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Guest Thinkers

For U.S. Soldiers, “Suck It Up” Isn’t Enough

“Suck it up, suck it up, suck it up,” is the refrain taught to members of the U.S. Navy. But despite their often-stoic exteriors, soldiers are real people with real hearts and minds—and, in many cases, grave psychological wounds that go ignored. Understanding those wounds is the focus of Nancy Sherman’s work as a philosopher and psychoanalyst, and of her Big Think interview today.

Having interviewed numerous current and future war veterans for her new book, “The Untold War: Inside the Hearts, Minds, and Souls of our Soldiers,” Sherman shares the stories of trauma, love, and moral anguish that have stuck with her most. Focusing closely on a notorious contemporary incident—the Abu Ghraib scandal—in terms of both the psychology of the soldiers involved and the decisions of military brass, she outlines what went terribly wrong and how similar disasters can be prevented.

The “Stoic Warriors” author also brings a philosophical dimension to the conversation, contrasting the Stoic philosophers’ approach to life—essentially, “suck it up, suck it up, suck it up”—with that of Aristotle, who she believes may represent a much better model for contemporary soldiers. She also waxed a bit philosophical about the madness of being plugged in constantly in the 21st century.


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