"Change hurts. It makes people insecure, confused and angry. People want things to be the same as they've always been because that makes life easier. But if you're a leader, you can't let your people hang on to the past." - Richard Marcinko
It’s funny what powerful forces habit and comfort zones are to our behavior. When I was patrolling every day, the thing I dreaded most was being sent somewhere where I’d be cooped up on the base every day. Now that I’ve grown accustomed to being confined to the base, I don’t really relish going out. I don’t dread going out, but I certainly don’t look forward to it the way I used to. The heat may have something to do with it, but I think the change in my preference is mostly due to inertia – people are more comfortable doing what they’ve been doing. The ANA remind me of this fact every day, as any change in their behavior moves at a glacier-like pace at best, despite our efforts. It takes a conscious act of will to break a habit, whether it be doing something or not doing something. I’ve never been much of a creature of habit, as I seem to have a high tolerance and even need for change and uncertainty, but even so, breaking out of my comfort zone can meet with some resistance within myself at times.
At any rate, I did go out for a couple days recently. Basically, we drove up and down a road and ‘conducted foreign policy’ by talking with different townspeople in villages we don’t normally frequent. Meeting with local people in a non-formal setting, i.e. not involving sitting down with chai etc, is an enjoyable aspect of the job. I dislike meetings in formal settings for the simple fact that they tend to go the same way most of the time, with us being asked for different economic development projects or items and our asking information in return. Suffice to say we give more significantly more than we get in those settings – a fact which accounts for my antipathy to the process.
The non-formal encounters on the street can involve much the same thing only on a smaller scale: instead of being asked for 500 bags of cement we might instead be asked for a pen, but we can usually shrug off such requests and just shoot the breeze for awhile before the novelty wears off for all parties. My policy is to give something only when not asked; no use encouraging a beggar’s culture – though this is unfortunately exactly what’s going on here on the macro scale. The results of these operations are hard to measure, but if nothing else they do give us the opportunity to "showcase the ANA".