Since learning of the helicopter assault training in Miami, I discovered that this is going on all over the US. There have been exercises in Minneapolis, according to commenters something is going on in Houston, and Chicago has seen them as well. I consider the silence about it an appalling omission on the part of the mainstream media. Not only have they refused to discuss this nationally, every single news report I see urges people “not to worry” and takes an entirely complacent, approving stance on what has been admitted to be special forces assault training in major American cities in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security and local police forces. And yes, special forces are involved — this has been openly admitted.
Leaving aside the speculation about what exactly it is they are preparing for by staging exercises in US cities, this is an indication that something about the US has fundamentally changed quite recently, in just the past decade or so. One thing, of course, is that we are a much more fragmented populace than we used to be. Go to any large mall in a major urban area, and it sure doesn’t look like the “America” we used to know. But even the results of the “invade the world, invite the world” policy George Bush left us with doesn’t explain it all. There’s also a growing rift between those managing our brave new world and those of us subject to management.
During the 2008 election I noticed a real enthusiasm for Obama amongst young technocrats. Aside from black women they were his most fervent supporters, and continue to be to this day. However, there was something more than mere idealism behind it — I could sense that they were eager for a changing of the guard (hence their disdain for Hillary Clinton, who represented the baby boomer political establishment). Obama was the perfect vehicle for their ascendancy, and his cabinet – full of relatively young, white male technocrats – reflects that.
There are a lot of trends that have converged to create a new managerial overclass, including identity politics, which have shattered any sense of greater civic responsibility, the higher technical demands of the modern workplace and the sheer weight and size of the United States, which is an enormous and unwieldy society. It was probably inevitable that it would happen eventually, just as it did in the past in many instances. The Chinese Imperial examinations created a class of bureaucrats that ran China for the putative benefit of the emperor, the French Capetian bureaucrats created what we know of as the Ancien Régime and the Byzantines wrought such an extraordinarily inscrutable administrative system that we attach the epithet “Byzantine” to all sorts of overly complex, incomprehensible bureaucracies.
What this new American elite has in common with its ancient predecessors is that the common folk values that held the state together in its earlier form have come to be replaced with an emphasis on expedience and utility, all exercised for the benefit of the state — not necessarily the people. In order to justify this, states usually resort to promoting a universalist philosophy or religion. In fact, there is evidence that the first monotheistic cult was promoted by an Egyptian pharaoh who wanted to bring all his subjects under a unifying single god.
China’s emperors were considered the high priests of Middle Earth, who communicated with heaven and the gods on behalf of their subjects. Communism is another example of an essentially imperial universalist ideology, and the French kings ruled by divine right.
Along similar lines, America’s elite has cast Obama in the messianic role with which they are most familiar due to our own cultural peculiarities. This is why, despite the fact that a lot of Obama skeptics have a difficult time articulating it, there is something to the criticism of Obama as a messianic figure. He exemplifies the universalist, transcendant value of equality (as understood by Americans) first represented to us by Martin Luther King Junior, and so serves as its avatar.
When you have a supreme spiritual mandate, in our case “equality,” it can be used to justify almost any action undertaken to promote it. From the Inquisition to the torture chambers of the Lubyanka, men operated under this principle of service to a higher cause. Old rules and customs, such as the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, mean little to those engaged in promoting the one true faith. It is, in effect, a license to exercise power unfettered, and as always this tends to draw in some unsavory characters.
This is why we see the growth of an arrogant state that violates our Constitution and engages in shows of force designed to cow and humiliate lowly citizens. It is why we now have elite military units firing automatic weapons from helicopters above our cities. I suspect these are preventative measure, to let the people know that they had better not get in the way of the plans of their superiors.
However, I wonder whether this current construct has any permanence. I doubt it, because it assumes that the foreigners currently being recruited to join in the crusade will be as enthusiastic about 1960s American social movements as the young technocrats who were raised on them. As it stands today, there are some 35 million people – over 10% of the US population – who speak Spanish as their primary language, and I can guarantee that they are not listening to paeans to civil rights era ideology on NPR. Additionally, it casts well over a quarter of the US population (white males) as the “bad guys,” and that is not a recipe for stability.
Although I’m skeptical of the Republican efforts to bring Hispanics “in,” and think it will end in failure unless there are fundamental changes in the Republican party itself (it would have to become more of a coalition-based party — like the Democratic party), I think Hispanics may just be the wildcard that breaks the great liberal coalition. I don’t say this because Hispanics are inherently conservative (they are not), but rather because they exist outside the paradigm. They feel no guilt and no sense of obligation, and will only support an Obama type politician if he provides them with something tangible. In other words, they can extort an equalist regime, and as their numbers grow that will put an enormous amount of pressure on a coalition that relies on a shrinking white male tax base.
So, even as we see the culmination of an old social movement in the Obama presidency, I believe we are approaching its end, and possibly its replacement with an entirely different, as of yet unknown national philosophy.