Drafting the future
Optima corrupta pessima sunt, runs the old saying. We are in the course of discovering whether it is true, as those whom the Establishment calls the "greatest generation" pass from the scene and are succeeded by a new people. It may well be true, for the new people may not be capable of ruination. One must have a soul in order to lose it.
It is certainly true that the corruption of the "greatest generation" led us to the worst crisis the fatal crisis of our civilization. The tragic aspect of that crisis lies in the fact that so many of that generation had absorbed and practiced the great old Victorian bourgeois virtues in their personal life, virtues necessary (though not sufficient) for defending and bequeathing the civilization they inherited, while in matters calling for understanding on a more abstract level, they allowed themselves to fall victim to the catastrophic confusions I discussed last time.
A critical proportion of their children, smelling contradiction, bad faith, corruption, guilt, and hypocrisy, came to despise it all. Patriotism is equivalent to a bellicose, exploitative national-statism? We will despise patriotism. Valor and honor mean bombing women and children? We will despise valor and honor, too. Private property rewards state-privileged monopolists and war contractors? Scientific endeavor leads to nuclear weapons, napalm, and nerve gas? We will despise all of it.
The characteristic children of the '60s came to despise all of our Western history and culture, including the bourgeois virtues, as soon as the triumphalist propaganda of the American Century communicated through the established media and the state schools wore sufficiently thin under the press of events, and it became apparent that our history and culture did not, after all, reflect utopian perfection.
As I have written elsewhere, a bitter irony poisoned the result. The children of the "greatest generation," in rejecting republicanism and ideas of limited government, became not individualists and libertarians but collectivists and supporters of a great unitary state whose vestigial connection to any imaginable patria was deliberately severed. They even found their own style of imperialism humanitarian imperialism. And they didn't merely reject the flaws of Western civilization; they didn't set out to purify the West; they rejected the West in toto in favor of alien civilizations or of a chaotic anti-civilization.
Now that radically alien peoples are flooding our land, we should not wonder why the children of the '60s, now in power, are neither inclined nor able to defend our civilization. Immigrants from radically different civilizations may come here hoping to become relatively affluent and enjoy the sidewalk-level freedom, or privilege, that is left to us: the freedom to "let it all hang out." But even if cultural and racial hurdles did not exist, aliens could not realistically hope to become Americans in the old sense. How could we expect newcomers to adopt a civilization that was both moribund and despised by its own custodians?
Whether the remnant of Old Americans have yet to see the worst, we are certain to see some very bad things. But what will the ruling class see? Although ordinary people have acquiesced or actively participated in the great collapse, it is our rulers who have steered and managed it. It is tempting to view our rulers as Dr. Frankensteins who have mastered mass production. Dr. Frankenstein invented a new man; they have invented a new people. In some ways our rulers are better builders than Dr. Frankenstein was; we may expect them to have a better grasp of their creatures' proclivities than Frankenstein had of his. Still, the ruling class, emerging from their laboratory, now face new tasks.
Declining compliance with draft registration illustrates one of those tasks. For many years, military recruiters (except for the Marines) have deemphasized the "Uncle Sam Wants You!" and "Ask not what your regime can do for you" themes that were effective with the former population, and have relied instead on promises of material reward, principally those of careerism and adventurism. Now hear the director of the selective-slavery bureau, Gil Coronado, on the results of failing to register: "It's tragic to see young men potentially missing out on future opportunities because they just do not know they are required to register." And hear Richard Riley, minister of education: "The consequences of not registering, for whatever reasons, are enormous." (Associated Press, May 18)
Why is that? According to the AP, those who fail to register risk not only criminal prosecution but also "ineligibility for a wide array of benefits including student loans and government jobs." Prosecution for failing to register is reserved for a few conscientious resisters, such as the libertarian hero Paul Jacob. According to the New York Times in the article I cited previously, "Mr. Coronado said criminal penalties for not registering were rarely imposed, the last case being prosecuted in 1985."
In an era when the WIC program and other socialist welfare schemes advertise for clients via the telescreen, the real tragedy of non-compliance in the eyes of the bureaucrats is that so many "ignorant" youth are cutting themselves off from government jobs and welfare benefits. That focus is natural. Imagine going into a hostile Mexican or Dominican barrio, or a Negro slum, and trying to sell draft registration on "patriotic" grounds! How well would such a sales campaign go over even in one of today's white suburbs? In my column for March 10 (no. 24), I noted that the bureaucracy and the political class were selling this year's census by warning that nonparticipants might tragically exclude themselves and their communities from the glittering, cascading spoils of Washington's magical cornucopia. That is another excellent example of the new style of rule. The ruling class and their employees are indeed facing up to their new tasks.
By abandoning appeals to traditional sentiment and the notional duties of republican citizenship, the higher circles are recognizing the reality of the new population. But they must also be envisioning a future in which a mass army of conscripts will never again have to be relied upon to defend a Bastogne or invade a Saipan. (We are asked to believe that soldiers fight and die not for their country or any ideal but rather for their unit; yet we saw thirty years ago what happens when an army of short-service conscripts is sent to fight and die on the strength of unit loyalty alone.)
I'm not sure what assignments our rulers do have in mind for their future conscripts filling sandbags in Bangladesh? emptying bedpans in Pennsylvania? arresting unarmed dissenters in Kansas? but when bullets are flying on the ground and the outlook is grim, promises of technical training and money for college are not going to hack it. It's clear to me that in such cases the proprietors of the regime are planning to rely on a small hard core of cohesive, long-service mercenaries. They're also planning, of course, to minimize the necessity of calling out the hard men at all and to wage war instead with soldierettes pushing buttons and bankers manipulating loans.
The ruling class are betting that their manipulative techniques are now so sophisticated that unforeseen and protracted hard times are a thing of the past I mean times so hard as to exhaust that cornucopia they operate. For if our rulers ever become unable to deliver the goods to their heterogeneous hirelings, there will be no possibility of their appealing to a common, settled tradition or loyalty instead.
Our rulers must regard that as an acceptable risk of doing business with their new population in the New Political Economy. But they must also recognize a special benefit of doing that sort of business: no longer will there be any common, settled tradition or loyalty that could possibly be redeemed and turned against them.
The ruling class have done much to change America's culture and demographic composition. But are they themselves immune to being changed by those things? Certainly the ruling class of 1900 had changed by 1945, and the ruling class of 1945 had changed by 1990. I hope that in the future other ruling-class analysts will join me in investigating how new gravitational forces are changing the orbits of the Empire's higher circles.
May 24, 2000
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