Dig In

In late summer of 2001, Lenny Kravtiz released an album that had somewhat disappointing sales and critical response [1]. The lead single from that particular album, though, was a tune called “Dig In,” which celebrated the joy that springs from being firm in one’s position [2], which was a moderate success in the United States and other countries [2]. I must admit that my favorite song from the album was the slower tempo tune “Stillness Of Heart,” but that is another story. As might be imagined from someone who is interested in military history and fortifications, though, the issue of digging in has a great deal of personal significance for me [3], not only in terms of academic interest, but also in terms of situational awareness and the need to stand one’s ground on occasion. As might be imagined, there are times where digging is an exceedingly good thing, sometimes when it is not enjoyable but is necessary, and other times where it can be lamentable and quite harmful. Much depends, of course, in how one is digging in, and in what circumstances. As is the case in so much else in life, context makes a big deal when it comes to examining the wisdom or folly of digging in.

In the American Civil War, it took soldiers a while to figure out the efficacy of digging in. Early in the war, in battles like First Bull Run and Shiloh, fighting was largely stand-up, where defenders did not feel it necessary to dig in on ground because they expected warfare to be one of maneuver and felt that digging in would hinder this mobility. It did not take too long for soldiers to take advantage of natural terrain in order to defend themselves, and by the time of such battles as Gettysburg, and even more so the Wilderness Campaign and Atlanta Campaign and later, soldiers regularly dug in every single day after they finished marching, knowing that good field fortifications could be the difference between victory and defeat, between life and death. While time and development have taken a toll on many of these fortifications, they were an important precursor of later bloody wars such as the Russo-Japanese War as well as World War I. Where firepower is so extensive that it seems to trump movement, fortifications became a natural way of focusing that advantage even further, until something comes along (like the tank or the airplane) to restore some freedom of movement to the battlefield. The usefulness in digging in depends on whether one has enough firepower to counteract the loss of mobility that results from digging in [4]. This is important not only in battle, but in the rest of life as well.

Earlier today, I had the chance to watch a very mild-mannered person who was not feeling very well at all dig in in a matter of some importance, where she sought to justify her very mild but ultimately successful defense by saying, “You have to stand your ground.” And indeed, sometimes you do. On the whiteboard about ten yards or so away from my desk at work, there is a saying, “Never grow a wishbone where a backbone should be.” Ultimately, for people to respect us, they have to know that there is a line that cannot be crossed and that will be vigorously defended. As in so much else in life, there is a balance to be found that is at times difficult to attain [5]. If we are too sensitive in defending lines that are too extensive, other people may very well decide that we are not worth dealing with because it is so difficult to avoid causing offense. On the other hand, if we have no lines of defense we will never find any kind of safety or security or well-being, which depends on there being some dividing line between the public and the private, between what is acceptable and what is not.

The question is, as always, where and when does one draw the line. How do we know when we are being reasonable in defense, or whether we are transgressing the boundaries of others? In order to have a proper set of lines and defenses, we must have a proper picture of the terrain that we are dealing with in life. It is always less provocative, after all, to dig in on our own territory rather than territory that belongs to others. Our fortifications will be more successful if they are backed up with mobile forces that can deal with less serious threats, and also if we understand the precise nature of the terrain that we are wishing to entrench upon. Certain types of soil and certain topography either greatly aids digging in, or makes it next to impossible to do so. Obviously, if we find it necessary to fortify territory and prepare for sieges or other lengthy quarrels, we might wish to understand if we have a leg to stand on in the first place. Entrenchments do take a lot of time and effort, and make it hard to be expansive, after all, and committing only to the defense does have its own risks and opportunity costs.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenny_%28album%29

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dig_In

[3] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/a-fortress-around-your-heart/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/the-fortress-as-death-trap/

[4] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/here-i-stand/

[5] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/lines-drawn-in-the-sand-the-process-of-edge-induced-cohesion/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/do-you-really-want-to-live-forever/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/in-vulcans-forge/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, History, Music History, Musings and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dig In

  1. Pingback: Stillness Of Heart | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Trouble Will Find Me | Edge Induced Cohesion

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