In 2005, the Russian anthropologist Alexei Yurchak coined a term for a phenomenon he noticed during the final years of the Soviet Union: “hypernormalization.” And last year, the British filmmaker Adam Curtis released a documentary named for Yurchak’s coinage. “Russia,” he explains in the voice-over, “became a society where everyone knew that what their leaders said was not real, because they could see with their own eyes that the economy was falling apart. But everybody had to play along and pretend that it was real, because no one could imagine any alternative.”
What if, when we fret that something has gone awry with America, we are merely getting a glimpse of a dysfunction that is actually normal, and has always been normal, and has merely been papered over, for a few decades, with careful management? We’d have to believe that the nation’s history includes wild partisan divisions, irrational conspiracy fantasies, bursts of political violence, absurd manipulations of truth, willful subversion of constitutional principles and loads of bumbling ineptitude.
Read your history! So thus it has been from the beginning.
With energy, and will, we can change the world (as we always have before)!