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  • John H Keess

More, and Hopefully the Last, on Beards

Follow-up: Thoughts on Beards

Since my thoughts on beards went up in March, it had been interesting to see the reception. They’ve been varied – positive, negative, and importantly, different kinds of negative. I’ve gotten two thoughtful emails, some interesting long-form private messages on social media, and a few interesting comments mixed in with much lower-grade feedback on social media. I’m mostly disappointed that my musings on facial hair have garnered more attention than my short technical pieces on force structure reforms in ‘60s and ‘70s. Honestly, no one was going to debate that the Centurion was outdated in the late 60s when in performed well at the Golan in '73? So it goes. In no particular order, here some points addressing some of the feedback:

“Shaving beards won’t fix everything!” Obviously not. I’m not sure shaving them would fix anything as an isolated act, which is why I did not argue for their mandatory removal. Knowledge is created through dialectic – a back and forth – and the post was part of that back and forth. I personally admire many officers and NCOs who have kept their beards. A more helpful way of looking at the argument is whether the context of the policy change was a good one (it wasn’t) and what an outward sign of discipline might look like in our changing cultural milieu. I don’t care about your beard personally, unless it looks like garbage.

Cultural and religious beards. I received a well-written email which pointed out that beards are important for many CAF members on cultural and religious grounds. This is true, which is why I discussed specifically the new beard policy which came out in 2018 This policy is separate from existing religious accommodation policy. I’ll point out again that I did not argue for a change in the 2018 policy either. I merely suggested that people who have beards for the wrong reasons should think about removing them. My personal experience is that Sikh members with whom I have had the pleasure of serving with invariably took pride in their appearance. I’ve also seen Indigenous members wear traditional hairstyles with dignity and pride of appearance. The CAF has a good, but evolving policy on these issues and I want to make it clear that I’m not discussing them, beyond the fact that they seem to work. I’ll note that this is mostly beyond my personal experience since I’ve never requested one of these exemptions.

Commenting and replies. I don’t allow guests to comment on my blog posts, sorry. I have this policy because I don’t have the time to moderate them properly. I believe that Wix allows those with an account to reply here. I am on Twitter where, time permitting, you can tag me and I’ll gladly have a back and forth until it becomes unproductive. If you write a long-form reply to any of my posts elsewhere, I’ll link it to the original post in an edit.

The puppy. The post had a picture of a puppy and no-one asked after her. Monsters, all of you.

Further thoughts on appearance and professionalism. I planned on leaving beards behind while writing a segue into a general problem of personal professional standards in the CAF. In particular, I think someone should write about the CAF’s relatively low standards of physical fitness and lack of enthusiasm for professional journals. Both of these topics are delicate and require care and attention to do properly. I have a growing stack of other writing projects on the go - I'm 50,000 words into a dissertation, among other things - so I’d rather have that post wait than make a hash of it. Maybe between now and then I’ll post something else about banning clip-on bow ties at mess dinners. It would likely be good for site traffic, and I'd be right, too.

With that, I’m going to soap up and put a fresh blade into my Henson AL13.

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