In September 1776, the Continental Army was pinned down on Manhattan, and its commander, George Washington, desperately needed to determine exactly where the British army was going to land. He simply did not have enough troops to guard every possible landing point and avenue of approach. Washington gathered his officers, and asked for a volunteer to don civilian garb and cross behind British lines to gather intelligence on just what the British planned to do, and where.
No one stepped forward. Soldiering was for gentlemen, but spying was for thieves, drunkards, brawlers, and riffraff. In desperation, Washington explained the urgency of his need to discern British intentions. If he selected a place to deploy the Army, and he was wrong in picking the location, and the British appeared somewhere else, the Americans would be easily outflanked, the Army crushed, the Revolution lost, the idea of a self-governing republic snuffed out before it had enjoyed a few infant breaths of birth. Was there not an officer present, familiar with the area, who would undertake the admittedly duplicitous and hazardous task of sneaking into enemy occupied territory and spy on the foeman?
With a heavy sigh, one man, a 21-year old lieutenant in the 7th Connecticut Regiment, stepped forward, and entered history. His name was Nathan Hale.
There are times when one individual is peculiarly fitted for a specific role in the great unfolding drama of human history. Hollywood mints money by depicting the lone hero, whose unique collection of skills, knowledge, and emotional quirks make him or her the “perfect” man or woman for “the job.” In real life, such historical burdens most often remain unseen beneath the sheer drudgery and apparent conformity to the norms of day to day life. It looks great on screen, but almost all real life heroes never walk away from “the job” with a soaring orange fireball in the background.
The republic faces a shortage of heroes today, similar to what George Washington faced that fateful September day in 1776. Today, the republic is prostrate, battered, bleeding, and bruised, at the feet of a new aristocracy of filthy rich blood suckers who think it sport to try to “negotiate” a $150 taxi fare down to $50. There really are only a handful of people, among the 7.06 billion souls on this planet, who understand the complexities of modern finance, recognize how evil it has become, have the contacts to gather the intelligence, and the cajones needed to make that intelligence intelligible for all the rest of us. I not-at-all humbly submit that stilling the voice of David Dayen is a setback our faltering republic – and all the human aspirations, past, present, and future, for good government free of the predators and parasites that historically have corrupted republics from within – simply cannot afford at this time.
Take a week or two if you must, Mr. Dayen. But you must return. It is your world historic duty.