First, let’s make a stop where our American sense of rights first took shape centuries ago, in merry old Britain, where today’s Prime Minister has just had to say he’s sorry:
Gordon Brown has apologized after an investigation showed that the British National Health Service-run Stafford Hospital was so abyssmally bad that patients drank water out of flowerpots and that too many died in squalor or agony as untrained and undermanned staff were forced to meet “targets” instead of providing the care they advertised. Brown claimed these were “isolated” incidents.
Hold that thought, right alongside the one about how the Brits routinely say they love their National Health Service.
Richard Fernandez does a little bit more on this, but I think that he draws too weak a conclusion.
Now, I’ve had this image building the past few days, an image that is a metaphor, but it’s coming along somewhat on an industrial science-fictionish track.
It is about Obama and what I think he really represents. This is the signal that I get out of the Obama noise, not from the side, not half-formed, certainly no longer dismissive. It is a straight-on take, not of the scattered parts of this strangely unfolding presidency, but of the whole of it.
I’ll start by saying that I now understand Obama as what I’m going to call a “movement socialist,” which I’ll define as someone objectively attached to the web of concepts that constitute and fortify socialism.
I’ll define socialism both as (1) the state’s involvement in the economy, including the economic livelihood of every citizen, to the detriment of all, as well as (2) state involvement in culture and the characterological formation of every individual, to the increasing exclusion of the vital social institutions of family, church, and the natural community.
I’ll further define a “movement socialist” as someone who is so deeply ingrained with the beliefs and habits of mind of this movement socialism that the person and the movement are not separable. The person of Barack Obama is of, and in service to, the movement (and, no, not to the country when and where he might perceive its interests diverging from those of the movement) and, as anyone with eyes and ears has seen and heard, the movement is in service to Obama.
This commitment, total commitment, to the movement by Obama, and the movement’s return of that commitment, is both a general and totalizing commitment. It is not even by necessity a commitment to any given policy or program, or any selection of policies or programs, with the possible exception of the very ground of the movement’s deathworks, which is industrial abortion. It is only a commitment to advance the movement when and where it can be advanced.
This form of movement socialism merging in with the massive political and social power of the federal bureaucracies will create the synergistic machine I describe in the title of this post: a monumental, bureaucratic system of compulsion and social digestion that I’m naming the great combine stone-crushing harvester paver.
One can refer to the European social democracy models if one wants, to get a pale sense of what’s coming, but this is America, and crushing these stones and harvesting these people and paving over these traditions requires very big industrial equipment.
And that’s what this merger of the movement socialist and his movement socialism with the unprecedented power of the federal bureaucracies will bring.
This industrial crusher-harvester-paver is not about protecting prosperity or “providing opportunity,” and certainly has nothing to do with freedom. This thing is about itself, about establishing itself, about feeding itself, and above all about protecting itself.
It will no longer simply be government in business for itself, but rather utopian movement socialism in business for itself, and its business will be power.
It is going to be very American, and it’s going to work like the very worst of the public schools, with all the panache of the postal service, amidst the strident idioms of a child welfare bureaucracy, because childhood will need to become even more of a permanent condition.
Barack Obama’s face will be on the front door of the main and every local directorate, but the man you meet inside will look and act very much like Harry Reid. The main lady in the back office will laugh like Nancy Pelosi, until she sees your face and gets up and closes the office door in it, your face.
If you don’t like the way you are treated, you will be shown out the rear exit, in reality or metaphorically, and who you meet back there will be the middle managers of the carting industry. They will see to all your further complaints.
If this sounds grey, dismal, and sour, I will only say that I didn’t get to the really bad stuff. What I’m describing has happened before, in other places, with horrible and predictable results. The strange thing is that none of this commitment on Obama’s part was hidden, at least not hidden anywhere that wasn’t in plain sight. But the public schools and the putrefactive culture and the media have all done their jobs. To say that the concepts are not there among the American public by which it could understand all this is to miss the point that the perceptions are not there either. You cannot understand what you cannot see even when it’s right there in front of you.