“Commuter Army” (novelette) by Yasutaka Tsutsui
English Publication History:
Salmonella Men on Planet Porno (Alma Books, 2006)
Salmonella Men on Planet Porno (Pantheon Books, 2008)
Original: Japanese, 1973
Translated by Andrew Driver, 2006
Synopsis: A Japanese man is the branch manager for an arms manufacturer that has supplied five hundred rifles to the Galibian side of the non-Japanese war. To entice recruits, the Balibian army has hired part-time soldiers who can commute home after a battle…if they don’t die first. The manager is mildly interested, but gets thrown into the war so he can fix the rifles that his company produced, earning him a second salary as a non-combatant.
Analysis: The title itself is perfect in its simplicity and directness.
Q: Which came first: the corporation or the military?
A: The military.
Q: When the corporation evolved, from what did it evolve?
A: The military.
Q: From what is corporate governance structured?
A: The military.
In regards to the overarching organization of the corporation, structurally, the hierarchies are the same; motivationally, the directives are the same: infiltrate, dominate, and destroy. When a company cannot full the demand and/or depend upon its full-time (FT), well-benefitted staff, it turns toward Option B: the part-time (PT), less-benefitted staff and, as a result, the less-motivated and less-relied-upon staff. Upon the capitalist mantra: Where there’s a niche, there’s a need; where there’s a pitfall, there’s a profit; where there’s a placement, there’s a peon.
You enter the army as a private only to work your way up the ranks to become more disciplinary and regimental, only so that your subordinates do the same—the rule, the law, the governance. As a novice/private grows through the ranks, they become immune to the progressive dehumanization of the process. Where accuracy and lethality become paramount in the military arena, demographic specificity and growth become dominant in the corporate world; where, in the military, human lives are an indication of enemy loss or own loss, money, in the business world, comes as a profit or a loss. When the two spheres of influence intermesh—the militant world and the corporate world—circumstances become a bit dicey.
Soon, in the regional war outside of Japanese influence, there’s a local need for soldiers on the PT basis. As a Japanese non-combatant, the man considered himself outside qualification for being a PT soldier. He could have used to money but, when weighing the options, possible death by gunshot on a battlefield doesn’t seem all that appealing. When his company sells faulty rifles, he once again considers himself unqualified for the job of repair because of the pride of his hierarchical position in the company, yet someone must be sent to do the repairs. His superiors send him off to war as a non-combatant.
Regardless of his corporate position, he is sent to war. Regardless of his lowly status in the war, he is sent to the trenches. Here, “the trenches” take on a dual meaning: the frontline of the war effort and the frontline of his corporation’s activities. Whether on the frontline of his work or at war, his wife can still visit him to bring him lunch.