Would you like to see a symbolic self-portrait of America, circa 2009. Here it is. I give you the Predator:
Ugly, isn’t it? But it wasn’t designed to be pretty. It was designed to kill without warning – cheaply, efficiently, and at no risk to the operator. That’s a Hellfire missile under the wing. It can destroy any armored vehicle or demolish a small building. The little sensor globe under the nose allows the remote pilot, sitting in a cubicle somewhere in the good old USA, to deliver sudden death to America’s enemies on command. There is no defense against the predator, and no warning.
This is who we are now. This is our new national bird. We thrill at the killing of victims who never know what hit them. Aggressive violence has become a perfected perversion in America, and its ultimate expression is the ability to kill with absolute impunity. American industry and ingenuity have supplied this perfect remote killing device, and for this they have the thanks of a grateful, bloodthirsty nation.
Predators and predation are terms used increasingly to describe the miscreants of Wall Street, but these are only the best-paid of America’s predators. The whole “success” culture of America has morphed from a value-based model to a smash-and-grab, quick kill paradigm that equates to predation.
This transformation is perfectly represented in our mass culture. The measure of progress in the American popular cinema is the intensity of stylized violence in our beloved “action films.” Each new Batman movie, for example, shows the (progressively “darker”) costumed protagonist unleashing sudden, unexpected violence on the villains. He strikes with overwhelming force, out of nowhere, then vanishes completely.
So what’s so bad about predation? After all, nature is full of predators and prey. It’s a jungle out there. The problem is that civilization is based on value exchange. Giving fair measure in return for fair payment is the foundation of all commerce, and, arguably all human relations. When we adopt predation as our model for living, we regress from the civilized state to animalistic behavior. When predation becomes a society’s behavioral paradigm, businessmen become gangsters, government becomes brutal, and trust vanishes.
If you want to experience cognitive whiplash, ask any young adult what they think of Goldman Sachs, then ask them if they would take a job there. The fast hit to make a killing is now the American Dream. We are now a nation of predators.