28 September 2021

The Pull Request: “We are no longer a serious people”

The reason for this sudden silence is that in the year 2021, the cream of American society and the flower of its finest universities, can only understand the world as projections of the country’s own domestic neuroses. Our current elites, whether in media or politics, squint at the strange peoples and languages of whatever international conflict and only see who or what they can map to their internal gallery of heroes and villains: Who’s the PoC? Who’s the Nazi?

If however the situation involving foreign realities can be grafted onto simplistic domestic narratives, in however fantastic a fashion, then that issue becomes a curious side show to the main American stage. That’s what’s happened to Israel, which now features as a talking point in that same progressive wing of the party. And if the situation can’t be mapped, such as Afghanistan or the recent protests in Cuba, it’s utterly ignored for being just completely beyond human comprehension or concern.

This is the true privilege of being an American in 2021 (vs. 1981): Enjoying an imperium so broad and blinding, you’re never made to suffer the limits of your understanding or re-assess your assumptions about a world that, even now, contains regions and peoples and governments antithetical to everything you stand for.

Antonio García Martínez

This is certainly how America looks from the outside for someone like me following events on Twitter: a society so self-absorbed by imaginary conflicts and culture wars that it no longer has the capacity to even acknowledge real, tangible, urgent problems, both internal and external, let alone address them in any sensible manner

This might seem flip and ‘too soon’, but the irony highlights the real civilizational difference here: one where combat is via prissy morality and pure spectacle, and one where the battles are literal and deadly. One where elites contest power via spiraling purity and virality contests waged online, and where defeat means ‘cancelation’ or livestreamed ‘struggle sessions’ around often imaginary or minor offenses. And another place where the price of defeat is death, exile, rape, destitution, and fates so grim people die dangling from airplanes in order to escape.

In short, an unserious country mired in the most masturbatory hysterics over bullshit dramas waged war against an insurgency of religious zealots fired by a 7th-century morality, and utterly and totally lost.

To some extent, this unproductive navel-gazing is present elsewhere as well. I was struck during the pandemic by shrill voices in Romania decrying restrictions and social distancing measures as being ineffective, blatantly ignoring how the same measures had already worked in other countries to reduce the spread of the disease. Here I think these reactions go back to ignorance and provincialism, while for the United States it’s more of a case of arrogance and, as this article rightly points out, privilege.

Post a Comment