The “Military Brain”

Vikram Karve
7 min readNov 7, 2020

After observing Veterans pontificate on the Media and Social Media — I am tempted to offer unsolicited advice to Young Military Officers:

Wear Military Uniform — But — Keep Your Brain “Civilian”.

If you develop a “Military Brain” — it is difficult to seamlessly blend into the civilian world once you retire.

Someone asked me:

What exactly do you mean by “Military Brain”…?

On hearing this question — I remembered an article I had written a few years ago after attending a Literary Festival.

Here is the article…



A smart young lady once asked me:

“How is it possible that you can think so creatively despite having spent so many years in the Navy…? Doesn’t military life affect the ability to think creatively…?”

The lady had a point.

During our Navy Training Days we were told:

“Don’t use your brain — just do as you are told…”

Does living for a prolonged duration in a dogmatic “don’t use your brain — just do as you are told” strait-jacketed “anti-intellectual” insular military environment adversely affect your creative thinking abilities…?

What are the effects the Regimented Military Culture on Creative Thinking Ability…?

Let me discuss this issue…



A Spoof By Vikram Karve

More than 7 years ago — in September 2013 to be precise — I was invited to conduct a workshop on “Blogging” at a Literary Meet (Pune International Literary Festival — PILF 2013).

During the discussions — a smart young lady sitting in the first row asked me a question:

“Sir — I have read your book of short stories — and I regularly read your writings on your blogs — especially your fiction stories. So — I was wondering: “…How is it possible that you can think so creatively despite having spent so many years in the Navy…?”…”

At first — I was stumped — dumbstruck — by her question.

But — I quickly recovered my wits — and I said to her:

“Life in the Navy is so eventful — you meet so many unforgettable characters — you have so many interesting experiences — so you get plenty of material to write about…”

“No, Sir — I did not mean “life experiences”. I am asking about “thinking ability”. Tell me, Sir — “…Doesn’t military life adversely affect the ability to think creatively…?”…” she said me.

“I really do not understand your question — could you please elaborate…?” I asked her.

The smart young lady said to me:

“Sir — I was an Army Officer till recently — and I found the atmosphere quite stifling and restrictive — an intellectually suffocating environment which inhibits creative thinking…”

Now — I was beginning to understand what she was driving at.

So — I said to her:

“Do you mean the military “anti-intellectualism” — which suppresses intellectual activity — the military regimentation ethos of “…“Don’t use your Brain — just do as you are told…” type of Military Culture…?”…”

“Yes, Sir — that is exactly what I mean…” she said.

I smiled to myself.

She was echoing the thoughts of Liddell Hart

Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart (31 October 1895–29 January 1970) — commonly known throughout most of his career as Captain B. H. Liddell Hart — was an English Soldier, Military Historian and Military Theorist.

Liddell Hart — while highlighting the dangers of “anti-intellectualism” in the Army — had pointed out the reason due to which military officers lose their creative thinking abilities.

He opined that:

“…A lifetime of having to curb the expression of original thought culminates so often in there being nothing left to express…”

You must have heard the saying which applies to the Human “Brain”:

“Use it — or you will Lose it…”

I have read somewhere that there is a relationship between mental activity and cerebral blood-flow.

And — like muscles — the brain atrophies from prolonged disuse.

Military Officers (especially Army Officers) are encouraged to do plenty of physical exercise to keep their body fit.

However — the anti-intellectual “do as you are told — don’t use your brain” model of military regimentation culture inhibits the use of the brain.

The ramification of this regimented blind-obedience military culture is that:

Military Officers keep their bodies fit by constant physical exercise.

But — they neglect exercising their brain especially the right hemisphere of the brain.

So — while a Military Officer may occasionally use his analytical “left brain” — his creative “right brain” will fall into disuse and atrophy.

And — as the Military Officer spends more years in service and becomes a Senior Officer — he may totally lose the ability to think creatively.

The young smart ex-fauji Military Veteran Lady Officer had a point — she was implying that:

‘…Living for a prolonged duration in a dogmatic “don’t use your brain — just do as you are told” strait-jacketed “anti-intellectual” insular military environment can certainly affect your “creative thinking” abilities…’

Obviously — during her days as an Army Officer — the young lady had experienced this intellectually suffocating feeling.

Maybe — she had also observed the detrimental effect of the prevailing military culture of “anti-intellectualism” on the creative faculties of her peers and seniors.

Obviously during her days in the Armyshe had experienced that this “blinkered thinking army culture” was constraining her creativity.

Probably that was the reason why she had quit the Army before it was too late — in order to enable her creative juices to flow freely.

And now — as a civilian — her creativity was certainly flourishing — as was evident from the inspired creative writing on her blog.

Well — I told the young lady that the intellectual culture in the Navy was certainly more liberal and “broadminded” than what she had experienced in the Army — and — in general — the Navy milieu was conducive to creative thinking.

In fact — I found Navy life quite eventful — and this probably gave my creative thinking ability an impetus — as there was never a dull moment in the Navy — with so many curious characters around.



After the workshop was over — I had a delightful discussion with the charming young lady.

“I am sure you have heard of the term “OLQ”…” I asked her.

“Of course I know what “OLQ” is — Sir — it was drilled into us — “OLQ” means “Officer Like Qualities”…” she said.

I said to her:

“Well — “anti-intellectualism” is an important “OLQ”.

In the military — “regimented thinking” is a vital “Officer Like Quality”.

So — if an officer uses his right brain — if an officer thinks creatively — or — if he thinks “out of the box” — then — as they say — he is “doomed”…”

She smiled on hearing this.

In jest — I told her that:

During my Navy days — I always carried “Two Brains” inside me:

  1. A “Military Brain” — for regimented military thoughts
  2. A “Creative Brain” — for interesting thoughts where I could let my imagination run wild

Most of the Naval Officers I met were cerebral types.

But — I did come across a few “anti-intellectual” specimens too.

If you are a “fauji” (serving or retired military man) — or a “faujan” (military wife) — do tell us if you have come across some “do as you are told — don’t use your brain” “anti-intellectual” types during your service in the military.

Like I said — the excessively regimented Army is certainly more “anti-intellectual” than the Navy — and most of the Naval Officers I came across were cerebral types — but I did meet a few “anti-intellectual” types in the Navy too — and about such hilarious specimens — I have writen about many of them in my “Humor in Uniform” stories in my Blogs.

And — before I end — let me leave you with a famous saying:

“Military Intelligence” is an “Oxymoron”


Dear Reader:

Do you agree that the phrase — “Military Intelligence” — is a contradiction in terms — an oxymoron…?

And — do you agree with my advice to young Defence Officers:

Wear Military Uniform — But — Keep Your Brain “Civilian”.

If you develop a “Military Brain” — it is difficult to seamlessly blend into the civilian world once you retire.


Do you agree with the points I have made in the article…?

I look forward to your comments.



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  1. This is a fictional spoof, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
  2. All Stories in this Blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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Abridged Revised and Updated Extract of my article THE CRAZY COMMODORE WITH A PHOBIA FOR “MANAGEMENT THOUGHTS”written by me Vikram Karve on 19 November 2013 and posted online in my various blogs including in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal Posted by Vikram Karve at 11/19/2013 12:31:00 PM at url: and revised version at url: and and

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Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, alumnus IIT Delhi, Lawrence School Lovedale, Vikram Karve is a retired Navy Officer turned full time Writer and Blogger