up bolt- holes in places like New Zealand in the hope that nuclear winter will not kill the rich, only the poor and misguided (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jan/29/silicon-valley-new-zealand-apocalypse-escape). When we talk about the epistemology of the SAS widening out the scope of what they are and where they came from shames all of us mean-minded money grabbers who always put themselves first. The secret of the SAS, if you watch closely , is not about individualism, but teamwork. It’s about treasuring and making use of the rogue elements in our population, not caging them and letting them rot in prisons. Not waging a propaganda war that has its basis in eugenics. This is a programme about men, real men, who dare to think differently.

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Secrets of the SAS: In Their Own Words, Channel 5, 9pm, directed by Billie Pink.

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Secrets of The SAS: In Their Own Words

As Eric, my mate, often parrots, when pissed, ‘I can’t tell you if I’ve been in the SAS or I’ll need to kill you afterwards.’ Usually by that time he can’t zip up his fly and Liz is dragging him up the road. I could probably reconstruct the whole thing, with an idling taxi and two actors and an actress, playing Liz, in a dramatic reconstruction, with the sound of gunfire zipping in the background.  Most nations’ elite forces portray themselves as being the best of the best: The American Delta Force, Russian Spetznaz, French Special Operations, Scottish Rab C Nesbitteers. What they have in common is their ability to use ‘extreme violence when necessary’. Harry, a wee guy from Pollok that joined up when he was sixteen, malnourished and in pretty bad shape tells us that. The army was his family and he went onto to become part of a SAS operation during the Falkland war that planned to drop troops behind lines in the Argentine mainland and blow up their jets, whose Exocet missiles were sinking our ships and kill all the pilots. Those going on the mission weren’t expected to make it back, or to make it to the neutral territory of Chile. But being a Pollok man a suicide mission was more than compensated for by the appeal of killing officers. They were taxing on the plane when that mission was called off. Most missions don’t make it beyond the planning stage. Despite coming from Pollok in Glasgow, or perhaps because he came from Pollok, Harry went on to work for the Northern Ireland police, rise up the ranks and leave to become a Queen’s counsellor and represent the victims of violence. That’s quite an achievement.

You can’t get in the SAS if you’re stupid. You need to be in exceptional physical shape. And it’s a common pattern, voiced by Andy McNab of Bravo Two Zero fame, you need to come from a broken home and have failed the equivalent of the eleven-plus, be classified as stupid and disruptive, and be destined for grunt work or prison, but be able to think on your feet. I’m hoping the SAS can get behind the lines of the May Government and sabotage plans for the extension of grammar schools and the eleven plus and use extreme violence in achieving their goals. Payback for all the Tory white-noise propaganda and destruction of poor people’s lives through alleged welfare reforms. It should be right up their Council house street.

‘If you’re breathing, you’re winning,’ argues McNab.

Another Nietzschean commonality is ‘If you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you’. Yorkie epitomised this with the mantra ‘take a life and save a life’. He killed a young Iraqi soldier at close range, in an undercover operation behind lines, during the Desert Storm, First Iraqi war in January, 1991, but he was lucky and wasn’t captured and taken to prison in Bagdad, interrogated and tortured like McNab, who was taking part in another mission in the desert about 100 miles away. At home Yorkie’s son was dying and he came home and left the army to nurse him. This dissonance between extreme violence and the everyday life that goes on, for example, shopping in Asda, is internalised. Silence is violence and another ex-SAS soldier, Rob, who created a charity to help his comrades, talked about getting drunk and putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger. In the First World War it was called shell shock, now it’s a constellation of symptoms: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  A common response to PTSD is to get absolutely pissed.  A disproportionate number of those in jail and the homeless are ex-forces. I’m not SAS material, but neither would I want to be. I guess we’re back to that Jack Nicholson quote in A Few Good Men, ‘You want the truth? You couldn’t handle the truth.’