The Regiment Should …
As someone with an interest in regimental history, I often find myself talking to members of the Regiment, both serving and retired, on a variety of regimental topics. Quite often our starting point is some mention of the Regiment's past. Sometimes the conversation leads to confirmation or debunking of a long held belief about the Regiment, theirs, or mine. Or it may be an exploration of some aspect of regimental life or history that they experienced first hand which was new to me.
Another direction that seems to crop up all too often is when someone launches into their pet diatribe, usually starting with that ominous phrase: "The Regiment should …"
The contentious point may be a subject of regimental history that the speaker feels has not been adequately recorded, or the establishment of a memorial or marker or symbol commemorating some chosen moment in regimental history, or perhaps simply the issuing of some item (gratis, of course) to every member of the Regiment. Unfortunately, the opinion that the Regiment should do something, and what they would like to see done, is never backed up by a solid analysis of costs, requirements, or effort. In particular, the speaker never defines who they are talking about when they say that "the Regiment" should do something. My counter, when not completely stunned by the impracticality of the idea, is to challenge them on this point.
"Who, exactly, do you think should do that?"
It's a question that never immediately gets a clear answer. I then describe how few people actually work in what we call our Regimental headquarters, and how all the other people they remember holding regimental appointments were doing them voluntarily, on top of the full time responsibilities the Army gave them. In comparison, in many regiments there are no dedicated regimental appointments and all regimental business (i.e., those functions outside of Canadian Armed Forces requirements and responsibilities) is done by voluntary contributions of time and energy.
For many, it is an awakening to realize how the Regiment covers off so many essential functions. And how that leaves little capability among the assigned staff for many other desires, such as the project which was declared by them to be something that the Regiment "should do."
The last part of this conversation almost always takes the same form.
Yes, I might agree, the Regiment should do something. And I point out that the part of the Regiment which should take charge and assume responsibility for this project is the speaker himself. He, too, is part of the Regiment, and if his desired project is that important to him, then he should be the one carrying a complete plan (including realistic suggestions on how it should be funded without assuming available Regimental funds), or, depending on its nature, the completed project, to the Regiment.
I wish I could say that the proposer of such a project more often than not walks away with an intent to follow through, but that wasn't the answer they were looking for. All too often, when someone starts a suggestion with "The Regiment should …", what they really mean is "Someone else should …"
It's easy to be part of a Regiment when you expect others to do the work you suggest should be done.