The New Clarion

The New Clarion header image 2

Bristling with “Corps”

March 27th, 2009 by Jim May · 4 Comments · Politics

Paul Hsieh comments on a DC EXaminer article about the fast-moving expansion of government servitude organizations now likely to occur under Democrat rule — and likely to pass with Republican support.

From the Examiner article Paul links:

The bill also summons up unsettling memories of World War II-era paramilitary groups by saying the new program should “combine the best practices of civilian service with the best aspects of military service,” while establishing “campuses” that serve as “operational headquarters,” complete with “superintendents” and “uniforms” for all participants. It allows for the elimination of all age restrictions in order to involve Americans at all stages of life. And it calls for creation of “a permanent cadre” in a “National Community Civilian Corps.

Americorps, Peace Corps, and now more “corps”?

While the Examiner is correct about the WWII-era feel of this proposal, I myself am also reminded of a time period just a few years earlier, a place several thousand miles further east, and another word with similar quasi-military connotations:

“With the creation of the German Labor Front, co-ordination became an elemental force, drawing all Germans in its wake.  With sudden changes of name, the organizations of economic and cultural life co-ordinated themselves, and a country, which had always been rich in clubs and societies, was suddenly bristling with “fronts”.

–from “Der Fuehrer” by Konrad Heiden (1944 edition)

4 Comments so far ↓

  • Burgess Laughlin

    Thank you for drawing attention to this disturbing phenomenon and its historical parallels.

    Also relevant, for the long-term, is this comment from Leonard Peikoff, Ominous Parallels, p. 324 (hb):

    “The philosophy that shapes a nation’s culture and institutions tends, other things being equal, to become a self-fulfilling prophecy: by creating the conditions and setting the requirements of men’s daily life, it increasingly establishes itself as an unquestioned frame of reference in most people’s minds.”

    To prevent this frame of reference from settling into the culture we can and must question the conclusions, expose the underlying premises, and offer a superior alternative. As Dr. Peikoff notes elsewhere in his book, the two concepts that can stop statism are reason and egoism. They are the main messages.

    P. S. — Jim, I have always read your comments on many forums with great interest. I am very glad to see you now writing formal posts.

  • Diana Hsieh

    I’d also recommend Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism. I’m in the middle of reading it right now, and it’s fascinating. Even before the New Deal, the fascism of Wilson’s WWI was very, very serious — and very strongly linked with the progressive movement.

    Notably, the use of military terminology for these kinds of statist endeavors is not accidental. If you have an organic theory of the state, you want to drag people away from their own supposedly petty concerns of business, friends, and family. You want their whole live to be consumed by some grand cause. The best model for doing that is war. So if an external enemy cannot be found, various grand domestic projects are concocted on the model of war. Hence, these various “corps.”

    It’s scary stuff.

  • Jim May

    Burgess: thank you for the welcome. I had a blog a few years ago, but I couldn’t keep up a steady stream of material, necessary to maintain and build a readership. This group blog is perfect for my purposes, though I couldn’t accept Bill’s invite until I completed a long stretch of seven-day weeks.

    Diana: I agree with you that war is the best model for a “grand cause” which subsumes the individual; but the term the Left uses in its place (probably due to its association with soi-disant “anti-war” movements and pacifism) — “struggle” — is subtly closer to the truth. Where war tends to be relatively short-lived and to have well-defined goals, “struggle” is more easily understood as a way of life and an end in itself.

    It is also one of the meanings ascribed to “jihad”.

  • Burgess Laughlin

    “I had a blog a few years ago, but I couldn’t keep up a steady stream of material, necessary to maintain and build a readership.”

    I am very glad you have made the decision you have made, to participate in The New Clarion.

    The term/idea “weblog” subsumes an array of kinds and rates of activity.

    One kind of weblog might need to publish several varied items every day, even if some are only amusing snippets mixed with more substantive pieces. This sort of weblog mixes entertainment with dissemination and calls for action.

    Other weblogs can be highly successful — by the weblog publisher’s standard — even if the weblog writer posts only once every two or three months. E.g., an attorney posting on law for readers who are not lawyers; an economist posting on a principle especially applicable today in the news; or a physicist posting on an error commonly found in “public” science — all these in-line activists might post only occasionally, but still have a great effect long-term by reaching a few people who are eager for the information provided and are in a position to be transmission-belts to other parts of society.

    The purpose of the weblog drives its content, its style, its frequency — and its standard of measuring success. Purposes can objectively vary across a wide front.