Vaccines and HyperNormalisation

Personally, things are going okay at this moment. On Wednesday I got the second half of my two-part “$2,000 check,” and the first half of my two-part COVID-19 vaccination. I’m doing some work for clients. Cleaning up around the apartment.

I can’t deny a feeling of emergence, especially because of a personal feeling of emerging from something like a five-year fugue state. I have written a number of times about a similar feeling, after recent elections, as though I had somehow been absent from my own life during extended preoccupation with campaigns, then one day came back to find months had gone by. This feels something like that except for years instead of months.

The end of the 2020 election and its long overtime, plus winter, plus social distancing, plus perhaps the slow start to 2021 campaigns, kind of put me in a place to slow down and reflect for more than in years. But browsing some blog posts from 2015 (like this or this) really made me realize that in terms of thinking about my life, the place I’m in lately is a lot like one I reached five or six years ago. Then activism and related activities began to mushroom, pushing me out of that place for five years. For all the ways that transformed my life, and probably my self, it is now like I’m back confronting very similar deep questions.

Also shit is still just on fire around me which does complicate things.

Relief money and vaccination progress are good, meaningful achievements for Democrats after just a couple of months, but they are also so not adequate to the overall scale of systemwide problems with systemwide problems. With vaccines, especially, I feel like we barely even have a functional distribution system, instead we have so much domestic production pouring in that vaccines are reaching a lot of people despite a very leaky system. Ability to ramp up mass production of things quickly has been such a strength for America as to compensate for serious failings for quite a long time (see both world wars, e.g.). But we can’t make-lots-of-stuff our way out of every systemic problem, and some day dysfunction will probably even extend to stuff-producing as well, for that matter.

Just the past couple of days have been a brutal example of why the first two words in my present news chronicle, which began on Inauguration Day, are “false dawn.”

Let’s start with the majority of Democrats in the Ohio legislature lining up behind a stupid resolution to chide Michigan’s governor for halting the operation of an oil pipeline. I have tried not to lose my mind over this because it’s only a resolution, except it keeps looking more stupid.

It looks particularly stupid today, after Georgia’s governor not only signed an egregious example of Republicans’ many voter suppression bills last night, but did so behind closed doors while his jackboots were hauling off a Black woman legislator to arrest her and charge her with felony obstruction. But Ohio Dems are puffing about bipartisan cooperation on a resolution to chide the governor of Michigan.

Otherwise let’s see. TV big media is pushing a made-up “crisis at the border,” the manufacture of which by a feral border patrol agency is an actual crisis. Tucker Carlson—who is both an absolute fraud and effectively a thought leader among Republicans—is explicitly arguing that the right would be justified in becoming openly fascist. runs a toxic asshole Twitter account to trash-talk and heckle critics (perhaps to distract from being a wildly oppressive and exploitative company raking in pandemic profits and paying all of zero taxes). After a year of surging attacks on Asians, and a recent mass shooting (one of many) specifically targeting Asians, Dr. Robert Redfield splashed fuel onto absurd conspiracy theories that COVID-19 was manufactured in a Chinese lab; Ohio’s lieutenant governor was quick to embrace and promote this toxic bullshit and I’m sure other Republicans are doing the same in between talking up their other fake stories.

Oh, and “about 10 percent of world trade has been at a standstill for days because a cargo ship drew a giant dick in the Red Sea then wedged itself sideways in the Suez Canal.” (Quote credit.) This is not specifically an American problem, but it has provided an unforgettable visual metaphor for attempts to fix this country’s dysfunction.

The Redfield bullshit is particularly striking, because as someone pointed out, the fact that he rose as high as he has in a scientific field is concerning. (Always was fwiw.) I’m used to political dysfunction in this country, of course, as well as our broken information infrastructure, and toxic economy… but I was thinking earlier this week how pathetic it is that fraudsters like Sidney Powell have committed unbelievable abuse of the legal system, and the profession is still no further than “considering discipline.”

I see people implying that there’s movement in the Senate and it’s actually possible that Democrats will bring voting rights legislation up for a vote despite Republican obstruction and the “senatorial courtesy” traditions of deferring to such. I’ll believe it only when I see it. But, for all that this would be jaw-dropping progress, it would also be like that one little backhoe crew trying to get a container ship unstuck from the Suez canal.

The reality is that for all the inadequacies and outright shabbiness of the Democratic Party, it’s a political party; even without America’s fixation on “bipartisanship” I suspect that no one political party could solve the systemwide problem with systemwide problems.

We really just have an entire culture that has lost belief in the imaginary obligations and certainties which allowed its always-faulty systems to work anyway by some measure. In revisiting old blog posts, I was reminded of observations about the documentary HyperNormalisation examining the same theme.

If only for the sake of a closing remark, I wonder if my own years-long descent into a kind of activism fugue state and reemergence therefrom has potentially inoculated me, to some extent, against believing quite as much in that kind of alternative to the futile reality, again.

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