The Guardian • Issue #1948

Military uses predatory recruitment on Australian youth

The end of 2020 brought about the end of a particularly difficult and disruptive year 12 for the nation’s school leavers. Many young people are increasingly worried about where they will turn to next. Overseas travel is off-limits, unlikely to return any time soon. Students entering university will find themselves saddled with extra debt after the government increased fees for humanities subjects. School leavers entering apprenticeships or the workforce will find little support from a government that endeavours at every opportunity to cut the pay and conditions of Australian workers. In this gloomy climate, a new option appears; the Australian Defence Force.

Defence recruiting soared in 2020 as out-of-work Australians sought other options. The ADF has been particularly active in advertising the “ADF Gap Year,” a 12-month program in the military for young Australians. Social media apps are plastered with images of diverse people in uniform, doing a variety of tasks. It’s not just Australia experiencing a surge in applications to join the military. The Hungarian Defence Ministry reports that applications have doubled since the start of the pandemic, presumably tied to the country’s three-month limit on collecting unemployment benefits. The United States has also seen more enlistments and is also aggressively targeting young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Since the end of the Vietnam War and the subsequent abolition of conscription in both the United States and Australia, an all-volunteer force has been required, leading military recruiters to target people without steady access to healthcare and employment. In the United States, it has been mandated by law that military recruiters have the same access in schools as university recruiters, leading some schools to have military recruiters greet children as they leave their classrooms. In another worrying trend, US military recruiters have been streaming themselves playing video games, even sponsoring video game competitions, in an attempt to mislead young viewers about the true experiences of warfare. In one instance, viewers were told to click on a link that they were told would enter them into a draw to win a free Xbox controller. It instead led them to a recruitment form.

In Australia, the military targets job-seekers with search-engine advertising. A simple search for “jobs” returns a link to the Defence Recruitment website. It’s no secret that warfare disproportionately affects the poor. Communists as far back as the First World War condemned the deaths of the poor to fight for the rich. The promise of education, healthcare and a salary attracts many disadvantaged people who would be unable to access such benefits in civilian life. Better-off citizens have fewer incentives to join, as they can make a comfortable living without the danger that army life entails. This is the basis of the “poverty draft” how disadvantaged Australians must risk life and limb fighting for foreign powers just for their rights to healthcare and education.

Between a failure to act on industrial manslaughter and unsafe working conditions for civilians, and a military recruitment system that preys on the vulnerable, the Australian Government has sent a very strong message to the working class of this country; “you can’t make a living unless you’re willing to die for it.”

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