If you're anything like me, it's been horseshoe-close to impossible to concentrate on anything this week. I scarcely need to say why.
A friend of mine said something along the lines of, "Our kids will never believe a word of any of this when they ask us what it's like." I thought about it and said, "Or they will, but they'll find it quaint, because everything they're living through will be even worse."
The other line I hear all the time is, "If this were a story, nobody would believe a word of it." I think about that one a lot, too, and I suspect the reason all of this has seemed so nightmarishly, freakishly, implausibly crazy is because we're not seeing the real common threads that tie it together and make it possible. Or, for that matter, inevitable.
What's realistic is always derived not just from what we know but how we know it. If we wrote about this whole thing merely as a story from the outside - this, then this, then this - nobody would buy it. But I suspect in time we will come to see all of this not as some mad absurdity, but as an inevitable and comprehensible outgrowth of many things, all working silently in unison, that made it possible: the corruption of public discourse through asymmetrical attacks on reason and truth; the slide of an entire political party into grifterdom and scammery because of ressentiment taking precedence over policy; the way modern technology has made it possible to build your own epistemic bubble and smother to death in it.
And if you told that story - the underside of the story, that is, not just its topside - then none of this would seem absurd at all. It would seem, instead, like a sad inevitability. The day we're able to tell this story from that point of view -- to understand it, not simply scratch our heads at it -- is the day I feel like we might have taken a real step forward.
On the plus side, I did get some work done this week. Small blessings. Count 'em.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind