Those Pesky Militia
O cohors militiae. O successores. O vos imitatores. O dulcis electe. O victoriosissimi. O cruor sanguinis. O vis aeternitatis. O splendidissima gemma/Hodie aperuit. O victoriosissimi. O virga ac diadema. Caritas abundant. Ave Maria. O frondens virga. O viridissima virga; Annuntietur. Latuit. O virgo. Benedictus sis tu. Iam laetaris. Christe Patris excels
If Hildegard of Bingen doesn't get you going, I don't know what will. Last year, as the summer heated the cage that western societies have become for so many, the militia movement in the United States revived, at least according to the Southern Poverty Law Centre. The Militias were last in the news in the nineties, when for many they incubated violent 'conspiracism' about the American government.
I was never really that convinced. America has a perfectly legal tradition of militias; in fact, the only times when it has been genuinely called into question and limited was when socialists and psuedo-islamic radicals sought to assimilate it.
In addition, I could never really work myself into the fits that liberal people did over the militia menace when the assassins of American history were, variously, an actor, a mad legal jobseeker, an anarchist, a communist, and a lovestruck nut. Militias did tend to attract deeply angry white boys; but so do many other movements, and some of them play a role in channelling the slightly whacky outlooks that always arise in big, rural lands where life can be pressing hard.
Are graduate schools that sponsor or turn out rude, angry or selfish young men and women who end up bombing people with other people's children or salivating about it more healthy than people who go out in oklahoma and play with guns? I'd love to play with guns, and rockets, and exploding anvils. It looks like fun to me. Is there a large American city that did not at one time or that does not now find large parts of itself essentially run by militias disguised as gangs? I'm prepared to take bets on Duluth, but that's about it.
However, I found myself thinking about militias today in the face of three old concerns of this blog. One is that it seems relatively clear to me now that America is in a sort of 1930-styleundeclared depression, but, as with the original, not one that yet touches everyone. As I keep saying, it took till 1933 for things to really tank. Things are not yet as bad as they could soon be.
Some are doing quite well out of conditions at the moment. Congress' pathological inability to remain long unbought on any issue, which is of longstanding, has for instance led to something of a happy time for bankers and the health insurance industry of late.
But, look, we're in the danger lands that border incipient hyperinflation now. A republic of any sort cannot spend money on the colossal scale the United States is now spending it, in the face of a quiet energy crisis, the social security timebomb, a civilisational shift, and the capture of both nominally representative parties by money feudalism. The real unemployment rate is approaching a fifth of the country. States like California are months away from the effective bankruptcy that was the inevitable concomitant of the crisis we are in.
And the inevitable concomitant of globalisation, of course, at least on the terms on which it was developed. If you move goods around the world, you need cheap oil, expanded ports, and the credit to hire ships and then to build road and rail distribution networks. America did that on the cheap, by using companies like AIG to insure big infrastructure projects, whilst neglecting others, and using people like Goldman Sachs to invent funny money to give the expansion the appearance of solvency.
What happens when you put a dire set of failing bridges, roads, and ports together with high oil prices, vast debt, and high unemployment?
It isn't surprising to me that there has been a growth in American militias. The surprise to me is that it is so small.
That brings me on to a second perennial theme; the slow move of seriously antifederal bogeymen into reality because of the nature of modern government. Militiamen used to be laughed at because, as a rule of thumb, they entertained the idea of federal government as presently constituted as some form of menace that would seek to 'chip' or brand its people and to coordinate every form of government for some statist and usually corrupt interest.
But, really, what do you say to people when a 'Council of Governors' like this is formed? Or when nonsense about an underpants bomber is used to justify new plans to increase security whilst avoiding profiling at the airports?(the proposal to close toilets on planes would make much more sense if he had had the liquid bomb up him by the way, but there is none in pushing scanners that wouldn't scan cavities).
This is all going to end up with people carrying Greek-style religious declarations on ID cards, whilst being monitored in case they don't get vaccinated the next time some large company wants to manufacture a scare on the back of a serious, but happily forestalled threat.
If I told you that the electoral college would be under assault from the right, that the left would be pushing a global conspiracy based on pseudo-science to achieve environmental goals, and that America would be firing young men and women into sundry foreign mincers whilst fighting various wars against people who were CIA allies and dreaming of future wars against people who ought to be, wouldn't you have laughed? If I told you this would be on the back of twelve trillions in debt, would you have really spent your time calling the militias mad? What next, an article five convention?
America is on the verge of epochal change. Almost every day now brings some new mismatch between what must happen--a massive change in the dollar, and in its political and moral economy, and in the treasuries of its states, and in its governance--and the dementedly complacent attitudes of its political-media class. Something is going to give there, once the dire state of the republic is brought home to the influential or vocal sections of the middle class.
This will have consequences for a world that has long been past smouldering anyway. Japan can't go on the way it is; Britain is spending more time setting up vast planning quangos and abolishing juries than dealing with its debts. The eurozone is a high castle defying reality, somewhat magnificently I might add, but defying it all the same.
Any of these things slipping--causing a financial crisis, kicking off a bond panic--will wipe out the defences on the road to a state that looks more and more like a modern Constantinople, relying on a series of last ditches and walls supposedly impregnable from either side and a somewhat dulled golden chain.
Something is heading this way, and taking shape. I'm not convinced, in the end, that the day will never come when the militias seem the least mad of all.