Monday, October 17, 2011

Pork Chop Hill and the legacy of the American voter

The MGM cable channel recently released a vintage movie, Pork Chop Hill.

It was released in 1959 and was based on an actual account of the last battle of the Korean War. I remember where I was when I saw it in 1959. It was at a theater in Mexia, Texas. I don’t remember the name of my date.

I was very interested in this motion picture story because the movie was based on a book written by historian and author Brig. Gen. S.L.A. Marshall He was known as SLAM to his friends. I have read every book he wrote.

I first remember Gen. Marshall in an interview he gave to CBS news in 1967 before the Israeli-Arab war. When every political pundit had predicted dire consequences for the outnumber Israelis, Marshall assessed that the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) was a small professional army that could easily handle the Arabs who had overwhelming numbers of poorly trained and poorly motivated men.

He was right! In six days, the IDF was on the banks of the Nile and outside the gates of Damascus. The Arabs asked for peace.

Marshall died in 1977 and left a legacy of controversy that even brews to this day.

He was a journalist who joined the U.S. Army during the Second World War. As a journalist his job was to document the events of WWII. Gen. Marshall went much further, and his findings told us something about ourselves that we really did not want to know, although we knew it all along.

Marshall’s studies revealed that only 20 percent of the soldiers in action ever fired their weapons. He went further and said that that ratio extends into private life, as well.

Whether it is on your job, in church, or political life only 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work. In political life, it may be even lower than that!

Economists call it the Pareto Principle. It goes like this:

  1. 80% of your profits come from 20% of your products
  2. 80% of your sales come from 20% of your sales staff!

In wealth, 20% of the people have 80% of the wealth. That’s where the controversy is … if you look at it as a socialist or a communist or a progressive.

Some people strive to be 80 percenters. A friend, who was an accountant, illustrates this principle. He worked for a Central Texas utility company in Killeen. He felt his and his wife’s interests would be best served if he could get a U.S. government Civil Service job which were were handed out like water. The U.S. Army and Department of Defense was the biggest employer in the area.

He finally got his wish and ended up in the Fort Hood accounting office. They gave him a pile of paper work to do. He did it and asked his supervisor for more.

He said his supervisor looked alarmed but gave him more work. This went on for a few days. The supervisor told him he was working too fast. “The principle here was to pace one’s self and always keep a backlog of work on your desk,” the supervisor advised him.

He was a 20 percenter. That working principle was not his style. He went back to civilian work.

As a journalist, I worked every writing beat on my last paper. I was rewarded with a supervisory position. I was the city editor with 10 writers and two photographers to give assignments and supervise. I edited all their copy and advised them where they need to improve. When I found slackers, I had them fired. In rising in my profession, I passed up several other people, who were employed longer than myself. They were resentful. They also did only the minimum amount of work to hold on to their jobs.

I eventually got a degree in computer science and moved on to another career. I went to work for nationwide retailer in their information technology department. My first cube mate had been there for more than four years. We became friends and socialized. In three years, I was his supervisor. Our friendship ended. He saw rewards as something that should be handed out for longevity, not achievement. I saw it the opposite way.

In local elections, such as the city council and school boards perhaps only three to 10 percent of the registered voters even vote. That is far short of the 20/80 rule. Even more dismal is the people who register to vote. Some estimates are that less than 50% of those eligible to register even do so.

My personal theory is that 80 percenters will perform if rewarded, first. For example, the Fox News Channel reported today that Wall Street protesters are being paid to protest. Unions are in my opinion made up of 80 percenters. Unions do give their members incentive to protest, strike, and work for political candidates.

Unions are a disincentive to work harder and innovate. For example, England once boasted the finest automobile industry in the world. The unions through the Labor Party took over the government and the government took over the auto companies. Today, all of the British auto manufacturers are out of business.

Back to Pork Chop Hill

Gregory Peck played the lead character, Lt. Joe Clemons. Capt. Joe Clemons (the same) was advisor on the movie and was named in the credits.

The movie depicts Lt. Clemons pushing his troops up the hill and exhorting them to “use your weapons!” Some soldiers were cooking up excuses to go back to the company aid station. One soldier was wandering around in a daze with no rifle.

The book was an allegory to American life and a study in leadership. Clemons overcame every obstacle and captured the hill. The lieutenant was a leader. He accepted the challenge, and shaped his effort in to meet achieve that objective.

Obama on he other hand is someone who was a product of a entitlement society. From all accounts his academic career was specially shaped for a minority. He spent his time working his way up through 80 percenters. He was elected by 80 percenters.

Now that his policies have failed, his objective is not to achieve but to blame someone. His objective his turned to just get re-elected.

It's was good thing that this country was conceived and built by 20 percenters.

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