Ep. 35 "Things are much better now that Biden is President"

The New Normal doesn't seem all that normal


A version of this article was published by Chintan on 7/7/2021: please read it at https://chintan.indiafoundation.in/articles/bidens-america/

I heard this, almost exactly in those words, from two different Indian-Americans: one, a spiritually-inclined female cousin, and two, an apolitical old friend. 

I was startled, and reminded of the old rock ballad from Crosby, Still, Nash and Young (Our House, from the album Deja Vu, 1970):

Our house is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard

Life used to be so hard

Now everything is easy 'cause of you…

If only it were that simple! If only! 

I asked my friend to elaborate. Said he, “Even when the virus situation was getting worse, [Trump] was the most dividing factor... ”


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Is that true, or is it an illusion? I once wrote https://www.rediff.com/news/column/the-great-indian-rope-trick-and-other-illusions-of-progress/20130716.htm about how Indians have been conditioned to seek the illusion of progress, Potemkin-style, rather than actual progress. I wonder if Americans have been gaslighted similarly with something that looks like normalcy, but isn’t quite. 

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Social media is turning out to be positively evil. Belying fond hopes about the democratization of information flows, Big Tech are providing platforms only for pamphleteers and propagandists, with narratives to spin. (They defenestrate those who do not adhere to the approved narrative).

I am reminded of Hermann Hesse’s Nobel-prize-winning masterpiece The Glass Bead Game (1943). He called our time ‘the Age of the feuilleton’: the word translates to ‘gossipy newspaper supplement’, which is arguably the nature of social media. The reference comes from the point of a view of a more enlightened future century, that looks askance at the present as a time of primitive, superficial political cultures and narratives, 

Hesse predicted the discourse would be manipulated: he wrote when fascism and propaganda were rife; but he didn’t imagine the nexus between government, Big Tech, and a pseudo-academic nihilistic movement of ‘wokeness’ that worships ‘critical race theory’, and ‘cancels’ things.

In the case of the Wuhan virus, the feuilletons demonstrated the extent to which this nexus can do suppressio veri expressio falsi: they shut down any discussion of the possible lab origin of the pandemic. 

The feuilletonistas, which now include once-upon-a-time respectable entities like the Lancet, the WHO, the US CDC and FDA, have shown that they dance to agendas that are plainly visible. They have little credibility left. The mainstream media have long lost any integrity, especially those in the Anglosphere such as the NYTimes, WaPo, the Economist, the Financial Times, et al.

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In Afghanistan, the headlong rush for the exit means that Pakistan, through its proxy the Taliban, has now beaten both the Soviet Union and the US, and will deliver the region on a platter to China. 

The race problem hasn’t gone away: a young black man was shot to death by police again last week. More horrendously, a Puerto Rican couple were dragged out of their car and shot dead in Chicago. But there were no #BLM riots, nor anything about #LatinoLivesMatter. There was total radio silence from the media.

I wonder if all this is indeed the ‘New Normal’. If it is, we should adjust. But if it’s only an illusion, then beware of the gaslighters. 

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1025 words, 22 June 2021