In his newest book, “The Profession,” Steven Pressfield imagines a future where mercenary armies are for hire by nations and corporations, gas prices have skyrocketed to heights we haven’t dreamed of, and people devour news even more rapidly than they do now.
Much of it is a disturbing vision of the world to come, but a vision that doesn’t seem far out of reach.
The idea of oil companies, banks and even nations hiring privately-run armies follows a logical course from where we stand today. Economies are in ruin everywhere. What if it doesn’t improve? For many, privatization inevitably becomes an answer for cash-strapped governments. Let someone else to do it leaner, cheaper.
Enter some enterprising former military commanders who can call upon loyal soldiers who don’t want to leave the fight. The pay is good, and upon their death they know their families will be taken care of.
These private armies see international integration and cooperation at a level that governments might never achieve on their own.
One of the commanders is Gen. James Salter, a disgraced Marine who was once a national hero. The story is told by one of his loyal men, Gilbert Gentilhomme, who begins to see more and more the inner-workings of this new military order.
The story moves quickly and keeps you guessing about where it’s going.
Beyond that, I really enjoyed Pressfield’s idea of what media might look like in the future.
Stalwarts with print roots, such as the New York Times, have been paired with digital innovators, such as Google — creating The New York Google Times. Information moves at lightspeed and in small chunks of constantly developing facts. Now, that’s increasingly true today, but it’s on steroids here.
The technology has developed further — seemingly showing what people are doing and where they are even more so than it does today on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Pressfield even has cute nicknames for some of the technology, a mirror of the world we live in.
His ability to show us one possible future — without being ridiculous or going too far with new technology — helped make this book appeal to me. As usual, it also helped tremendously that Pressfield simply knows his material. He knows war, knows the soldier’s psyche. That shows again and again in his work.