Anniversary Post: Boy Scouts Begin

Boy Scouts of AmericaOn this day in 1908, the first troop of Boy Scouts was formed by fascist Robert Baden-Powell.[1] It seems kind of weird to me still that the Boy Scouts started in England. It seems so very American. But make no mistake. It came from Baden-Powell’s experiences fighting wars in Africa. So say what you will about the Boy Scouts and helping little old ladies across the street, the Boy Scouts is a group designed to get boys ready to fight wars. It is not surprising that the two eldest boys in the very big Boy Scout family that lives across the street from me have both gone into the military.

My opinion about the Boy Scouts has not changed over the years. Here’s what I had to say two years ago, Why Boy Scouts Have Always Bothered Me:

Although it might not be clear to look at me now, when I was a child, I was a very typical boy. I loved my army men and when I got older, I ran around with the other boys playing war with sticks fashioned into guns. So when my friends started becoming cub scouts, you would have thought I would have followed along. But I didn’t. Then, as now, I thought it was all very creepy.

It probably comes from the core of my being—my fascination with the Romantic hero archetype. But the idea of everyone dressing up the same way just wasn’t my idea of what it is to be a man. And more to the point, it wasn’t what my idea of what it is to be an American…

Now let me be clear: I don’t think that the Boy Scouts of America are a fascist group. I don’t think that at all. But it wasn’t hard for Mussolini and Hitler to change the Boy Scout programs in their countries to fascist youth groups. And I think that is what is creepy about the group. But that is completely expected. I am the kind of person who rebels against authority. I am an equally bad leader and follower. A society made up of people like me would be no kind of society at all. So we need a lot of people who are willing to conform to create social cohesion.

Just the same, I think it is a major mistake to turn conformity into a fetish. The military does this because it is an unfortunate necessity, just as the very existence of the military is an unfortunate necessity. But to push boys into blind and ostentatious conformity before they are able to make the choice seems wrong to me. It’s too much like indoctrination. What’s more, it is a particular kind of paramilitary indoctrination. And for me, that’s what tips it from concerning to creepy.

There’s something else: males should not be left alone. Men are at their best when they have women around to remind them that they live in a civilization. This may be why the Girl Scouts have not become a creepy group. Women don’t need us men, but we men really do need women. I like the idea of people forming groups. But it should be about something more than preparing men for the Third Boer War.

[1] This is from Robert Baden-Powell’s diary entry from 6 October 1939, “Lay up all day. Read Mein Kampf. A wonderful book, with good ideas on education, health, propaganda, organisation etc — and ideals which Hitler does not practise himself.” In addition to his clear fascistic sympathies, this was written over a month after his own country had declared war on Nazi Germany. I wonder if there is a merit badge for treason.

21 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: Boy Scouts Begin

  1. Plus the girl scouts sensibly invented thin mints, a net positive to the world even if it is now whored out everywhere. Can’t see that from the boy scouts.

          • Nah, I spent many an afternoon selling popcorn door-to-door. Cub Scouts probably do it, too- they’re just different branches of the same group. The popcorn’s not bad, it’s just only sold in huge tins and multi-packs, some of which cost close to fifty dollars. So they don’t get the business of “guy walking by with a few bucks in his pocket” the way Girl Scouts do.

            • I’m not sure that’s true anymore. Girl Scout cookies are delicious, but they’re really expensive! I like popcorn. I think I’ll go make some!

                • Oh my God! You did. Well thank you very much. I was just going to challenge you to donate to Tim Canova! But maybe you already have?

                  • I might donate to him, I don’t know yet. I am really careful about who I donate to politically because it can come up later. There are also candidates here locally that could use my help a lot more.

                    I should have demanded you post proof of the cookies so I know that my $20 was not in vain. But I trust you to get five boxes.

                    • Yeah, as I noted, mine was more a donation against Debbie Wasserman Schultz than anything. It’s a bit petty of me.

      • I was in the Boy Scouts, and I never saw it as something about “conformity.” I think it varies quite a bit from troop to troop.

        “Women don’t need us men, but we men really do need women.”

        This is a really silly statement. Gender essentialism is ridiculous.

        • I’m not making a wholly serious statement. But men left alone do tend to devolve. Women have their problems, but they are of a different type. If I were a woman, I would spend most of my time ragging on them. It’s my nature. You should know that!

            • Oh! That’s just me being snarky about how homophobic the Boy Scouts are and how the Girl Scouts welcome transgender children.

                • Ha! That might be one reason I’m so mean to the Boy Scouts. When I was a kid, typical boy though I was, the Girl Scouts seemed to get to do more fun things. I’m not an outdoors kind of guy.

                    • Sounds like fun. Not at the library, though. Here’s a guilty pleasure: Drillbit Taylor.

                    • It should still be on Amazon prime.

                      I will toss that movie on my pile of eventual watches since it is not free on the usual suspects.

Leave a Reply