As the most belligerent country in the world, we routinely withhold our most belligerent options–we’re simply not going to nuke Iraq, for example (though a friend says that Cheney supports the “Nuke it, Pave it, Pump it” doctrine).
Imagine the United States choosing to be the strongest nation rather than just the most belligerent. Among nations as among people, strength is measured more by character than by mere force. This is not news, though each generation seems to have to learn it anew.
A strong America would be confident enough to open itself to its citizens and the world, by purposely forgoing the methods and superstitions typical of less confident nations. A stronger America would export prosperity and information, not just movies and threats.
Although I’ve never been a big fan of “branding,” imagine the benefits if a few experts burnished the tarnished image of USA™. The obvious starting place is to ratify good old American values, by treating the Constitution seriously. Then we might review the films and books that have most formed the American consciousness, and apply those re-discovered values to our government’s actions.
We could start with leading value-shapers like John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart. What would the Duke do with the pencil-pushing noncombatants who have hijacked the GOP and the government? Can’t you see Duke cleaning house at Abu Ghraib? Then he’d climb in his HumVee, go over and grab Bremer by the lapels and lay down the law: “We’re not gonna listen to that snot-nosed Yalie any more. Ya got that, Pilgrim?”
If Jimmy Stewart went to Washington again, he might hire David Weinberger as his speech writer. David has posted a rousing speech that he’d like to hear from a leader, if only we could find him one. He concludes with:
It’s Transparent, See?
Transparency: a manager’s nightmare. With transparency comes accountability and its twin scourge, responsibility. No manager wants to be subject to the kind of scrutiny that s/he imposes on the people at the next level down.
Leaders, however, welcome visibility because a leader’s genius is exposing the group’s core values and expressing its beliefs. Thus it is that our CEO President and his lame Board of Directors, managers all, want to clamp down on scrutiny of the operations of a country owned by We The People who have already decided to fire these guys in six months (mark my words, we’re facing a landslide here*).
Nick Johantgen (blog pending) called yesterday to suggest that soldiers’ cameras are the most powerful weapon threatening the American military. Adam Curry quoted a Chinese Proverb over the weekend: “The palest ink is better than the best memory.”
This is the effect that digital photography is having on our military. For ten years I’ve been imagining the impending revolution of the Personal Flight Recorder, archiving reality as it streams past us and saving it for personal use as we wish. With our PFRs, we’ll triangulate our collective environment so pervasively that fixed security videocams will be like pinhole cameras by comparison.
Someday soon, every cellular plan will include unlimited video capture through the wireless pickup in your ball cap or eyeglass frame. Police departments and public employees will use the devices to record their side of the story. Employees may call it intrusive until they find that they want to carry their own PFR. Sure, it will first be based on fear of getting mugged or some other unlikely event, but it will finally be about recording the interesting moments and transactions in your day.
The military’s obsession with Command & Control will ensure that all military activities will be similarly archived. Technology will achieve what Command & Control has never been able to: conform actions to public policy and ultimately, to our shared public sentiment about how Americans are supposed to behave.
This single evolution in form factor will cause mankind to re-engage the community that was lost when we invented privacy as an artifact of the Industrial Age. Every creature on earth lives in public except modern man, and the PFR will take us home again. When transparency is re-established in our society, common sense will once again be common.
* Anecdotal evidence can be as misleading as political polling, but the steel seems to have left the backbone of the NeoCon movement.