24 Jan 2007

Why the American Elite Cannot Fight a War — From the Y’70 List

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Another way of describing the problem with our contemporary elites would be to speak of excessive domestication. The modern elite world is preternaturally safe, materialistic and cooperative. Our educational system is designed to produce utterly non-violent, reliably subordinate and conforming persons skilled at the manipulation of words and symbols. Our intellectual system has become a variety of peculiar things, none of them serious. The academic world is, first of all, an elaborate baby-sitting and credentialing machine, which is allowed to operate as a wildlife refuge for cranks and mountebanks in charge of nothing more important than entertaining children. It is completely removed from reality. Education has become a perverse form of entertainment. Those who succeed best, like pop musicians, are the ones who strike the most colorful, bizarre, and hostile poses. The modern hyper-extended childhood of the elite represents the only opportunity future cogs will ever have to rebel, so rebellion is highly prized. But the rebellion is, of course, all in play. The revolution will always rise only to the level of putting Che Guevara on one’s t-shirt or dorm room wall, and following privileged and elite professors in demonstrating over the latest fashionable progressive cause, in ritualistically condemning one’s own society for failing to abolish history and reality, for failing to cause water to flow uphill.

A century ago, when England sent the youth of its urban clerical classes to fight the Boers, they were found generally to be unable to shoot a rifle, ride a horse, read a compass, make a fire, or survive in situations of deprivation in the out-of-doors. Baden-Powell created the Scouting Movement, and a host of late Victorians embraced “muscular Christianity,” in the hope of doing something to diminish the excessive impact of the domesticating impulses of modern urbanism and the modern bureaucratic corporate society. They obviously failed, disastrously.

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