Certain Anxieties

The increasingly hard left has taken over the strong points of American life – educational systems, the press, entertainment, sports, a large slice of religion, institutions of high culture, foundations, most professional organizations, and pusillanimous businesses, from sneaker manufactures to banking behemoths. Now, even one of the major political parties is a hostage deep in the throes of Stockholm Syndrome.

Mark Helprin

It’s strange to imagine, given the continued lockdowns and complete morbid and inhuman Covid stringency abroad, that New York City, which this time last spring felt largely left for dead, evacuated, disinterested in itself, is now freer, and even more interesting, than most places in the English speaking world; I think that I shouldn’t waste it or take it for granted, that I should be energized by the very possibility of a paralysis and morbidity free life—and to a degree, I am. But underneath the Disney World experience of re-opening, the Potemkin Village of the new-old-new normal, I have serious reservations and certain anxieties: where is the reckoning, I wonder, with the (really pointless and feckless) hysteria that almost almost everyone bought into? Where is the reckoning with the real cognitive damage we’ve done to ourselves—with the highly normalized nervousness and risk aversion and screen-addiction? Is introspection possible… or will there just be a kind of gradual slipping, a forgetting—the banality of doing-your-thing? 

I suspect the latter. New Yorkers seem to want, subconsciously, to retain their status, their place, in the tribe of right-thinking liberals; the urban elite doesn’t want to interrogate how quickly, deftly, how smoothly it—doctors, journalists, politicians, bureaucrats, CEOs—created a state of exception in which free-speech, movement, and social intercourse were suspended and fear, superstition, and paranoia reigned as a matter of course.

No one wants to admit that they rolled over in the face of woke newspeak, scolding, shaming, scarlet-lettering of all kinds; no one wants to admit that they wasted their year jacking off to panic porn and pretending they actually like masks; no one wants to admit that to be a liberal means being a perverter of truth and language—that self-described liberals have become liars and really, cowards, who perform the rituals necessary to gain and maintain institutional power; no one wants to admit that the unstable, questionable 'truths' of the Covid-era were, and are, simply tokens of access, passwords, which have nothing to do with truth and everything to do with status. No one wants to admit that they are a button pusher, a functionary, an accessory. No one wants to admit that they filled the vacuum of their own lives with the false idol of ‘at least I’m not a Trump supporting anti-masker’—or admit that those Trump supporting anti-maskers basically got the pandemic right based on gut feelings (and have been happier and healthier for it). No one wants to admit that they don’t know how to use the basic freedoms that others have had the temerity to fight for and insist on.