Yesterday I got started on this project by blabbering on about my view of the dominant mode of thought in America. Today, I’m going to get into the chief alternative to it. I’m using the word “alternative” loosely as few people of any consequence subscribe to this view. Those that do tend to come from the parts of the country and culture that are unrepresented in the American elite.
One of those areas, and one that is a convenient example, is the US military. The great innovation Americans brought to war fighting is the prioritization of training over discipline. Put another way, the prioritization of what gets done over how it gets done. Soldiers and officers are encouraged to be creative in their problem solving and be mission focused.
This was most evident in the Great War at the Battle of Belleau Wood. German commanders ordered an advance through the woods onto the Marine’s position. The French commander ordered a retreat, but American General James Harbord refused the order and told his men to hold their position. Both the French and the Germans marveled afterwards at the ferocity and improvisational tactics of the American Marines.
On the afternoon of 3 June, German infantry attacked the Marine positions through the grain fields with bayonets fixed. The Marines dug shallow individual trenches so they could lie concealed, but still fight while lying on their bellies. The Marines waited until the Germans were within 100 yards and then opened fire. The German infantry was mowed down and the remainder was forced back into the woods.
The legend of the United States Marine Corp was born in the Battle of Belleau Wood not because they had great leadership or they had superior numbers. It was not technology that gave the Marines their edge. It was their tenacity, improvisational prowess and unrelenting ferocity in pursuit of the mission. “The deadliest weapon in the world is a United States Marine and his rifle,” was said by General Pershing after this battle.
The philosophy at work here is you solve problems by giving competent people the tools and the support to go solve the problem. How they solve the problem is secondary. In small business, this is the dominant mode of thought. The owner can be seen washing the toilets then signing payroll checks. Alternatively, his second in command could take over the toilet washing and then hire a new person for accounting. The point is to get the job done, whatever it takes.
It is in sales that this way of looking at the world is still dominant most everywhere. No matter the industry or scale, salesman are always on some sort of commission system. They are also given more freedom of action than other employees. You hire a good salesman, train him on the product, give him a quota and let him go, trusting that your best weapon is a salesman and his commission check.
Hold on. My meth dealer is here.
The pithy and patriotic examples aside, this way of thinking is most popularly understood as using “the right tool for the job.” It may not be the perfect tool and the completion of the job may not be ideal, but often, good enough is, in fact, good enough. Underlying this mode of thought is the understanding that the human condition is immutable. Perfection is for the after life. In this life, human error is a feature, not a bug.
For most of Western history, this has been the dominant mode of thought. Even in the age of kings, finding the right man for the job was the way things were done. No one had grand, complex schemes for creating the perfect society. In fact, having grand schemes for creating heaven on earth was a good way to get burned at the stake.
The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the “intrinsically perverse” political form of a secular messianism.
The last time this utilitarian mode of thought was dominant in America was at the founding. The first shot at a national government was pretty much just leaving most everything to the states to figure out on their own. The Articles of Confederation did not work, because the impotent national government was the wrong tool for the job, so we got the US Constitution.
The men of the Tidewater who crafted it understood that we needed a strong central government for managing trade, national defense and the courts. At the same time, they knew the Puritan lunatics in New England would immediately try to pervert the national government so they could dominate the rest of the country. James Madison had no illusions about the nature of John Adams. The result was a government based on Negative Liberty.
While this mode of thought is common in the lower classes, the people who run the country reject this completely. Therein lies the rub. The people are asked to validate the decisions of the rulers with their ballots, but no one on the ballot thinks like the people standing in line to vote. To remedy this the parties make noises about American values and talk about the Constitution, but that’s just for show. Thus the inevitable conflict.
Thus concludes Part Deux