Apparently up to 20% of US soldiers who have served in Iraq (if the worst figures are accurate, and there is certainly some debate about whether they are from what I can make out) have incurred a newly identified condition “mTBI” – or “minor traumatic brain injury” – which can lead to anxiety, depression and memory loss.
OMG! 20%! Brain injury! We must do something.
These people are getting brain injuries while fighting for us!
But wait. Let’s slow down.
80% of these mTBI are entirely asymptomatic after 72 hours. That is, 80% of these cases are about a soldier in a war zone who gets a bang on the head, or is in the vicinity of an explosion, and feels a bit squiffy for a few days afterwards. So would I.
Over 90% of cases are entirely asymptomatic after about 3 months, clearing up without any particular mTBI diagnosis or mTBI-specific treatment. That is, a further 10% plus of cases are about a soldier in a war zone who gets a bang on the head, endures explosions, and feels out of kilter for a few months. So would I.
Which means that actually only about 2% (worst case scenario, using the most pessimistic figures) of soldiers are exposed to brain injuries that have lasting effects. Which they are at liberty to discuss with their doctor.
So why is half the world suddenly flapping about as if this was the most serious health crisis since bird flu almost nearly scared the pants off everyone? Putting together universal screening programmes, dedicated treatment units, special MoD project teams; hooting questions in Parliament. You name it, they’re doing it. For a couple of thousand soldiers who MIGHT have moderately serious long term anxiety, depression or memory loss.
Why? Oh yeah. Because it’s the soldiers. Brave heroes, putting their lives on the line to protect the rest of us.
All this, while an estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked around the world every year (pdf, see p9). All this, while the UK government figures suggest that at any given time there are 4,000 women who have been trafficked to the UK to work as sex slaves. And what are we doing about that? Can we even be bothered to seriously explore even proven, practically no-cost solutions for them, such as criminalising johns?
It would be genuine revolution if women would suddenly stop loving the victors in violent encounters. Why do they admire the image of the brutal man? … Why can they not understand the deification of the strongman, either as soldier, wrestler, footballer or male model, seeing that his fate so closely approximates their own? If women would only offer a genuine alternative to the treadmill of violence, the world might breathe a little longer with less pain. If women were to withdraw from the spectatorship of wrestling matches, the industry would collapse; if soldiers were certainly faced with the withdrawal of all female favours, as Lysistrata observed so long ago, there would suddenly be less glamour in fighting. We are not houris; we will not be the warrior’s reward. And yet we read in men’s magazines how the whores of American cities give their favours for free to the boys about to embark for Vietnam…
Women must humanise the penis, take the steel out of it and make it flesh again… The question of female attitude to violence is inseparable from this problem. Perhaps to begin with women should labour to be genuinely disgusted by violence, and at least to refuse to reward any victor in a violent confrontation.
[Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch, 1970]
Men who live by the sword, die by the sword. Let them get on with it, I say. Isn’t it time that we stopped treating soldiers as god-like heroes, and started treating women and children as real human beings. Is that so very much to ask?